Malaysia hopefuls hope to earn AFF spots in Afghanistan clash

Malaysia's Datuk Ong Kim Swee has thrown down the gauntlet to his players to impress in a final shop window opportunity in the friendly against Afghanistan on Tuesday night at Shah Alam Stadium.

Speaking at the pre-match conference at FAM headquarters on Monday, Ong indicated the game could be a last chance saloon for his players to earn selection for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

"I will try to give all my players a chance, and (Tuesday) could be a final period to prove what they're made of," said Ong. "I want all the players to know what we need to do to achieve a good result."

The Malaysians, who came away with a commendable 0-0 draw away to neighbours Singapore on Friday, are up against a side who are nine rungs above them in the FIFA rankings at 149th, despite only winning once this year.

"Afghanistan have a balanced squad, with some of their players playing in Europe. They have well good players in every position, and I will figure out the best tactical ploy to get a result," said Ong.

Faysal Shayesteh is one Afghanistan player who plies his trade in the Malaysia Super League with Pahang. The national captain spoke of his friendly banter with club teammate Matthew Davies, ahead of the game.

"Matthew is not only captain of Pahang, but he is also my neighbour and a good friend. We joked a lot on who's going to win this game, but it will be all business when we play against each other," said Faysal. "But for me, it's nice because it will be a first time that I'll be playing a good friend from the opposite team."

Afghanistan coach Petar Segrt, meanwhile, admitted he may not have his best 11 at disposal after injuries to his players, who are playing in various divisions in Europe.

"We have so many players from Germany, Sweden and Norway who are injured. I can't take the risk and call them up only to find out they are not match fit. But I guarantee you we will have 11 men against Malaysia," said Segrt.

Ong has far fewer injury concerns. Apart from Khairul Helmi and Azrif Nasrulhaq, who were crocked against Singapore, he has a fully-fit team to choose from.

He may alter his line up from Friday, and start with Davies at right-back and Khairul Fahmi in goal, replacing his namesake Khairul Azhan, who was impressive against Singapore.

Darren Lok could also be given a longer run out against the West Asians, along with fellow striker Norshahrul Idlan Talaha.