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KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 -- National head coach Tan Cheng Hoe believes it is time for the Harimau Malaya to finally end their four-game winlesss streak against Vietnam when the teams square off tomorrow (12.45 am Saturday Malaysian time).
The 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup Group G second-round qualifier at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be the fifth time Cheng Hoe leads the squad out against the Golden Dragons since being appointed head coach in December 2017.
Cheng Hoe, 53, feels that with his team showing a better understanding, from both the technical and tactical aspects, the time was ripe for Malaysia to end their Vietnam jinx.
His confidence also stems from the spirit shown by his charges in a bid to bounce back from their 4-0 loss to the UAE last week and revive their chances of qualifying to the 2023 Asian Cup Finals.
“I feel this is our best chance as we (coaches) can see improvements in technical aspects and the understanding of tactics in every player. We need to make the most of this chance to gain a positive result.
“We hope that any player fielded will give their full focus against an opponent we have found hard to get a positive result from each time we’ve met,” he said during an online media conference from Dubai today.
For the record, the Harimau Malaya have only managed to eke out a draw in their last four matches against Vietnam, with the latest result being a 1-0 loss during the qualifying campaign in Hanoi in October 2019.
Vietnam are doing well in the qualifiers, leading the standings with 14 points after winning four and drawing twice in six matches and conceding just one single goal, thus far.
Cheng Hoe, meanwhile, is also hoping that naturalised striker Guilherme De Paula will be back to his lethal best against Vietnam after struggling to make an impression against the UAE.
“If we see De Paula’s quality, he has never failed to be among the top scorers in whichever league he has played in... so we hope he can do something in tomorrow’s match given his confidence and experience,” he said.
Cheng Hoe, who is counting on his defence to hold the Vietnamese attackers at bay, is still unsure if the injured Junior Eldstal will be available. Otherwise, he will have to rely on the combination of captain Mohamad Aidil Zafuan Abd Radzak and heritage player Dion Cools, who is of Malaysian-Belgian parentage, at the heart of the defence.
“We see improvement in training daily... all the players are working well with Dion (Cools) and we hope that together with Aidil, who has extensive experience, the duo can marshal the defence,” he said.
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