Malaysia aim to end AFF opening game jinx at 2016 Suzuki Cup
Malaysia will look to overcome the elements, and their traditional slow start, when they face Cambodia in their AFF Suzuki Cup opener in Myanmar on Sunday.
The 2010 champions have not won an opening game in the tournament since 2008 when they beat Laos 3-0.
Since then, they were pummeled 5-1 by Indonesia in the 2010 opener, dispatched 3-0 by Singapore in 2012 before playing out a goalless draw against Myanmar in 2014.
"It is pivotal that we win against Cambodia. The win will not only be a huge motivation for us, it will also set the tone for a successful campaign," said national coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee at the team's base in Yangon.
Ong's men had their first training session on Friday at the Thuwunna Stadium where Group B will be based.
Temperatures touched 34 degrees C during training at 3 p.m. local time, which is when Malaysia take on Cambodia.
"We expected the hot weather, and it gives us the general atmosphere of the stadium and environment. We have been training at 3 p.m. as well, so it shouldn't be a problem," said Ong, who admitted he was cautious of Cambodia's strong, recent form.
The Kouprey Blue have played 15 international games in 2016, with eight victories to their name. They come into the tournament having won the four-team AFF Cup qualification tournament in October after victories over Laos (2-1), Brunei (3-0) and Timor Leste (3-2).
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"We cannot afford to underestimate Cambodia, who have played many international games this year. They will cause us problems if we are not careful," Ong said.
The former Harimau Muda boss stressed the importance of a fluid transition from defence to attack after the 2-1 friendly win over Papua New Guinea on Monday, and looked to address that aspect in training on Friday.
After Cambodia, Malaysia will play Vietnam (Nov. 23), and co-hosts Myanmar (Nov. 26).
If Malaysia make the knockout stages, a clash with Singapore or Thailand could await them.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.