KUALA LUMPUR: Faiz Nasir was the star as Malaysia wrapped up their Airmarine Cup campaign by edging Afghanistan 2-1 to finish third at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Saturday.
Former Pahang import Faysal Shayestesh opened for the visitors with an unstoppable shot in the 32nd minute.
Malaysia, however, bounced back through Faiz Nasir a minute before half-time. It was a memorable moment for Faiz as it was the midfielder’s first appearance for the national team.
Tan Cheng Hoe’s men dominated the second half and were rewarded in the 82nd minute when Afghanistan’s Asbassin Alikhil turned in a Matthew Davies cross into his own net.
For the World No 167 side, the win was a huge boost as Afghanistan are ranked 20 places above Harimau Malaya on the Fifa rankings.
“My players played with determination and were focused especially after the breather,” said Cheng Hoe yesterday.
“The team responded well following the defeat to Singapore and I am proud of them.”
Faiz was among four players (Hadin Azman, Halim Saari and Rizal Ghazali) handed their first starts in the competition.
The diminutive midfielder was the undoubted star of the show as he displayed composure with matching techniques that belie any nerves he had in his international debut.
Standing at 1.52m, Faiz was not hindered by his size. He ran rings around his well-built opponents throughout the game.
With the 2022 World Cup qualifiers starting in June, Faiz may have played himself into contention for further call-ups, as Cheng Hoe expressed his admiration for how he performed yesterday.
“Faiz Nasir showed confidence, despite earning only his first cap today. This is important for a new player.
“Hadin also played well. The players who came in today all played well and it adds to the pool of players that we can use,” added Cheng Hoe.
Malaysia’s next assignment is the 2022 World Cup-cum-2023 Asian Cup qualifiers. They are expected to start their campaign in the playoffs.