ACQ Preview: Qatar v Malaysia

ACQ Preview: Qatar v Malaysia

By Keeshaanan Sundaresan

Datuk K. Rajagopal will know that Malaysia’s encounter with Qatar on Wednesday night will resemble a typical ‘David vs Goliath’ battle between two sides with sheer difference in class between them.

The Malayan Tigers are ranked 158 in the world while their Middle East counterparts are ranked at 106.

However, Malaysia must not go into this one with fear. Because Qatar themselves are under pressure to perform from their fans following a rather shambolic outing in the recent Gulf Cup.

They were initially installed as favourites by many but The Maroon’s were eliminated in the group stages itself. Paulo Autuori was sacked immediately and the baton was passed on to Fahad Thani, who will be looking to guide Qatar through the Asian Cup qualifiers successfully.

Sebastian Soria is certainly the man to watch for Qatar as the experienced forward can be a real handful on his day. Moreover, the Malaysian players a relatively small in stature, meaning that Soria will be a real threat physically.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, this is certainly a mighty ask of them. Once a powerhouse in Asia, they have seen a terrible period of decline over the years until 2009 when K. Rajagopal led the U-23 team to the South East Asian Games gold medal in football.

Since then, there has been a sudden revival in Malaysian football, which saw them lift the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2010 and retain the SEA Games gold medal in 2011. However, the Harimau Malaya struggled to stamp their authority in the 2012 Suzuki Cup, as they exited in the semi finals.

King Raja has been made a scapegoat for their unimpressive showing in the tournament, but the man himself has vowed to bounce back by targeting qualification into the 2015 Asian Cup.

Therefore, Rajagopal’s major challenge begins on Wednesday, against Qatar. His task will be a delicate one, not mainly because of the gap in class, but also due to the massive list of injuries.

Malaysia will be missing the likes of Gary Steven Robbat, Safee Sali, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, and S. Kunanlan, who all picked up niggling injuries just prior to the squad announcement. Quite a number of new names have been integrated into the team, with Kelantan star player Norfarhan Mohammad being given his first call-up since 2007.

The odds are certainly stacked against them in this one, as Malaysia have never beaten Qatar. But the Malayan Tigers will know that if they can play with confidence on Wednesday, chances are that they could snatch something out of the game. In fixtures like this, ‘parking the bus’ never seems like a dumb option but knowing the King Raja, do not expect that.

Instead, look forward to an entertaining spectacle at the Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium in Doha.

Date: Wednesday 6 February 2013
Kick Off: 6:30pm (local time)
Venue: Jassim Bin Hammad Stadium, Doha
Head to Head: Played 2 (Qatar 1; Malaysia 0; Draw 1)
Most Recent Meeting: Malaysia 0-0 Qatar (20 March 2001)

Form – Qatar
Qatar 1-0 Lebanon, International Friendly, Doha, 31 February 2013
Bahrain 1-0 Qatar, 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations, Ar Rifa, 11 January 2013
Qatar 2-1 Oman, 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations, Ar Rifa, 8 January 2013
Qatar 1-3 UAE, 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations, Manama, 5 January 2013
Qatar 0-2 Egypt, International Friendly, 28 December 2012

Form – Malaysia
Iraq 3-0 Malaysia, International Friendly, Dubai, 1 February 2013
Thailand 2-0 Malaysia, AFF Suzuki Cup, Bangkok, 13 December 2012
Malaysia 1-1 Thailand, AFF Suzuki Cup, Kuala Lumpur, 9 December 2012
Malaysia 2-0 Indonesia, AFF Suzuki Cup, Kuala Lumpur, 1 December 2012
Laos 1-4 Malaysia, AFF Suzuki Cup, Kuala Lumpur, 28 November 2012

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