The FourFourTwo Preview: Malaysia vs Timor-Leste

2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier | Bukit Jalil National Stadium | Thu 11 June | 8:45pm

MALAYSIA FORM

  • Malaysia 0-0 Hong Kong (Jun '15)
  • Oman 6-0 Malaysia (Mar '15)
  • Malaysia 3-2 Thailand (Dec '14)
  • Thailand 2-0 Malaysia (Dec '14)
  • Vietnam 2-4 Malaysia (Dec '14)

TIMOR-LESTE FORM

  • Mongolia 0-1 Timor-Leste (Mar ‘15)
  • Timor-Leste 4-1 Mongolia (Mar ‘15)
  • Laos 2-0 Timor-Leste (Oct ‘14)
  • Timor-Leste 2-3 Cambodia (Oct ‘14)
  • Myanmar 0-0 Timor-Leste (Oct ‘14)

Billed as

An easy win for the Harimau Malaya.

The lowdown

Farizal Marlias, Muslim Ahmad, Mahali Jasuli and Safiq Rahim should be eagerly anticipating this match, as they were part of the Malaysia Under-23 squad that annihilated their Timor-Leste counterpart 11-0 at the 2009 SEA Games. If we go back to another few years back, the Harimau Malaya were triumphant with a 5-0 win at the 2004 Tiger Cup – their only senior meeting so far. But Malaysia will be foolish to consider the game as a shoo-in because all that is in the past now, especially the Rising Sun have since revamped themselves heavily.

Unlike Malaysia, Timor-Leste have been calling upon the services of naturalised Brazilian and Portuguese players, who have experience playing in football leagues outside the region. Since picking up their first-ever win in 2012 – a 5-1 win over Cambodia in a 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier –  Timor-Leste have been in the form of their life. They have picked up five victories and one draw in their last 10 matches and are currently sitting in 146th in the FIFA world rankings ahead of the likes of Singapore, Indonesia and even Malaysia. The former whipping boys of Southeast Asia have also improved their results tremendously, with their last defeat with more than two goals coming against Nepal in 2011.

Furthermore, both teams have never made it further than the second round of the World Cup qualifying stage for the AFC region, so there should not be any sense of superiority inside the Malaysia camp over their opponent of the day.

Team news

JDT trio Farizal Marlias, Amri Yahyah and Junior Eldstal might not feature in the game after picking up knocks in the build-up to this meeting, but Dollah has said he will wait until the last minute before making an assessment on them. Safiq Rahim should return to his playmaking role, after missing out on the Hong Kong match due to suspension.

As for Timor-Leste, no key concerns have been reported and Quito, Rodrigo Silva and Patrick Fabiano – who all scored against Mongolia in a two-legged World Cup qualifier – are expected to start. It has also been confirmed that they will field six or seven young players featured at the ongoing 2015 SEA Games including Jairo Neto, who troubled the Harimau Muda on a few occasions with his physique and rugged style of play.

Player to Watch: Afiq Azmi

Afiq has been in fine form for Selangor this season, scoring seven league goals including a hat-trick against the LionsXII, which saw him being rewarded with an international call-up. He made his international debut against Hong Kong last week but could not cap it off with a strong performance, let alone a debut goal. However, he should be getting another chance to impress, as Safee Sali and Amri Yahyah – the other striking alternatives if Dollah decides to go with one up front – either has not been scoring consistently or has been played as a winger and in a supporting role for the past few years. so Dollah does not have many options.

The coaches

With ambiguity surrounding the opponent, Dollah should be getting some pointers from Ong Kim Swee regarding Timor Leste head coach Fabio Joaquim Maciel da Silva and his playing style, as the duo recently faced off against each other at the 2015 SEA Games in which the Harimau Muda won 1-0 despite playing with 10 men. As for Fabio Joaquim, he has embraced the underdog tag his side has been given. “Even though there is no domestic league in Timor-Leste, we have played in a few friendly matches to keep the players ready and we played very well in our last game against Mongolia,” the Brazilian coach told Bernama. “The game is going to be a difficult game against Malaysia as Malaysia are a strong team but we are ready for it.”

Facts and Figures

  • Amri Yahyah is the only player left from Malaysia’s  5-0 Tiger Cup win over Timor-Leste 11 years ago.
  • Timor-Leste’s Juninho Aparecido previously played for Selangor in the 2014 season.
  • The all-time leading goal-scorer for Timor-Leste is Murilo de Almeida with six goals in seven matches, but he will not be available for the match against Malaysia.

FourFourTwo prediction

Malaysia should be able to secure a victory in front of their home fans, but they will be made to work for the points. 2-1 to the Tigers.

(Pictures: asiana.my)