Key Battles: Malaysia U-23 vs Indonesia U-23

Read which players will most likely decide the eventual finalists of the 2013 SEA Games football tournament, when eternal rivals Malaysia and Indonesia face each other


Time and again in the tournament, the 22 year old goalkeeper has proven himself a worthy man to guard his team’s goalmouth, especially during a time when his defenders seem to be shaky. Against Vietnam, thankfully the defence played and protected him better, but that still did not stop their danger area from being relentlessly assaulted by their opponents who needed a win to advance to the semis. Izham rose even higher to the occassion to keep the ball out and help his team absorb the onslaught for almost the whole duration of the match, a team performance which was described by many fans as “heartstopping”.

Against the Indonesians, Izham must keep doing what he has been doing since the first day of the tournament, and keep a tighter leash on his defenders. Not to take the match lightly, but if some fans think of the current set of Young Tigers sub-par due to the absence of several injured key-players, the Indonesians are having it worst. From their previous four matches, they could only convert three goals, and Izham is likely to have an easier time this Thursday morning.

And it is this lack of goals that at one point threatened the Young Garudas’ chances of making it to the semi-finals. In fact, they only qualified by registering a slim 1-0 win over hosts Myanmar whose head coach did not fully understand the tournament qualification rules. So striker Yandi Munawar need to take their second lease of life in the tournament by performing better and scoring for his team against their rivals. He has only scored one goal so far, and even then it was against the lowly Cambodia. Malaysia do not play well when trailing, a circumstance he can take advantage of by scoring first.
The midfield has been the Malaysians’ strength throughout the tournament, and the misfiring forward line can be thankful that their engine room is able to simply retain the ball when no headway could be found, whereas their sometimes shaky defence now owe the midfielders a lot of drinks for helping out in defending when the danger area was being overrun by the opponents. Against Vietnam, they played a much simpler game as they only needed a draw to qualify, and when the opportunity presented itself to kill the game near the end of the match, they made no mistake in delivering the goods, and scoring themselves.

The first came from winger Ashri Chuchu, and their second was scored by D. Saarvindran with a delightful dummy and a low shot to send the Vietnamese packing. Saarvindran has been dangerous throughout the tournament, if a little unlucky, but Tuesday’s goal showed why he is integral to the team. He started the match, but despite this, he was still tenacious, hardworking and tireless in the final minutes, which helped him score his goal in the 89th minute after he made a lung-bursting sprint to the Vietnam penalty box to receive a pass. Head coach Ong Kim Swee is most likely to start Saarvindran again this Thursday.

His counterpart in the Indonesian squad; Andik Vermansyah meanwhile has had a very different tournament. The Indonesian football young star, fresh off a highly-publicised training stint in Japan, has been receiving criticism from the fans for playing very selfishly and not helping his team. On top of that, he is also rumoured to be carrying a knock, although substantial reports on this have not emerged. Should he be fielded by head coach Rahmad Darmawan, the 22-year old needs to find his form and to overcome his markers. He must also remember that the forwards are currently going through a bit of a dry spell, so he must shoulder some of the goal-scoring responsibilities himself if this drought persists tomorrow.
Rozaimi did not do much against Vietnam and he was substituted off in the 67th minute. But that was mostly a tactical decision, as the Tigers only needed a draw. However he had performed splendidly in their earlier match against Singapore, coming off the bench to score the equaliser, in what seems to be his favourite role in Kim Swee’s squad. But as part of a forward line that is currently anything but clinical, he must play the part that is entrusted upon him by their current need, even if that means starting Thursday’s match. However he should be relieved to know that the Indonesia’s defence is among the most porous of the four semi-finalists, which means that there are gaps that he can take advantage of, if he is alert.
And it is these gaps that Holland-born Indonesian defender Diego Michiels must plug when going up against their rivals. They have let in more than they scored, not a good situation for any team, and on a bad day they let in four against the Thais, the eventual Group B leaders. Yes Malaysian strikers are a little goal-shy at the moment, but as proven in the Malaysia-Vietnam match, their midfielders are equally capable of scoring themselves. And it is important for them to shut out the Malaysians, as the Tigers are prone to fits of frustration when things don’t go their way. Michiels and his defence must get them frustrated, fatigued, and Malaysia will be less organised, and only then it is time for the Garudas to try and hit their opponents.

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