Malaysia seeking home comfort against Vietnam
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia will be banking on home advantage against title favourites Vietnam when the two sides clash in the 2018 AFF final first leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
The last time the two sides met at Bukit Jalil was in December 15, 2010, the semi-final first leg of the AFF Cup, which saw Safee Sali net two goals as Malaysia won the tie.
Malaysia held Vietnam to a goalless draw in Hanoi in the return leg as they went on to beat Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate in the final to lift the 2010 title.
Vietnam, however, already have a psychological advantage over Malaysia going into the 2018 final, with Park Hang-seo’s men having defeated Tan Cheng Hoe’s side 2-0 in a Group A encounter.
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Goals scored: 9 Goals conceded: 5 Top scorer: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (5 goals)
Malaysia qualified second from their group behind winners Vietnam following their three wins against Cambodia (1-0), Laos (3-1) and Myanmar (3-0), with their only blemish coming from the 2-0 loss to Vietnam.
In the semi-finals, Malaysia faced a prolific Thailand team, who scored 15 goals in the group stage - the highest in the competition - and Adisak Kraisorn, the tournament top scorer.
Both teams settled for a goalless draw in the first leg, with Thailand expected to sail through the second leg.
Malaysia, however, turned the tables on their opponents as they came from behind twice to seal a 2-2 draw to progress on away goals.
Harimau Malaya are unbeaten at home in the competition and with tickets sold out for the first- leg, Malaysia won’t be short of home support with 80,000 fans backing them.
Cheng Hoe was part of the national coaching set-up when Malaysia won the AFF Cup in 2010. When asked about the difference between 2010 and 2018, he said the style of play is different.
“Coach Raja (Datuk K. Rajagobal) had his own philosophy back then. In 2018, I wanted to make sure that our players adapt to modern football.
“Only Apek (Khairul Fahmi Che Mat) and Mat Yo (Norshahrul Idlan Talaha) are from the 2010 team in this squad. The twins (Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak) are the only ones who came from the 2009 SEA Games winning team.
“The rest of the players in this team are youngsters, who have good potential to be top professional footballers in the future,” said Cheng Hoe.
Goals scored: 12 Goals conceded: 2 Top scorers: Nguyen Quang Hai, Nguyen Anh Duc, Nguyen Cong Phuong (3 goals)
Vietnam qualified for the knockout stage without a fuss, raking up wins against Laos (3-0), Malaysia (2-0), Cambodia (3-0) and settled for a 0-0 draw with Myanmar to finish top in their group.
In the semi-finals, the Golden Dragons edged Philippines 2-1 in both legs to progress into the finals 4-2 on aggregate.
“Although we managed to beat Malaysia at the group stage, they possess good attacking players. Vietnam will have to organise well and maintain the current playing style. If we can do that, we will achieve the expected result.
“Since the 2008 championship, this is the first time Vietnam have reached the final of the AFF Cup, so tomorrow (Tuesday) will be a very special time for me and the players,” said Park.
Sources: Football Association of Malaysia, Asean Football Federation
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