Southeast Asia Malaysia

2018 AFF Cup Final – Malaysia Preview

Malaysia have made it to the final of the 2018 AFF Cup against the odds. Their run in the tournament has been a vindication of Tan Cheng Hoe’s exciting, possession based football. As they prepare to face a Vietnam side that has worked wonders at a U23 level, the fight for South-East Asian dominance remains wide open. Here are the thoughts of Football Tribe Malaysia’s Aiman Nazirmuddin ahead of this crucial match.

Strengths: Tan Cheng Hoe has previously received numerous criticisms due to the his selection of players. Who would have thought they would go to the final and will meet Vietnam in the final at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium this Tuesday. Playing at home is a symbol of Malaysia’s strength. Harimau Malaya will receive support from 80,000 supportes who will come down to the stadium. Ultras Malaya will lead the support by singing from the first minutes of the match until the end of the game. Tan Cheng Hoe will make changes to Malaysia’s defensive division, by sending in Amirul Azhan to replace Syahmi Safari, who received a red card. Aidil Zafuan will again lead the defense after being reported recovering from injury. His leadership will fend off the invasion from Vietnam. In the center of midfield, Malaysia are sure to see the tranquility and discipline of Akram Mahinan. He will greatly assist the country’s defense from being exposed to counter-attacks by Vietnam. In addition, Syamer Kutty will act as a box to box player, using his strength to assist the attack. At the same time he will come down to help Akram Mahinan control the center. Their strength in controlling the game as well as their discipline will be needed in the final. The strikers will be tasked with finding an early goal in the first leg. Norshahrul Idlan Talaha has scored 5 goals throughout the AFF Cup campaign, and will definitely looking to add to that tally in the final. He will work with Zaquan Adha. Additionally, Malaysia will be assisted by the speed and intelligence of Mohamadou Sumareh and Safawi Rasid, whose movements will be crucial in splitting apart Vietnam’s defense.

Weaknesses: What is troubling to the Malaysian team is Tan Cheng Hoe bringing three defensive midfielders and no attacking midfielders to the tournament. Harimau Malaya have shown a clear lack of creative midfielders so far. Akram Mahinan and Syamer Kutty both come from a defensive midfield system, meaning that the midfield lacks balance. The absence of Syahmi Safari in defense is also a bit of a worry. In the last game, Aidil’s absence leading the defense impact the game. Irfan Zakaria, who is replacing Aidil, did not play well and made a lot of mistakes. Safawi Rasid was reportedly injured after the match with Thailand, and there remains uncertainty about whether or not he will participate in the final Despite not scoring goals, his movements in helping two strikers are very much needed. Tan Cheng Hoe needs to correct all of these weaknesses before the match again Vietnam. He needs to remind our players to be strong in the air, to challenge hard for the ball and to find an early goal.

Players to Watch: Mohamadou Sumareh, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Akram Mahinan


Click here to read what Malaysia’s opponents think of them ahead of this match.