Still very much in their prime, Malaysian captain Safiq Rahim and vice-captain Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak stunned the nation by announcing their international retirement on Tuesday. Vijhay Vick examines how a squad will look like should other Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players follow suit.
Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan)
This Kelantan goalkeeper has been Malaysia’s No.1 since 2010 and it was only in recent months that he lost that spot to Izham Tarmizi Roslan. Still only 27, Khairul Fahmi will fit in comfortably and can man the sticks for several years until Farhan Abu Bakar makes the step up.
Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (Perak)
The former Harimau Muda left-back is no stranger to Malaysia head coach Ong Kim Swee, having groomed him at Harimau Muda previously.
Nazirul also has a handful of international games under his belt, exposure in Japan and a thunderous free-kick.
Shahrom Kalam (Selangor)
At 30, Shahrom is the oldest of this back-four but he has just as much international experience as the rest, if not more.
Shahrom also started featuring for the national team regularly under Ong since March. Yet Shahrom’s leadership qualities at Selangor show why he deserves to be in this team.
Shahrul Saad (Perak)
Another one of the former Harimau Muda players who have been exposed with multiple stints abroad, Shahrul was expected to be regular in the team in a couple of years.
He made the national team squad in March but dropped out in June due to Perak’s poor showing in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) thus far.
He is equally adept in a holding midfield role but centre-back is where he appears most comfortable.
Matthew Davies (Pahang)
The Australian-born defender has consistently made the national team since last September but missed the Oceania Tour and Asian Cup qualifying playoff in June due to a back injury.
At 21, he is seen as the long-term successor to JDT’s S. Kunanlan and has done well when called upon.
He was voted Player of the Year in the 2011-2012 Australian National Youth League season.
Christie Jayaseelan (Felda United)
He is fast and may already be first choice on the left flank despite Ong trying out several other players during the Oceania Tour.
Jayaseelan is among the livewires in the Felda United squad that is locked in a two-horse race with JDT for the MSL title.
Baddrol Bakhthiar – vice-captain (Kedah)
Having seen Baddrol link up well with Brendan Gan against Timor Leste, there isn’t really a need to change guard in this area of the field.
Having been part of the national team since 2010, Baddrol is aware of the demands on international stage and will be looked upon to provide guidance to the younger players in the squad.