Harimau's pint-sized Faisal, Arif take on 'Giants' in Asian Cup

KUALA LUMPUR: Wingers Faisal Halim and Arif Aiman Hanapi may be short in stature, but big in talent, and their goalscoring instincts could prove crucial for Harimau Malaya's campaign in the Asian Cup on Jan 12-Feb 10.

As Malaysia's top scorers last year with six goals each, the 26-year-old Faisal, standing at 1.58m, and the 1.71m tall Arif will be depended on to terrorize world No. 23 South Korea, No. 86 Bahrain and No. 87 Jordan in Group E in Doha, Qatar

It will not be easy as Malaysia will be facing well-built opponents in the Asian Cup.

However, former national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal believes football is not all about size.

"Argentina's Diego Maradona was not tall, but he dominated football and helped his country win the 1986 World Cup. The same goes for Argentina's Lionel Messi, England's Michael Owen and Brazil's Romario," said Rajagobal.

"To an extent, size does offer a player an advantage. However, we still have players small in stature making an impact in the game.

"Japan are another example. Most of their players are not very tall, but they are a respected team in world football.

"In 2011, Japan won the Asian Cup despite taking on Middle East teams that had well-built players, so I don't see this as a big problem."

Rajagobal believes that players like Faisal and Arif can thrive in the Asian Cup.

"Faisal and Arif can use their speed and skill to outfox bigger opponents. We must remember that our national striker Darren Lok is not so tall but is doing decently."

Rajagobal brought joy to the nation when Malaysia won the AFF Cup in 2010, a year after guiding the national Under-23 side to the Sea Games title in Indonesia.

"In the Asian Cup, Harimau Malaya must be mentally strong and confident to overcome their higher-ranked rivals. Football will be robust and physical in Doha.

"Our players need to function well as a team to overcome all obstacles," said the 67-year-old coach.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Jordan on Jan 15, followed by matches against Bahrain on Jan 20 and South Korea on Jan 25.

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