Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh has called up a host of established stars as he prepares to take charge of his first game in a friendly against Tajikistan next month.
The 50-year-old was confirmed as the new boss of Harimau Malaya in June, ending the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM)’s six-month long search for a permanent successor to K. Rajagobal.
Already, Dollah has been set the target of reaching the final at the end-of-year AFF Suzuki Cup, and he will have his first chance to assess his charges on August 6 when they take on Tajikistan.
And the legendary Malaysian striker hardly raised any eyebrows when he unveiled his 23-man roster for the friendly, with more than a third of the players coming from newly-crowned Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim.
Defensive quartet Aidil Zafuan, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Mahalli Jasuli and Fadhli Shas were all given the nod, as were Amri Yahyah and Safiq Rahim, but Dollah has also shown faith in the misfiring strike duo of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee Sali.
Both were recently regarded as the deadliest pairing in Southeast Asian football but have been failed to hit the heights in the past couple of seasons; combining for just three goals in Darul Ta’zim’s title-winning campaign.
Kelantan have not enjoyed the best of years so far in 2014 but that has not affected the international prospects of goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi, playmaker Badhri Radzi and forward Ahmad Fakri Saarani, who have all been among the brightest sparks at the Sultan Mohammad IV Stadium.
Four Pahang players – Khairul Azhan Khalid, R. Gopinathan, Azamuddin Akil, Hafiz Kamal – have also been recognised for their efforts in helping their side win the Malaysia Cup and FA Cup in the past 12 months although there was no place for Razman Roslan, who had been called up to the previous squad under interim coach Ong Kim Swee.
One of the names that will have caused quite a stir is that of centre-back Muslim Ahmad, who fell out of favour after a troubled end to his time at Terengganu was followed by a forgettable spell at Darul Ta’zim, but has had an excellent campaign captaining PDRM to promotion from the Premier League.
He is just one of two players currently plying their trade in the Premier League that have been named by Dollah, along with Kedah’s talismanic captain Baddrol Bakhtiar.
Others to have been rewarded for impressive displays this year include Terengganu duo Norfarhan Muhammad and Zubir Azmi, Selangor goalkeeper Farizal Marlias and S. Chanturu, who was Sarawak’s top scorer in the league with six goals despite being deployed as a winger.
Malaysia squad for Tajikistan friendly (August 6)
Goalkeepers: Khairul Azhan Khalid (Pahang), Farizal Marlias (Selangor), Khairul Fahmi (Kelantan)
Defenders: Mahalli Jasuli, Aidil Zafuan, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Fadhli Shas (all Johor Darul Ta’zim), Bunyamin Umar (Selangor), Zubir Azmi (Terengganu), Muslim Ahmad (PDRM)
Midfielders: Amri Yahyah, Safiq Rahim (both Johor Darul Ta’zim), R. Gopinathan, Azamuddin Akil, Hafiz Kamal (all Pahang), S. Kunanlan (Selangor), Badhri Radzi (Kelantan), S. Chanturu (Sarawak), Baddrol Bakhtiar (Kedah)
Forwards: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safee Sali (both Johor Darul Ta’zim), Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Kelantan), Norfarhan Muhammad (Terengganu)