KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 18 – National football coach, Tan Cheng Hoe not only enjoyed his dinner on Thursday night but also had a peaceful sleep after knowing that he will have the much needed time to prepare the Harimau Malaya for the second round matches in Group G of the pandemic hit World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed on Thursday that all five countries in Group G have agreed to have the matches played in June and it will be held on a carnival basis at a venue which is yet to be decided.
Venue bids are now open but Malaysia has decided against bidding due to the strict SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that need to be followed by the host nation.
Apart from Malaysia, the other countries in the group are Vietnam, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Thailand, and Indonesia.
Putting that aside, Cheng Hoe is relieved with the June dates as it will give him time to get his team into shape.
Harimau Malaya has been ”idle” for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being in ”cold-storage” comes with rustiness and at the same time, Cheng Hoe is aware that their rivals Vietnam, Thailand and UAE had been able to train together and even played friendly matches as part of their preparations.
”We need centralized training. You have to be physically and mentally prepared for the remaining matches and with the M-League scheduled to kick off next month it will be the perfect start for the national players,” said Cheng Hoe.
Cheng Hoe has now decided that the national squad will start training only next month. The Malaysian football league is now scheduled to begin on March 5 with JDT taking on Kedah for the Charity Shield.
This curtain raiser will be held at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri.
”The June dates is perfect for us. It will allow the national team the much need centralised training. After being out for so long it will take time for the players to gel and get into the rhythm. It takes time to get into the system.”
Malaysia is currently in second place behind leaders Vietnam with nine points after five matches.
Vietnam leads the group with 11 points while Thailand third on eight followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on six with a game in hand. Indonesia is at the bottom without a point.
In the earlier fixtures, Malaysia is scheduled to play UAE in Dubai on March 25 followed by a home match against Vietnam on March 30, and complete their fixtures against Thailand on June 15.