De Paula set to silence doubters in clash with Vietnam


National naturalised forward Guilherme De Paula has taken full responsibility for his dismal performance against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that saw him becoming the punching bag of angry Harimau Malaya fans recently.

Malaysia under the guidance of Tan Cheng Hoe lost 0-4 to the UAE in their Group G 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying match at Zabeel Stadium, Dubai last Friday.
The 34-year-old Brazilian-born said he realised the hopes and expectations of all local fans who wanted to see the presence of naturalised players having a positive impact on the team’s performance.

Despite being pelted with criticism including some urging for him to be sidelined for the Vietnam clash at midnight on Friday, De Paula stressed that his motivation and commitment to help the national team remained as strong as ever.

“I’m very proud wearing the Malaysia jersey, I love the country and people but the expectation is very high. Some people have the right to attack me but I keep my motivation high and I don’t look back at what happened in the past.

“I don’t know what people want to see. The team have my stats, they know if I run or don’t run in a match. They (fans) can criticise me the whole year they want, no problem to me. I know my qualities and what I can give on the field,” he told an online media conference after the national squad’s training session in Dubai today.

De Paula officially became the country’s third naturalised player last March, following in the footsteps of Mohamadou Sumareh and Liridon Krasniqi, who both are included in Cheng Hoe’s current team.

However, the Harimau Malaya squad have been slammed by fans following their lacklustre display in the 4-0 loss to the UAE with De Paula being the main target of fans’ displeasure after the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) striker failed to perform up to expectations.

Malaysia will continue with the remaining second-round matches against Vietnam at the Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai and against Thailand (June 15) at the same stadium to wrap up their Group G campaign.

The national squad have no choice but to record victories over Vietnam and Thailand in the mission to finish among the top two in the group stage to brighten their chances to automatically qualify for the finals of the 2023 Asian Cup.

“We know what we need to do, the results are very important for us. Vietnam are a good side and they played well in the last game. So, we just need to know the right time to penetrate their space but we are confident to do our job for this game, to make the fans happy and for all of us to get the confidence back,” De Paula said.

He said the national team, comprising young and experienced players, always worked hard in the training sessions to improve their weaknesses.

“They (fans) need to trust our job here, that nobody comes here for a holiday and we work so hard every morning and in every session to be better,” he added.

After six matches, Vietnam now lead the group with 14 points, followed by the UAE (12 points), Thailand (nine points), Malaysia fourth (also nine points) and Indonesia at the bottom with just one point.

Based on the record, the national squad under Cheng Hoe have only recorded one draw and lost three times in their last four matches against Vietnam with Malaysia losing 0-1 in the qualifying campaign group action in Hanoi in October 2019.


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