Back to the grind
HIf anything, Malaysia can use the friendly against Australia today to reignite some swagger and introduce new faces. ow time has flown by! Not too long ago ... well, actually, make that a very long time ago that we defeated Australia in 1992. The solitary goal victory was achieved through a P. Ravindran goal in the group stage of the Independence Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia. The player known as “Kinta Express” was one of the quickest wingers we produced and despite being dimunitive, had a very big heart.
Back then in Jakarta, the Malaysian national team, managed by Ken worden from Australia, were not to be frowned upon as they went on to win that invitational tournament by beating South Korea 2-1 in the final.
That said, it was different times with the Australia team in 1992, which included, arguably, regional favourites and not well known Premier League Socceroos we see nowadays (Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer). Nineteen years later since that Australia v Malaysia match, and thanks to the global reach of the Premiership in England, most of us can actually name five (or more) famous Socceroos in an instant.
we take on Australia in Canberra this evening with another pacy winger in the shape of S. Kunalan but certainly the circumstances have changed drastically. The Australians, veterans of the last two world Cups, have earned global acknowledgement since then. we have only embarked on a transitional journey in the last couple of years.
By way of FIFA rankings, it’s Australia (19th spot) v Malaysia (147th) in this international friendly.
Don’t rub your eyes, the gap between both sides is a huge one! But in a one-off friendly, anything can happen.
For the Socceroos, who lead Group D with six points in their world Cup qualifying group, this friendly match against team Harimau will be taken seriously. As reported in the Australian media, it will be used to gauge the fitness and depth of Holger osieck’s team (without star names like Cahill, Schwarzer, Harry Kewell, and Brett Emerton).
Australia already have their eyes set on a third world Cup appearance in a row and Brazil 2014 looks a fine bet if osieck’s side can dispatch the likes of Saudi Arabia, Thailand and oman in their Asian qualifying group.
In Malaysia’s case, this match is a high profile tonic to lift the team. It will be a fantastic experience for the Harimau boys, no doubt, but it certainly seems strange to see some changes in the national team set up.
The skipper Safiq Rahim has been dropped which is a hazard of the job but the inclusion of defender Norhafiz Zamani Misbah suggests regression. It certainly looks like coach Datuk K Rajagopal has backed down in the face of criticism by including a veteran player.
Despite having Harimau newcomers like Joseph Kallang Tie and UKM student K. Reuben in the squad in Canberra, I would have expected a stronger stand from the coach but is he having his hand forced by the fans after the aggregate loss at the hands of Singapore in the world Cup 2nd Round qualifying stage in July?
There are ups and downs when you coach a young team and unfortunately the down came at a crucial moment.
I am certain the Premier League teams (Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea) coming to town at that time, before the clash against the Lions disrupted the preparation and confidence of the national players. obviously, we sacrificed one for the other but that is water under the bridge now and we hope to make it as difficult as possible for the
Aussies who no doubt, have termed this as a “ nice and easy “ warm up game before they host oman. There is no danger to the Aussie qualifying campaign as they are expected to and will win Group D.
Elsewhere, in South America, the wC 2014 qualifiers kick off with Copa America winners Uruguay taking on Bolivia at home.
with Luis Suarez in red hot form and Edinson Cavani too getting among the goals, it could well be three points at the Centenario although the Bolivians will defend stoutly.
The Argentinians too are at home to Chile and it will be interesting to see Leo Messi inspire his team since taking over the captaincy. He comes across as quiet but since being appointed captain, he has been seen to be talking a lot more on the pitch.
He certainly has the stature to be the leader on the pitch and quite perhaps this decision could be the best ever made since Diego Maradona was captain. The host, Brazil will be content with friendly matches as they build a formidable team to win the world Cup on home soil in 2014. n Catch Shebby Singh on Monday Night Verdict every Monday at 8pm on ESPN, and his insight and views during ESPN’s live match presentation of the Barclays Premier League. The Australia v Malaysia international friendly will be screened live on Astro Arena (Ch 801) live at 5pm today.