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 By Nicolas Anil

Nor Azam fills in for Safiq Rahim for Malaysia in Asian qualifying

Jason Dasey and PJ Roberts preview Malaysia's upcoming match with North Korea.
John Wilkinson feels Malaysia's Nelo Vingada should be given more time in charge despite a winless 2017 campaign.

Malaysia coach Nelo Vingada is set to give Pahang midfielder Nor Azam his first cap as a replacement for the suspended Safiq Rahim in Friday's 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against North Korea in Thailand.

Safiq was given a one-game ban after receiving a red card in the Group B match with Hong Kong last month.

The loss of the experienced Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) skipper is a big blow to the team for a game in which defeat would almost certainly end the Harimau Malaya's hopes of qualification for the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of 2019.

But Vingada looks likely to turn to Nor Azam in the first match of a double header in neutral Buriram. The 22-year-old played his part in the national side's run to the silver medal at August's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Safiq is likely to return from suspension to start the second of the two games against the North Koreans on Monday, but Nor Azam is ready to play his part.

"It is an honour to be part of the national team," Nor Azam told The New Straits Times. "If I play in Buriram, I will give my 100 per cent in the match. I am ready for the job.

"However, I will have to work hard to earn my first cap. There are many regulars in the team that can replace Safiq. It, however, does not matter whether I play or not as long the team get a good result.

"I was called up in October for the match against Hong Kong, but I had to pull out due to personal issues. I am short in terms of international experience but I am motivated to do well under Vingada."

Vingada was frustrated by the timing of Saturday's Malaysia Cup final, which left him little time to prepare with many players in his squad from finalists JDT and Kedah.

And injuries to JDT striker Darren Lok and Kedah midfielder Baddrol Bakhtiar have forced the Portuguese to call up midfielder Khairil Anuar from Perak and Felda United playmaker Hadin Azman for this week's trip to Thailand.

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.

 

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