Wan Zack Haikal 'happy' with Malaysia dream to qualify for Asian Cup
Felda United winger Wan Zack Haikal is just glad to be included in the Malaysia squad to face Hong Kong on Tuesday after battling an anterior cruciate ligament problem that could have wrecked his career.
Wan Zack was on a potentially career-changing stint with Japan J3 league side FC Ryukyu in 2013 when he suffered the damaging injury during training.
The setback sidelined him for nine months, ruling him out of the 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers, and the 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
It also wrecked the Pahang-born flyer's spirits, as he publicly asked fans not to get in touch with him during the troubled period.
"I will never forget that injury, it was the worst in my career. It happened during the Asian Cup qualifying period too, so it jogs back some memories," Wan Zack told ESPN FC ahead of Tuesday's Asian Cup qualifier in Hong Kong.
"But I'm happy to be back in the national team to be the best version of myself. I believe we have everything it takes to beat Hong Kong, if we go out there and give it our best shot."
He joins the squad as one of the nation's most in-form players after inspiring Felda United to the Malaysia Cup semifinals where they will face Kedah in a two-legged affair.
Malaysia head coach Nelo Vingada conducted his first training sessions at the former British colony this weekend, as he aims to deliver his victory at the fifth attempt after taking over in May.
Recent history suggests that the Harimau Malaya can come away with their first triumph of the qualifiers at Hong Kong Stadium, and pick up a rare away win.
Malaysia drew 1-1 with the Dragons in 2011 before coming away with a 3-0 victory a year later under the stewardship of former coach K. Rajagobal.
Another loss would put Vingada under immense pressure, especially since the Portuguese has been granted all the privileges that his predecessor Ong Kim Swee was denied, including extended training camps and access to all players from champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT).
As it stands, Vingada's men are bottom of Group B, with only one point from a possible six from two home games.
Lebanon lead the group on seven points, followed by North Korea and Hong Kong on two points.
The other match on Tuesday will see the Lebanese host North Korea in Beirut.
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.