Malaysia vow to tighten up at back in SEA Games clash vs. Myanmar
Hard man Syamer Kutty Abba believes Malaysia must swiftly rectify their defensive weaknesses against a rampant Myanmar to book a Southeast (SEA) Asian Games semifinal spot at Shah Alam Stadium on Monday night.
Combative 2-1 victories over Brunei and Singapore last week have all but confirmed their path to the last four. But by beating Myanmar, the Malaysians will take a big step towards finishing top of Group A, and avoid a potential clash with red-hot Vietnam in the knockout stages.
Like Malaysia, Gerd Zeise's side are unbeaten in the tournament so far. But the White Angels been far more impressive as they've banged in 11 goals in their last three games.
"Despite two victories, we still have to improve on a few things. What is most important is for us to be more confident on the ball when in possession, rather than chasing the ball," Syamer told ESPN FC.
"Myanmar are very dangerous on the counter attack, and have a lot of speedy players who can punish us if we are not careful. But we are learning and improving from the last two games, and hope to give a better performance on Monday."
The Penang midfielder had contrasting halves against Singapore last Wednesday.
It was his error which led to Singapore's opener, leaving the Malaysians trailing at half-time.
But Syamer improved significantly in the second half, closing down every attacks to limit the Singaporeans to just one shot on goal.
The lanky 19-year-old is also happy to be fighting for honours at international level, which gives him a break from the relegation dogfight in which he is embroiled with Penang.
"The SEA Games will surely boost my strength and spirits to help Penang stay in the top flight after this. I am learning so many things tactically that will stand me in good stead," he said.
Syamer could retain his place to plug the Myanmar threat with the physical edge he has over his more diminutive opponents.
Malaysia's ability to earn three points against Myanmar will also go far to determine their quest for a first men's football gold medal in six years.
Having made six changes in the last game, Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee could again tinker with his line up for the game in front of an expected bumper crowd at Shah Alam.
For Myanmar, a draw would most likely be enough for them to finish as group champions, given their big goal advantage.
But Zeise has promised to field his strongest line-up against the Malaysians, who beat them 2-0 in a friendly last month at the same venue.
After the Myanmar game, Malaysia complete their group fixtures against Laos on Wednesday.
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.