Malaysia lined up for Saudis friendly

English: Philippine's National stadium during ...

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New Straits Times, 15 December 2011, Devinder Singh, “Malaysia lined up for Saudis friendly”, Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA’S growing reputation at international level has seen the national team receive an invite from Saudi Arabia to play a friendly in Melbourne next February.

Saudi Arabia are willing to pay the national team’s expenses in travelling to the Australian city for the Feb 24 friendly as part of their World Cup qualifying preparation.

The Saudis play Australia on Feb 29 in Melbourne,  needing a win to secure second place in Group D and advance to the fourth round of Asian qualifying with Malaysia then travelling to Manila to play 2010 AFF Cup semi-finalists, the Philippines, on the same day.

It  would be the second time Malaysia are   heading   Down Under in recent times after suffering a 5-0 whipping by Australia in Canberra on Oct 7.

“We have received several invitations to play international friendly matches but the one we are most inclined to accept is Saudi Arabia’s invitation to play in Melbourne,” said FA of Malaysia vice president and national team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal after the FA Cup draw in Shah Alam on Tuesday.

“I don’t know why the invitations are suddenly pouring in but it is a good sign of our rising standard in international football.

“We have a big target next year to defend the AFF Cup,  so this will be good preparation.”

Malaysia last met Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Aug 30, 2009 in Dammam with Ahmad Shakir Ali scoring for the national team in a 2-1 defeat in K. Rajagobal’s first year as senior national coach.

Offers for friendly matches have also been received from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran but Subahan said the tight domestic schedule prevents too many matches for the national team from being lined up.

“Congo approached us but then decided not to play as they have another game lined up while the negotiations with Iran came to nothing as we can only play them during the international window,” added Subahan when contacted by Timesport yesterday.

The game against the Philippines will recall bitter memories of a 1-0 defeat in the 1991 Sea Games in the national team’s only appearance at the Rizal Memorial Stadium although Malaysia have since won their last four meetings and scoring 19 goals.

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