HANOI, Oct 8 — Every match in the 2022 World Cup / 2023 Asian Cup qualifier campaign is crucial for Malaysia to realise its dream of playing in the prestigious football tournaments.
Malaysia have never qualified for the World Cup but the last time Malaysia made an appearance on the Asian Cup stage was when we co-hosted the 2007 edition.
For nearly 30 years, the Harimau Malaya squad have failed to gain an automatic slot for the Asian Cup since the 1980 edition in Kuwait after being stopped in the qualifying round.
In order to book a ticket to the 2023 Asian Cup finals, Malaysia, who have had a relatively easy passage in this qualifying campaign, will need at least to be among the four best runner-up teams or will have to face a daunting task in the play-off.
This qualifying round is in favour of Malaysia as they have been drawn in the same group with three ASEAN countries – Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia – as well as one of the Asian giants ranked 66th in the world, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in Group G.
Gathering the best players in the Malaysian League (M-League), the national squad under the guidance of head coach Tan Cheng Hoe should be more confident and take every step of the way to bring home points to stay alive in the competition.
After playing in two matches, where Malaysia defeated Indonesia 3-2 in Jakarta before losing 1-2 to the UAE at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, the Harimau Malaya squad will be facing a tough task against the world-ranked 99th team, Vietnam, at My Dinh National Stadium on Thursday.
Although the group matches still have a long way to go, Cheng Hoe and his team do not have to wait until the last minute to make their way to the 2023 Asian Cup finals.
Only a consistent performance can ensure success and Malaysia should redouble their efforts in order to gain three points in their meeting against the Golden Dragon squad under the guidance of Park Hang Seo.
Although statistics do not favour the national squad who lost seven times, drew twice and won once in their previous 10 meetings, the players have improved and even almost held UAE to a draw.
The national squad suffered two defeats to Vietnam in the 2018 AFF Championship campaign and should now be motivated for revenge.
A victory in Hanoi on Thursday will also make up for the disappointment of not being crowned as the winner of the 2018 edition.
Bernama learnt that more than 1,000 Malaysian supporters, including the 12th player, Ultras Malaya, will stand behind the national squad and their sacrifice should be seen as a decisive step towards success.