Monday, 21 November 2011

Injury-hit Malaysia facing a tough final against Indonesia in SEA Games

Malaysia will be limping into battle against Indonesia in the bitter climax to the epic football campaign of the SEA Games at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan tonight.

The prized football gold will either be Indonesia’s crowning glory or devalue their runaway acclaim as overall champions.

Arch-rivals Malaysia, the defending champions who beat them 1-0 in their group match, stand in their way. The same Malaysians who denied them the Suzuki Cup last year.

But the Malaysian team have been crippled by injuries to four key players. Strikers Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim (ankle) and Izzaq Faris Ramlan (knee) and flankers Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria and Fandi Othman, both hamstring, have been ruled out of the game.

Midfielder Mohd Irfan Fazail is also a doubtful starter as he is down with a knee injury.

All picked up the injuries in the 1-0 semi-final win over Myanmar on Saturday.

This leaves coach Ong Kim See with a severely depleted squad of 16 players.

“Thank God we still have three outfield players to choose from. Since they are utility players, I can rotate them in various positions,” said coach Kim Swee.

“Ahmad Fakri Saarani, A. Thamil Arasu and Yong Kuong Yong can play on either flanks as replacements for the injured Wan Zaharulnizam and Fandi.”

Kim Swee sees Indonesia’s speedy wingers Titus Bonai and Okto Maniani, and striker Patrich Wanggai as the main threat. He expects the trio to provide a stiff test to the Malaysian defenders, who have done extremely well thus far.

Having defied the odds to reach the final, however, Kim Swee is in high spirits and has pledged to do all he can to guide his men to the gold medal - despite the injury problems and the hostile fans.

“What a ride it has been. Now that we have reached the final, it doesn’t matter how we play - our objective is to return home with the gold medal. I still have some tricks up my sleeve,” said Kim Swee.

With his wings clipped following the injuries to his flankers, Kim Swee will have to work out a strategy to stop Indonesia’s speedy forwards from causing havoc.

“I have made a lot of tough decisions even before coming to Jakarta, including leaving out some key players. Now, the time has come for me to make another difficult decision on the final line-up. I hope things will work out right,” said Kim Swee.

The Malaysians were not at their best on Saturday but still managed to edge Myanmar 1-0 to march into the final.

Victory today will be more meaningful as it is all about pride and sending a strong message to the unsporting Indonesian fans who have been most disrespectful of Malaysians here at the Games.

This young Malaysian team have shown plenty of character and grit. They played with commitment and flair, unfazed by the 100,000 raucous fans in beating Indonesia 1-0 in their Group A match last Thursday.

They have to do it all over again tonight, under even more trying circumstances.

The probable line-up

MALAYSIA: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mahalli Jasuli, Mohd Muslim Ahmad. Baddrol Bakhtiar, Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Mohd Irfan Fazail, K. Gurusamy, A. Thamil Arasu, Mhd Nazmi Faiz.

INDONESIA: Kurnia Meiga, Egi Melgiansyah, Octovianus Maniani, Gunawan Dwi Cahyo, Hasim Kipuw, Andik Vermansyah, Diego Michiels, Titus Bonai, Hendro Siswanto, Patrich Wanggai, Lucas Mandowen.

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