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Malaysia looks to kick off Vingada's reign on the right foot

Goal.com logo Goal.com 12-06-2017

Malaysia will finally get their 2019 Asian Cup Groub B qualifiers underway when they take on Lebanon at Tan Sri Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium on Tuesday night.

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Following continued postponement of the initial first match against North Korea, the clash in Johor Bahru also marks Nelo Vingada's first outing at the new national team head coach of Malaysia. The Portuguese was only officially announced last month and had only two weeks with his new squad before the important opening group fixture for Malayan Tigers.

The last match Malaysia played was in a 0-0 draw against Philippines in March but fans would remember the dark days that surrounded the side following an embarrassing early exit from the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup in Myanmar. Since then, a new management has taken over at Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and with that Vingada replacing outgoing Datuk Ong Kim Swee.

The newly-assembled squad saw a couple of initial new faces as well as late newcomers, but the attention was very much on the return of the players that had previously announced their international retirements. Fazly Mazlan, Aidil Zafuan, S. Kunanlan and Azrif Nasrulhaq may have been pulled out due to various reasons but the return of Safiq Rahim has dominated much of the talk amongst fans.

Safiq has also been tasked with the captain's armband with Vingada appointing the Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) midfielder as the leader of the team. The coach said it was an easy decision to make given Safiq's experience and is confident that he can guide the team.

"He was already captain before, so it's not the first time. There are some players who are more older than him and more caps than him but that's not important. He'll be the player starting tomorrow who has more caps. He'll be a good representative of the team. He's the extension of the technical staff because he's in the field and we are not," said Vingada in the pre-match press conference.

As for Safiq, despite criticism from some sections of the fans, is ready to assume the responsibility and wants his team mates to start on the right foot in what he termed as a fresh start for the Malaysia national team.

"This is a challenge for me and I always think positive. I will do my job responsibly and help my team mates. I hope we can give our best and start our campaign with a new hope, with the advice of the coaching staff. This is a new face of Malaysia and we want to start well," said Safiq.

The team is expected to start with at least five of the players that featured heavily in the failed Suzuki Cup tournament, supplemented by changes in other areas. Hazwan Bakri should start up front with a trio of JDT players expected to fill the slot in midfield.

As for Lebanon, they come into the match on the back of a win against Hong Kong in the other group match and for Miodrag Radulovic [head coach], one point away from home is an acceptable result for his side.

"I respect Malaysian team and Malaysian football. Sure we come in to try to win but draw is not a bad result for us," said Radulovic.

The Lebanon team also turned up without star striker Mohammed Ghaddar but Radulovic said it was the JDT striker's decision not to play and there was nothing that can be done on that front.

"It is Ghaddar's decision, I don't care about this. If someone doesn't want to play for the country, it's his decision and for us this story is finish," explained Radulovic.

Malaysian football need boost and a positive result against Lebanon can be the jumpstart the team needs. Change and improvement doesn't happen overnight but a good performance in Vingada's debut outing in his new role will certainly bring the fans back on side with the team - and revive the flagging fortunes of Malaysia national team.

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