KUALA LUMPUR – Having not played competitive match for more than 550 days, the national football team is far from its form when mauled 4-1 by Kuwait in a friendly match at the Sevens Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The world number 148 Kuwait drew the first blood when Mohd Farizal Marlias failed to stop Ahmad Aldhefeery’s long range effort in the 21st minute in the warm up match kicked-off at 7.15pm local time (11.15pm Malaysian time) on Sunday.
However, Harimau Malaya’s new naturalised striker Guilherme de Paula levelled the score by converting a cross from La’Vere Lawrence Corbin-Ong seven minutes later (28’). The score remains 1-1 till halftime.
Back after the break, Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe decided to sub-out the entire team, only leaving de Paula and Syamer Kutty Abba from the starting eleven.
Only three minutes into the play, young sensation Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, who earned his senior team debut, had a goal scoring chance denied by Kuwait’s goalkeeper.
The Blue Wave squad again took the lead through Fahad Alhajeri’s header in the 55th minute, while striker Shabaib Alkhaldi netted in another goal in the 61st minute against the world number 153 Malaysia.
Kuwait continued its scoring feat through skipper Fahad Al-Alabraim’s freekick in the 68th, forcing Cheng Hoe to hand goal keeper Samuel Somerville a debut to replace Khairulazhan Khalid.
Cheng Hoe has another friendly fixture against world number 99, Bahrain, at Manama on Friday to work on the team, before returning to Dubai to face the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second round qualifying.
The Harimau Malaya squad is set to resume Group G qualifiers against UAE on June 3, Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15) with the aim of making it to the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The national team’s last match was the 2-0 win over Indonesia in the qualifying campaign on Nov 19, 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the qualifiers.