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Cheng Hoe not taking Laos lightly
Published on: Thursday, December 09, 2021
By: Bernama
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Cheng Hoe talking to the players during a training session at Yishun Stadium in Singapore. – FAM Facebook photo
Kuala Lumpur: On paper, the match against world number 185 Laos should be a walk in the park for Harimau Malaya but head coach Tan Cheng Hoe is not taking the minnows lightly in their AFF Cup Group B clash at Bishan Stadium in Singapore on Thursday.

Cheng Hoe is definitely aware of the threat posed by the Laotians after witnessing how they lost to world number 99 and tournament favourites Vietnam by just 2-0 on Monday.

Powered by French-born striker Billy Ketkeophomphone, who plays with Ligue 2 side USL Dunkerque, Laos have shown progress under the tutelage of Singaporean V. Selvaraj, prompting Cheng Hoe to mull over tactical changes for Thursday’s match.

The 53-year-old tactician said although it would be challenging to get the right combination of players, he is confident that the second-half substitutes brought in during the 3-1 win against Cambodia two days ago would rise to the occasion.

He said M. Kogileswaran Raj, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, Arif Aiman Mohd Hanapi and Muhammad Shahrel Fikri Md Fauzi could be in the first eleven Thursday, after their good display against Cambodia in the opening match.

“Billy is really impressive, looking dangerous and sharp. And of course, he works with the team very well. The way they’re defending is very disciplined and very commanding.

“It won’t be easy to play against the young set of Laos players, who have a very good team spirit but we have to find a solution to get the results against them. Our coaches are working a winning formula for the match.

“I feel the victory against Cambodia has boosted our players’ confidence for the match against Laos tomorrow,” he said in a virtual pre-match press conference from Singapore Wednesday.

Commenting on naturalised striker Guilherme de Paula, who was reported to be frustrated after being substituted in the 65th minute against Cambodia, Cheng Hoe said the 35-year-old is still motivated and will be able to perform if given a chance Thursday.

Asked on a possible call-up to replace goalkeeper Muhammad Khairulazhan Mohd Khalid, who together with winger Muhammad Faisal Abdul Halim has tested positive for Covid-19, Cheng Hoe said he is taking a wait-and-see approach.

He said although the coaches have a replacement in mind, they have to wait for another two days to know if the 32-year-old Muhammad Khairulazhan could get clearance to join the squad.

“We know that if a player tests negative, he will be able to join the team immediately. Today, we will have another test; hopefully the test is negative. And we need to get advice from Singapore’s Health Ministry to allow them to play,” he added.

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