Harimau Malaysia have a big task ahead of them to ensure at least a point when they face Saudi Arabia in the last 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup qualifier in Jeddah next Wednesday.
National team head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said that the match in Saudi Arabia is merely not just to end the campaign, but it is important to avoid playing a play-off match in order to qualify for the third round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates.
“This match is vital to start our 2016 well, especially after a number of big defeats last year,” Datuk Ong Kim Swee mentioned after a training session as quoted by Sinar Harian.
Malaysia is currently fourth-placed in Group A of the qualifiers after collecting four points from seven matches, thus missing out a chance to qualify for the third round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. However, they still can qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
According to the AFC, four of the best fourth-placed teams from eight groups will qualify. The remaining teams will go through a playoff match in order to advance to the qualifying stage.
WHAT DO WE THINK?
Datuk Ong Kim Swee will need his men to play their best football against a strong Saudi Arabian side. The Green Falcons are in pole position in Group A and three points ahead United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia won all of their home matches so far, scoring 12 goals and conceding three goals in three matches. They are physically superior than the Malaysian Tigers but if we somehow manage to play the right players and stay composed during the game, we would be able to at least get a point out of it. It is definitely not going to be a walk in the park but with the likes of Safiq Rahim, Nazmi Faiz, Aidil Zafuan and Fazly Mazlan in the squad, it would not be hard to imagine the national team pulling off a big upset next week.
We wish Datuk Ong Kim Swee all the best in his first match in charge of Harimau Malaysia.