Malaysia vs Vietnam: Herculean effort needed for the Tigers to stand a chance
Guaranteed qualification for the winner
Both teams won their opening match and will seek another victory to confirm their place in the Suzuki Cup last four, but the Malaysians will have to dig deep and put out a much improved performance to stand a chance against the group favourites.
Vietnam were excellent in the 2-1 win over co-hosts Myanmar, a sign that their speed, technical ability and desire to bury their 2014 ghosts will be difficult to beat.
Then, the Vietnamese outplayed the Tigers to win the first leg of their semi-final 2-1 in Kuala Lumpur but fell flat in Hanoi, where Malaysia raced to a 4-1 lead by half-time before settling for a 5-4 aggregate triumph to reach the final.
Vietnam are once again favourites and this time, Nguyen Huu Thang’s men are looking stronger than ever with a fast brand of attacking football.
Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee is expected to take a defensive approach to the match, in the hope of frustrating Vietnam and hitting them on the break.
The Tigers cannot afford defensive lapses like against Cambodia as Vietnam are more potent and will punish what has been a weak Malaysian defence throughout 2016.
The midfield battle is another area the Tigers must step up as they failed to really stamp authority in the engine room compared to Vietnam, who gave Myanmar all sorts of problems.
Having already confirmed the Tigers will have to change several things for their second match, Ong is expected to play a five-man midfield to stifle the Vietnamese, meaning one of the two strikers could get sacrificed.
Ahmad Fakri Saarani and S. Veenod are among those expected to come in while Malaysia could also move central defender Shahrul Saad into a holding role, with either Fadhli Shas or Khairul Helmi Johari partnering Shahrom Kalam at the back.
There are no injuries or suspension for either team.
What the coaches are saying
Ong Kim Swee: “We have to be very patient and wait for opportunities to come. Vietnam will be tough and difficult to break down but I’m banking on the heat playing an advantage for us. We can’t afford silly mistakes at the back and must be efficient at the other end.”
Nguyen Huu Thang: “I don’t expect an easy game. Malaysia will be as tough as Myanmar and we have to put out another good performance. I will tell my players that concentration is again key.”
Facts and Figures
- Safee Sali will equal Shukor Adan’s all-time Suzuki Cup appearance record (21 matches) for Malaysia. Safee is also just one goal from being Malaysia’s all-time top-scorer in the competition. He is currently tied with Indra Putra Mahayuddin with nine.
- Vietnam have only lost one match in 2016, while Malaysia have suffered defeats to Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia already.
- Malaysia have only beaten Vietnam once in the last six attempts dating back to 2010. Vietnam won on four occasions and drew once.
Malaysia 1 Vietnam 2: The Tigers are expected to frustrate Vietnam, who are not very solid at the back, but have enough firepower to win the tie and secure a berth in the next round.