KUALA LUMPUR : “Keep a check on your emotions, boys!” That’s the message national head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has for his men ahead of their opening Airmarine Cup 2019 match against arch-rivals Singapore at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Wednesday.
He certainly has a point as any Malaysia versus Singapore clash is usually not for the faint-hearted as tackles fly in, tempers boil over and red/yellow cards are flashed.
“This is going to be a very tough match. We aim to use this tournament to improve our world ranking and, at the same time, win the inaugural Cup. What’s important is that our players learn to control their emotions during the match, which is likely to be highly-charged, and not get sent off as that will affect the team’s rhythm.
“(World No. 165) Singapore will surely send their best team, although they won’t have (former Singapore great) Fandi Ahmad’s two sons (Irfan and Ikhsan). The Lions also want a good result against us considering the history we share,” the 51-year-old Cheng Hoe said at the national team’s training session at the National Sports Council (NSC) ground here yesterday.
Meanwhile, Cheng Hoe said that PKNS FC player Nicholas Swirad (groin injury) was set to be among the three players to be dropped when he names the final 22 players for the Airmarine Cup. Cheng Hoe is keeping his fingers crossed that striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, who did not train yesterday due to fever, and midfielder Kenny Pallraj, who is still recovering from knocks, will be able to make the final squad.
“There’s a big possibility that Nic (Swirad) won’t be able to make the tournament but I hope Mat Yo (Norshahrul) and Kenny will be fit to face Singapore. We need Mat Yo for his experience,” said Cheng Hoe.
The other Airmarine Cup match on Wednesday pits Oman against Afghanistan. The winners of these two matches will clash in the final on March 23.
For the record, the last time world No. 167 Malaysia and Singapore met was in 2016, when they drew 0-0 in an international friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Prior to that, Malaysia defeated Singapore 3-1 in the group stage of the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup competition at the Singapore National Stadium. – Bernama