AFF Suzuki Cup Semi Final | Shah Alam Stadium | Sun 7 Dec | 8pm
The 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final rematch.
Nobody in this world was more relieved than Dollah Salleh when the referee blew the full time whistle in Malaysia’s final group match against Singapore. Given the public scrutiny and unrest among Malaysian fans before the tournament even kicked off, he had every reason to celebrate hard after overseeing a 3-1 win over their arch rivals and qualifying for the semi-finals.
The weight has been slightly lifted off his shoulders and you would forgive him for now fancying his team’s chances of knocking another co-host out from the tournament (see below). A small revenge is perhaps on the agenda as well, as Malaysia were beaten by Vietnam 3-1 in their final friendly match before the tournament. However, Vietnam head coach Toshiya Miura will not make it easy for him.
The Japanese coach has built a solid team based on youth and enthusiasm, which has produced some fantastic displays of football throughout the tournament. An unfortunate draw with Indonesia in the opening Group A match was followed by a commanding 3-0 win over Laos and a tactical win against the in-form Philippines. Will we be seeing more of the same from the Vietnamese in this match? Malaysia may have the home advantage, but we will not bet against Vietnam spoiling the party.
A win against Singapore may have put Dollah and the boys in a high and buoyant spirit, but it does not eradicate the existing problems within the team. Dollah still has to deal with the lapses of concentration that have plagued his team for the past few matches, on top of the case of misfiring forwards at his disposal. So, it looks like Malaysia should be in for a tough match.
Dollah will not be able to call upon the services of captain Shukor Adan and talisman Amri Yahyah after both players picked up their second yellow card of the tournament in the last match against Singapore. Besides that, Gary Steven Robbat may be omitted from the starting line-up amidst fear he will be distracted due to his recent controversial transfer involving Johor Darul Ta’zim and Pahang. Other than that, there are no fresh injury concerns for the Harimau Malaya ahead of the match.
Meanwhile, in the Vietnam camp, only Vu Minh Tuan will not be available for selection due to his one-match suspension, but his presence in midfield will be sorely missed by his team.
Key battle: Safiq Rahim vs Huy Hung Nguyen
Of the two, Safiq has had the greater impact so far, scoring twice and assisting one. However, he will need to be at his very best to get past Nguyen, who has helped Vietnam to assert authority in midfield and enjoy the majority of the possession in all but one of their matches. Whoever has the more productive night should help his team gain an advantage for the second leg in Hanoi.
The head coaches
During a pre-match press conference on Friday, Dollah assured that his players would be going to the pitch for the victory and aimed to get at least a two-goal advantage to take to Hanoi. Meanwhile, Miura claimed that his team is under no pressure after meeting the goal of reaching the semi-finals and believed that Malaysia have the advantage due to the stadium, pitch, weather and supporters.
Facts and figures
- Vietnam have a superior head-to-head record against Malaysia in the Tiger Cup/AFF Suzuki Cup, having won three and drawn two of their last seven meetings.
- In their last five encounters in all friendly matches and official competitions, Vietnam have won three and drawn one.
- The only time the Vietnamese failed to get the lion's share of possession in the tournament was against the Philippines, where they only managed 39% but still emerged victorious.
- Malaysia have made the second least shots on goals in the tournament with 21, just slightly ahead of Indonesia’s 18.
The game will finish in a draw, but Vietnam will grab an all-important away goal. 1-1.
(Photo: Mike Casper/World Sport Group Official Photographer)