BUKIT JALIL,. “Any result is good as long as we don’t concede a goal,” said national head coach Tan Cheng Hoe as his team prepares for their most difficult test against Thailand in the semifinals of the Asian Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaign first leg at Bukit Jalil stadium at 8.45pm tomorrow night.
Malaysia finished second on Group A to Vietnam and were drawn to meet Group B winners and defending AFF Cup champions Thailand in the semifinals which will be played over two legs.
On paper Malaysia are well below the Thai’s and it reflects in their Fifa world ranking where Thailand are 118 to Malaysia’s 167. The last time these two met was in the 2014 finals where Malaysia beat them at home 3-2 but lost the return leg 2-0 to giving Thailand a 4-3 aggregate victory and their fourth AFF Cup.
However, Thailand have only beaten Malaysia once on Malaysian soil in the two countries’ 59-year rivalry. It was 2-0 loss in the 1971 Merdeka Tournment.
Tan is aware of this statistics but he feels tomorrows match will be a different ball game.
“A positive result is a clean sheet and we take that to Bangkok. However if you watch any top teams around the world you can’t be defending for 90 minutes,” Tan said during the pre-match press conference at Bukit Jalil Stadium.
“What our players must do is follow the plan and be unpurturbed when taking the game to their opponents.
“They shouldn’t be scared to attack and at the same time be wary of our defence. Our transition from defense to goal and vice-versa is where we have to be extra careful as when we go attack we always concede a goal.
“This is an area our defenders must be wary. One thing for sure is Thailand will definitely come out searching for goals as the away goal rules are in effect hence it’s crucial not to let one in.”
A full house of 80,000 spectators are expected to turn up tomorrow with Malaysia aiming to emulate their 2010 victory, the only time Malaysia have won the cup. Thailand have six titles to date and are going for their third cup in a row.
The other semifinals will see Vietnam play Phillipines on Sunday.