Thursday, 17 November 2011

Malaysia face hostile Indonesian crowd to reach semi finals in SEA Games

This is going to be a grudge match - a real smackdown - where Indonesia are concerned at least.

Indonesia have already qualified for the semi-finals from Group A while Malaysia may not have to even raise a sweat as the earlier tie between Singapore and Thailand may have well put them through.

But this is Indonesia versus Malaysia, a no-holds barred explosive contest between two bitter rivals. Where national pride takes precedence over everything else and sporting spirit takes a backseat, especially at the menacing Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Senayan.

For the expected capacity 100,000 home fans, tonight’s match is more than just a SEA Games Under-23 football match. It is more than just Indonesia winning or drawing to top the group. They want to see Malaysia humbled.

Malaysia, with seven points, are certain to join Indonesia in the semi-finals unless Singapore, on four points, somehow contrive to hammer Thailand by more than six goals. If that happens, Malaysia will need at least a draw to advance.

But all that is of no interest to the fans who will pack the stadium wanting to only see the Indonesian bull gore the Malaysian matador. This is the moment that all of Indonesia has been waiting for - the time to avenge their defeat by Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation Championship here 11 months ago.

And Malaysia are bracing themselves for a torrid night out in front of the intimidating Senayan crowd.

National coach Ong Kim Swee, aware of the challenge facing his men, has thrown down the gauntlet, daring them to go out and silence the Senayan Roar.

“If we are to become champions, then this is the match we have to win,” Kim Swee told his men after putting them through a light workout at the team hotel yesterday.

Malaysia need only a draw to clinch their ticket to the last four but Kim Swee wants them to go for the win to show that they fear no one - not the hosts nor their hostile fans.

“A point should be sufficient for us but I want the boys to show character. The Indonesian hurdle is the biggest obstacle before us. Once we get past it, we should be the favourites for the gold,” said Kim Swee.

By right, Malaysia and Indonesia should be focusing on the semi-finals rather than a full-blooded clash of wills. They can afford to take their foot off the pedal and blood some of the reserves for the match to avoid key players picking up unnecessary injuries or suspensions ahead of the semi-finals.

But the stakes - pride, revenge and bragging rights - are too high and there is nothing to stop the teams from having a go at each other.

“We have no suspensions and no injuries ... the boys are in high spirits. This match means a lot for both teams and we will be ready for them,” said Kim Swee.

Skipper Mohd Baddrol Bakhtiar, who has scored three goals so far, will lead the Malaysian attack with Syahrul AzwariI brahim while 17-year-old Mohd Nazmi Faiz and Mohd Irfan Fazail should man the engine room.

The backline should comprise Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mahalli Jasuli and Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar.

National goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who was the hero with a penalty save in the second-leg of the Suzuki Cup final here, can expect another busy night.

The Indonesians have been impressive at the Games. Expect the speedy and enterprising trio of Okto Maniani, Patrick Wangai and Titus Bonai to give our men some anxious moments.Come what may, let us hope that sporting spirit will prevail over base instints.

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