KUALA LUMPUR: Timor Leste may be a small fry but national coach Tan Cheng Hoe is calling up all the big guns in Malaysian football.
Cheng Hoe is taking no chances with World No 195 Timor Leste in the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifier double header on June 7 and June 11.
He has called up a “very strong” 26-men squad today for national training.
Cheng Hoe retained only 14 of the players that featured in the Airmarine Cup in March where World No 168 Malaysia lost to Singapore but beat Afghanistan.
There was a recall for eight players who helped the team finish runners-up in the 2018 AFF Cup with Farizal Marlias, Syafiq Ahmad, Shahrel Fikri, Adam Nor Azlin, Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid, Syamer Kutty Abba and Syahmi Safari returning to the team.
In the squad are also several new faces in La'Vere Corbin-Ong (Johor Darul Ta'zim), Rodney Akwensivie (PKNS FC) Faisal Abdul Halim (Pahang) and Dominic Tan (Johor Darul Ta'zim II).
The players who failed to impress in the Airmarine Cup were not selected. Among them were former captain Zaquan Adha and experienced keeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
There was also no place in the team for JDT's Afiq Fazail despite earning rave reviews from Luciano Figueroa and Benjamin Mora as one of the best midfielders in Malaysia.
“Of course we looked at him but at the moment we have other players in his position,” Cheng Hoe said.
“But the door is always open for him and any other players in the future to be part of the national team.
“From the list of players, even though not at 100 per cent, it feels like the best squad I’ve managed to get. So in terms of the 26 names called up, I'm very happy with what we got.”
The squad have Gambia-born
Mohamadou Sumareh as the only naturalised player despite all the talk about wanting to include more in the fold.
Documentation issue, eligibility criteria and poor quality are among the many reasons why there isn't a second naturalised player to date.
Cheng Hoe will have one warm-up match on June 2 where they will face Nepal before he decides on the three players to be dropped. All three matches will be played at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.