Aidil Zafuan and R. Gopinathan will both be absent from Malaysia’s 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign after coach Dollah Salleh named his final 22-man squad on Monday.
Both players were tipped to play key roles for Harimau Malaya in the upcoming tournament but were ruled out through injury, although midfield playmaker Safiq Rahim was included despite being a serious doubt before Sunday’s final warm-up friendly against Vietnam – which ended in a 3-1 defeat.
The absence of Johor Darul Ta’zim centre-back Aidil will raise serious questions as to how sturdy the Malaysian defence will hold up to against their opponents, especially given Fadhli Shas and Muslim Ahmad have both been unconvincing in recent matches, having been sent off against Syria and Vietnam respectively.
Apart from him and Gopinathan, the other two players dropped from Dollah’s provisional squad of 26 are Kelantan’s Wan Zaharulnizam and 17-year-old Kedah starlet Farhan Roslan, meaning the current roster only has three recognised wingers – Azamuddin Akil, S. Kunanlan and Indra Putra Mahayuddin.
Dollah is also expected to have a real headache deciding who to deploy in attack given Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Amri Yahyah combined to score just six goals in the Malaysia Super League this season for JDT, although the latter two did get the nod against the Vietnamese and put in creditable displays.
There is also plenty of debate over who Harimau Malaya’s number one will be, although Khairul Fahmi should get the nod after Farizal Marlias was dropped on Sunday after an error-strewn display in their previous friendly against Syria.
Malaysia’s 22-man squad for the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup
Goalkeepers: Khairul Fahmi (Kelantan), Farizal Marlias (Selangor), Khairul Azhan Khalid (Pahang)
Defenders: Shukor Adan (FELDA United), Mahali Jasuli, Fadhli Shas (both Johor Darul Ta’zim), Muslim Ahmad, Afif Amiruddin (both PDRM), Azmi Muslim (both Selangor), Zubir Azmi (Terengganu)
Midfielders: Safiq Rahim (Johor Darul Ta’zim), Hafiz Kamal, Azamuddin Akil (both Pahang), Badhri Radzi (Kelantan), Gary Robbat (Harimau Muda A), S. Kunanlan (Selangor), Indra Putra Mahayuddin (FELDA United), Baddrol Bakhtiar (Kedah)
Forwards: Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Amri Yahyah (all Johor Darul Ta’zim), Abdul Manaf Mamat (Terengganu)