Ill-prepared and disorganized: Malaysia’s dismal end to AFF Suzuki Cup crowns worrying decline since 2019


When the curtains closed on a year of international football in 2019, the Malaysian national team was seen as being on an upward trajectory, one year after reaching the 2018 Suzuki AFF Cup final and building on that success. in a gallant opening race of the 2022 World Cup Campaign where Indonesia and Thailand were brought to their knees, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were almost humiliated at Bukit Jalil.

Two years later, the progress and improvements seen under Tan Cheng Hoe’s tutelage have all but dissipated with the debacle of the rest of the qualifying process and an early exit from the Suzuki AFF Cup 2020 following the losses to Vietnam and the Indonesia, ultimately failing to reach the goal of reaching the final.

Unable to build on the progress made, Harimau Malaya’s performance in Singapore left a lot to be desired and with only less than a week of preparation before the regional tournament, it was a campaign that was doomed to failure from the start. start.

R. Kogileswaran, Malaysia vs Indonesia, Suzuki AFF Cup 2020, December 19, 2021

Heavily criticized for bringing only 24 players to the tournament when a total of 30 players were allowed to register, Tan left himself very little room for maneuver during the competition when four players tested positive for Covid -19 and two senior center-backs were hit. with injuries.

Sympathy can be brought in his direction that his choice of nominal midfielder Brendan Gan, Nor Azam Azih and Syamer Kutty Abba were not available for selection due to various illnesses and injuries. Disaster struck again when the mainstays of Kuala Lumpur City’s victorious race to win the 2021 Malaysian Cup Kenny Pallraj and Akram Mahinan were forced to be abandoned due to injuries.

With just one replacement called Arif Aiman, it left a gaping hole in the midfield with Baddrol Bakhtiar the only experienced player remaining in the post. To his credit, Mukhairi Ajmal fitted in perfectly against Cambodia and Laos, but struggled against stronger opponents like Vietnam.

R. Kogileswaran, Safawi Rasid, Malaysia v Indonesia, AFF Suzuki Cup 2020, December 19, 2021

Kogileswaran’s wonderful first game in the clash in Indonesia momentarily gave Malaysia hope and it might have been completely different if Syafiq Ahmad had put aside the luck created by a glorious Safawi Rasid passing by. the ball, but losses of concentration during the defensive situation made it difficult to pass the group stage.

Of the four holders against Indonesia, only Rizal Ghazali played regularly throughout the 2021 season and even he fought against Arhan Pratama and Ramai Rumakiek. Junior Eldstal, Dion Cools and Syahmi Safari simply did not have enough minutes to spare before this competition and were sorely exposed by the intensity and pressure shown by the energetic Indonesian team.

Junior Eldstal, Malaysia vs Indonesia, Suzuki AFF Cup 2020, December 19, 2021

Syahmi was guilty of conceding the first two goals, allowing opponents to sneak behind him for Irfan Jaya’s first brace, before being sucked into a position that didn’t need his presence and thus allowing to the attacker of PSS Sleman with the easiest derivations at the far post.

For much of his reign at the helm of the national team, Tan has always presented himself as someone who firmly believes in a vertical style of attacking football based on possession and building from behind, but maybe the desperation kicked in entering the second half. and needing to continue the game as he got completely irrelevant with his tactics.

By pushing Cools up front, Malaysia opted to do away with ball progression or the use of pitch width and opted for a more traditional route, a tactic that must have appealed to Shin Tae-yong, who knew Fachruddin Aryanto, Alfreanda Dewangga and later Elkan. Baggott would all love and win these aerial duels with consummate ease.

Baddrol Bakhtiar, Malaysia vs Indonesia, Suzuki AFF Cup 2020, December 19, 2021

Having persisted with the same tactics even when it hasn’t worked against Vietnam in the past, it was baffling to see the lack of cohesion and unnecessary urgency with 45 minutes remaining and only one goal behind.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and Tan must heed the warning signs and learn great lessons from this tournament. Better planning needs to be put in place to give the national team a better chance to be competitive in future competitions.

The 2023 Asian Cup third qualifying round will take place in mid-2022, but preparations and planning should be done immediately with the support of the Malaysian Football League (MFL) to support the domestic football match schedule. .

There will be calls for Tan to be removed as head coach, but with Asian Cup qualification still a real possibility, now may be a better time for improvement and preparation instead. of a complete change. The spark that the 2019 performances created must be rediscovered.

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