Malaysia's exciting Safawi-led attack has potential to trouble anyone at AFF Suzuki Cup

As Malaysia made it two wins from two in Group B of AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 on Thursday, the 4-0 win over Laos at Bishan Stadium provided the clearest indication yet as to why they could be challengers for the title.

Having opted to make a couple of significant changes to the side which beat Cambodia 3-1 in their opening game on Monday, the introduction of 19-year-olds Arif Aiman and Luqman Hakim Shamsudin saw Harimau Malaya start the game with a front three boasting an average age of just 20.7 years.

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The relatively-youthful nature of the Malaysian attack was hardly an obstacle to them getting the win, and it also highlighted what could be a huge strength for them in their quest to be crowned champions of Southeast Asia for a second time.

And while Arif and Luqman certainly grabbed their opportunities, it was Safawi Rasid -- the oldest of the trio at just 24 -- who emerged as the star of the show.

As Malaysia strangely looked subdued early on and allowed Laos to have the better of the initial exchanges, Safawi calmed their nerves by breaking the deadlock after seven minutes and would go on to score twice more to become the first player in this year's tournament to bag a hat-trick.

While they extended their perfect record on Thursday, it remains to be seen if coach Tan Cheng Hoe will stick with his precocious attack when they take on defending champions Vietnam next or be tempted to recall Brazilian-born striker Guilherme, although he was effusive in his praise of the trio.

"I have to give them huge compliments," Tan told ESPN. "Even though the AFF Suzuki Cup is only for the Southeast Asian region, there is still pressure for young players to perform.

"They are the future of the Malaysia national team and I hope they keep working hard every day and in every match, because they still need to improve further."

Tan will be under no illusions that his team can ill afford to get complacent given their victories so far have arguably come against the two weakest teams in the group.

Their slow start in both ties was also something he conceded they needed to improve on.

Nonetheless, there have certainly been positives from Malaysia's opening four days at the competition.

A goalkeeper who has been near-unbeatable so far in Khairul Fahmi. A backline that has looked steady enough and still awaiting the addition of Denmark-based Dion Cools. A midfield boasting grit and invention in equal measures, led by veteran playmaker Baddrol Bakhtiar.

And a supremely talented trio of young attacking guns, who may be the future of Malaysian football. But they may also be good enough to lead Harimau Malaya to glory in the present.