KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — The manoeuvres of national coach Tan Cheng Hoe in holding back his first XI from action in the two Tier 1 international friendlies in Amman, Jordan, recently should be viewed in a positive light.
Although the flaws in the national squad were laid bare when they were easily tamed by Jordan and Uzbekistan in the friendly match series, from the point of view of the coach, the two matches provided Cheng Hoe with valuable input for the good of the national team.
Former national head coach B. Sathianathan opined that Cheng Hoe’s decision in not bringing a set of players befitting to be entrusted with the national jersey was his plan to widen the pool of talent for the 2020 AFF Cup in Singapore this December.
“Maybe Tan (Cheng Hoe) has already envisioned concrete plans for his first-choice players, since he knows who are the pillars of the national squad. So Tan’s idea is to identify more talents apart from his first-choice team.
“In modern football, we need more quality players besides first-team preference. We can see in current practice that as many as five substitutions are made and the subsequent switch in tactics, game plan, intensity and more,” he told Bernama today.
Sathianathan said by keeping his first team under wraps, Cheng Hoe created more space and opportunity to put his rookies on trial, who prior to this hardly saw frontline action but now found themselves in a baptism of fire to strut their talent.
In the series of friendly matches in Amman recently, Malaysia who are ranked world-154th lost 0-4 to hosts Jordan who are ranked world-93rd last Wednesday before a 1-5 demolition at the hands of (world-84th) Uzbekistan last Saturday.
Going by the results, Sathianathan surmised that a majority of the players called up for Harimau Malaya duty are still not up to par against teams which are higher ranked.
“But don’t forget that this is the ideal time for Tan to assess them (players) during training as a team. In training sessions, the coach can see if a player is up to mark in skills, can excel at what level, then he can juggle the team for competitions ahead,” said Sathianathan.
He reckons the 2020 AFF Championship will be the battleground for Cheng Hoe to prove his chessboard moves while fans should suspend their disbelief and give time for Cheng Hoe to formulate his best options.
Sathianathan conceded that it was a trial and tribulation for the coach to persevere with plans when he is in the firing line of critics even though the team will be consolidated in the near future.
“He (Cheng Hoe) will have his moment of truth at the coming AFF Cup while netizens must abide to his rules till then. For me, I can accept other views (armchair critics) and learn from it but we cannot be swayed by their opinions. The decision is his sole right as the coach,” he said.
Among the title-contenders in the 2020 AFF Championship, Cheng Hoe’s Harimau Malaya squad have been grouped with defending champions Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos in Group B while Group A comprises Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore along with the winner of the “play-off” between Timor Leste and Brunei. — Bernama