The AFF Suzuki Cup, without doubt the biggest international tournament within South East Asia is just around the corner. No doubt the Malaysian football fans will be hoping that Dollah Salleh can replicate his outstanding record with both Pahang & PDRM over the last 2 years for the Malaysian National Team.
Make no mistakes, results in meaningless friendlies should be seen as nothing more than preparation, meaning that Dollah & his team should only be judged on results in the AFF Suzuki Cup. Everyone from the local barber to the orthopedic surgeon have the right to their opinion over squad selection & tactics but at the end of the day the coach lives & dies by his results and Dollah Salleh will be of no exception.
Being drawn in the same group as hosts Singapore, Thailand & Myanmar, most definitely Malaysia will have to be at their best to survive the qualifying rounds and get through to the semi finals.
Interesting inclusions in Dollah’s provisional 26 man squad includes Kedah’s 17 year-old sensation, Farhan Roslan as well as experienced veteran Indra Putra. Many people expected Brendan Gan to be included, especially after doing well in the Asian Cup. So for many, he is a notable exclusion.
At face value, the squad looks like an experienced and well balanced squad. However the obvious question is, where will the goals come from?
Kedah teenager Farhan Roslan will not have the burden of expectation hanging over his shoulder and may just be the surprise package for opposing defences. I made my debut for Australia at age 20 and for me, it was a surreal experience and I remember not feeling pressure, just excitement. If Roslan is the type to thrive on the big stage then Dollah may just unearth a real gem at a time where its hard to see who will consistently score for Malaysia.
Amri Yahyah has had another stellar season for JDT and no doubt he will again be pivotal within Dollah’s set up. What I love about Amri is his consistency, work rate and versatility. He can play up front as a no 9, wide as a no 7 or even in behind as a no 10. What a wonderful feeling for Dollah Salleh to know that the minimum he will get from Amri Yahyah is a 7/10, every game he plays.
Gopinathan from Pahang seems to be flavor of the month at the moment but for me he is still 2 years away from fulfilling his incredible potential. To the naked eye he looks fantastic; quick & strong with amazing stamina & dribbling skills . My only concern with Gopi is the final product. It’s fantastic that he excites the crowd but at the end of the day he must improve his ratio of goal assist & goals scored. Once Gopi is taught that sometimes, he only needs to create half a yard of space and cross the ball into dangerous areas, he will be lethal. Malaysia needs him to be a game winner, not just a crowd pleaser.
And lastly we have the two enigma’s of Malaysian football in Safee Sali & Norshahrul . Both were on the peripheral at JDT this year and both have been criticized from pillar to post for receiving huge salaries but delivering little on the pitch. On their day, both are proven match winners but one cannot help but question their motivation and desire to consistently perform at the level required and expected of them.
I wonder if either of them knocked on the door of JDT’s coach Bojan Hodak this year, demanding to know why they were not in the starting 11 and what is required for them to force their way into JDT’s first 11. From an outsider looking in, it looked like both were content to sit on the bench, go through the motions in training and improve their golf handicap.
Now is the time for both Safee & Norshahrul to prove all the critics wrong. Lets hope they are training like men possessed in camp and come out firing on all cylinders when the Suzuki Cup begins. Body language is so important, especially for a striker. Look at Ballotelli with his head down, shoulders hunched and he wonders why he’s struggling. Then look at Suarez with his chest out, chin raised and eyes always looking at what’s occurring around him. Ballotelli looks disinterested while Suarez looks like a winner.
If Gopi & Amri Yahyah can provide the ammunition and Safee Sali and/or Norshahrul can rediscover their form from the yesteryears, then just maybe Malaysia can surpass all expectations & lift the cup.