Malaysia vs Myanmar: Free-scoring visitors to test Malaysia’s mettle

SEA Games (Group A) | Shah Alam Stadium | Mon 21 Aug | 8.45pm

BILLED AS

Top of the group decider

THE LOWDOWN

Both teams have had 100 percent records heading into the match, though Myanmar have already played three matches while Ong Kim Swee’s men have yet to play Laos. The Malaysia Under-22 lacked the killer instincts when they faced Brunei in the opening match, only recording a 2-1 win, but they came back from a goal down in an inspiring fashion to defeat arch-rivals Singapore by the same score.

Myanmar, meanwhile, have recorded comfortable wins over Singapore (2-0), Laos (3-1) and Brunei (6-0). The match is expected to decide who tops the SEA Games Group A as the Malaysians are expected to record a win against Laos in their final match.

It has been so far so good for Malaysia

Myanmar only need a draw to virtually seal top spot in the group as it would leave Malaysia needing to win by eight goals against Laos to go top, seemingly an impossible target considering the hosts’ inability to be lethal in the final third and the strength of the Laos team.

A draw will, however, guarantee Malaysia’s qualification to the semi-final.

A defeat leaves Malaysia needing to collect at least one point against Laos as Singapore still have faint hopes of reaching the last four.

TEAM NEWS

Ong is expected to spare nothing in going for the win against Myanmar, who really have little to play for as they have already secured a place in the last four. 

It would be impossible to attempt to place themselves and pick an opponent from Group B as the group is still wide open.

OKS need to plan his tactics right against a gifted Myanmar side

Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise, however, ruled out the possibility of resting players, insisting he wanted to keep the momentum going. The German even claimed his reserves were not good enough. He took off key players Aung Thu and Si Thu Aung against Brunei in the second half, possibly to rest them.

Malaysia, meanwhile are contemplating who to field as the front three and in central midfield as substitutes against Singapore, Nor Azam Abdul Azih and N. Thanabalan, made big claims for a place in the starting line-up.

Ong does not have any injury concerns to think about.

KEY BATTLE: NOR AZAM ABDUL AZIH VS HLAING BO BO

Azam's introduction in the second half was crucial against Singapore as he added composure in the middle of the park and scored the equalising goal. 

Azam and Syamer Kutty Abba will take turns in supporting the front three and the duo will come up against Hlaing.

Azam will need to put in another good performance

While Azam and Syamer, two highly-rated midfielder in Malaysia, are relatively new to the international scene, Hlaing is a regular member of the Myanmar senior team.

Hlaing sits deepest among the midfielders and loves to dictate play. Stopping him from supplying balls through the middle will give Malaysia an edge in midfield. Hlaing will be looking to do the same to the Malaysians.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Malaysia defeated Myanmar 2-0 in a friendly at Shah Alam Stadium in July but Zeise had rested several players then.
  • Ong and Zeise faced each other while managing the senior team at the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, where Myanmar defeated Malaysia 1-0 to send Harimau Malaya out of the competition.
  • Both countries have faced each other 17 times in the SEA Games with Malaysia prevailing on nine occasions compared to Myanmar’s five.
  • Malaysia defeated Myanmar 1-0 in the semi-final en route to winning the 2011 edition. Malaysia also recorded the same result against them when Kuala Lumpur last hosted the Games in 2001.

FFT PREDICTION

Malaysia 1 Myanmar 1: A tough one to call considering the Burmese strength and the home crowd cheering the Tigers on.

Photos: Asiana.my/MASOC