THE stage is set for another thrilling chapter in the Vietnam-Malaysia rivalry when the two teams clash in a World Cup qualifier today.
Having played each other three times in less than 12 months, the match at My Dinh Stadium will be the fourth installment with Vietnam holding the upper hand.
In all of the three fixtures played last year in the AFF Cup, Malaysia were unable to defeat Vietnam.
One draw and two defeats were the outcome and worryingly, both of those defeats came in Hanoi, where Tan Cheng Hoe’s men have to play today.
But Harimau Malaya are feeling more tigerish this time as there has been a steady improvement in the team.
Cheng Hoe said: “So far our preparation has been going very well. Compared to last year, our team have improved, and we are ready for this match (against Vietnam).”
Cheng Hoe admitted that Vietnam have improved after the AFF Cup final in December as they went on a good run to reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals before losing narrowly to Japan (1-0).
Cheng Hoe said Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo has done a great job in transforming the Golden Dragons.
“Expectations will be high on Vietnam and being at home, the pressure is on them.
“But I believe that at the right time and the right moment, any team is beatable.
“We are playing away but I’m positive that we will be able to get a good result.”
While Farizal Marlias, Shahrul Saad, Aidil Zafuan, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safawi Rasid and Mohamadou Sumareh are members of the first 11 team from the 2018 AFF Cup final, Cheng Hoe will deploy five “new faces.”
La’Vere Corbin-Ong is set to take over from Syazwan Andik at left back while Matthew Davies assumes Syahmi Safari’s berth at right back
Brendan Gan will replace Akram Mahinan in midfield.
Syamer Kutty Abba is still in the squad but will likely start from the bench with Selangor’s Halim Saari offered a place in the starting line-up in central midfield.
Upfront, Zaquan Adha is no longer part of the team and his place will be taken over by the man of the hour, Syafiq Ahmad who has scored in each of his last three matches for Malaysia.