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Aidil Zafuan stays upbeat

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ASIAN CUP QUALIFIER: Defender is feeling positive about Malaysia's chance despite another spurt of injuries

DEFENDER Aidil Zafuan Radzak, a strong candidate to captain Malaysia in their opening Asian Cup Qualifying Group D match  against Qatar on Feb 6, believes his injury-ridden side have  qualities to come good in the match.National coach K. Rajagobal named a depleted 24-member squad for the match following injuries to strikers Safee Sali and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha; defender Bunyamin Umar; midfielders K. Gurusamy, S. Kunanlan, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor, Amar Rohidan and Gary Steven Robbat.

Fitri Omar, Baddrol Baktiar, Zubir Azmi and Shahrizal Saad, who were on the standby list, were also dropped for the same reason.

"The fringe players are as good as the regulars but only short in experience.

"We have lost so many players to injuries but we should forget about them and focus on the mission ahead," said Aidil Zafuan at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.

"The inexperienced players should focus on their game instead of worrying about Qatar. It is also a new experience for me as I've never played for a national team ridden with so many injuries."

"Qatar are one of Asia's best and have many naturalised players but it does not mean they are invincible. We can make them struggle in Doha."

Norshahrul was initially included for the match but subsequently dropped following a medical assessment on his hamstring yesterday.

Winger Norfarhan Muhammad and goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, are not 100 per cent fit, but the duo have been included in the squad together with uncapped players Norazlan Razali, Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim, Affize Faisal Mamat and Fauzi Roslan.

Amri Yahyah, Abdul Hadi Yahya, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Helmi Remeli and Abdul Shukor Jusoh are among those making their return.

Aidil Zafuan expects the Malaysian back-line to come under severe pressure in Doha,

"We may have many injuries but our back-line is not so affected as all the core players are available. As long as we play a disciplined game, we can earn something.

"The coach will decide on the approach, however, I believe we will play a cautious defensive play to stop our opponents from scoring," said the centre-back.

Aidil was the regular captain before Safiq Rahim replaced the 25-year-old following an injury three years ago but he could be given the armband to lead Malaysia in the match.

"If I were given the mandate, I will try my best to motivate the team in Doha. However, it does not matter who is captain as my main objective is on the match," he added.

The squad will leave for Dubai for an 'A' international friendly against Iraq on Friday before heading to Doha on the following day for the qualifying match against Qatar.

Malaysia, however, may request for only a practice match instead of 'A' friendly against Iraq to avoid injuries.

Rajagobal said he will use the match to get his players acclimatise to the conditions in the Middle East.

"I intend to play my core players but to avoid injuries, I may request for unlimited substitutions," said the coach.

The squad -- Goalkeeper: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Farizal Marlias, Norazlan Razali;

Defenders: Mahalli Jasuli, Amirizdwan Taj Tajudin, Fadhli Shas, Aidil Zafuan Radzak, Azmi Muslim, Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Mohd Faizal Muhammad, T. Reuben;

Midfielders: Abdul Shukor Jusoh, Helmi Remeli, Shakir Shaari, Affize Faisal Mamat, Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Yong Kuong Yong, Azamuddin Akil, Ashaari Samsudin;

Forwards: Amri Yahyah, Norfarhan Muhammad, Fauzi Roslan, Abdul Hadi Yahya.

National coach K. Rajagobal oversees the training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday. Malaysia will play Qatar in Doha on Feb 6. Pic by Hasriyasyah Sabudin


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