BAD SITUATION: Rajagobal running short in all departments as Qatar clash looms
EVEN the replacements are turning up injured as national coach K. Rajagobal is fast running short of options in preparation for the Asian Cup Group D qualifier against Qatar on Feb 6.Felda United striker Shahrizal Saad, called up to fill the void created by injured first-choice forwards Safee Sali and Norshahrul Idla Talaha, is out of contention after arriving at Wisma FAM yesterday carrying an injury.
With Kedah's Baddrol Bakhtiar also not available, Rajagobal has sent an SOS to Perak striker Abdul Hadi Yahya after defenders Azmi Muslim and Helmi Remeli linked up with the national team yesterday to round out the training session of 22 players.
In a piece of good news, Norfarhan Mohammad returned to training though he is not fully fit as Rajagobal tried out various permutations, given his mounting injury problems.
"Everyone knows our situation. This is the first time I have had as many as 10 players out injured and seven or eight of them form the backbone of the team," said Rajaobal after conducting yesterday's training in heavy rain.
"Even those on standby are injured. It puts us in a difficult situation for Qatar but we have no choice and have to go with the players we have."
Skipper Safiq Rahim's absence through suspension leaves the team with a shortage of central midfielders and out-and-out strikers.
K. Reuben and Mahalli Jasuli, who both usually play at right-back, were tried out in midfield alongside Shakir Shaari while Amri Yahyah and Khyril Muhymeen Zambri formed the attacking pair in a session between the probables and the possibles.
Goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, who has an injured left forefinger, stayed on the sidelines to watch Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and Norazlan Razali in action.
"We are short of players in every position. I tried out different combinations but how much work can you get done in such a short space of time?" said Rajagobal.
Before facing Qatar in Doha, the national team play Iraq in a friendly in Dubai on Friday but Rajagobal cautioned against unrealistic expectations.
"Even if we had all 10 players available, we can't be sure of getting a result against Qatar who are at a different level with a chance of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
"The Iraq match will give us a picture of what we can expect against Qatar. I've seen them all play and I know the level we are at.
"The players have to make use of these matches to learn and gain experience as how often do we get to play these teams?" said Rajagobal, who watched the recent Gulf Cup in Bahrain where Iraq were runners-up though Qatar exited the group stage with just one win against Oman.
Among those ruled of the Middle East trip other than Safee and Norshahrul are Bunyamin Umar, Fitri Omar, Zubir Azmi, K. Gurusamy, Gary Steven Robbat, S. Kunanlan, Amar Rohidan and Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor.