Still unable to explain the disastrous performance against Palestine, Malaysia's embattled national team coach Dollah Salleh has called upon his players to show their true worth when 2018 World Cup qualifiers resume next month.
The Malaysian side, which currently sits bottom of its group, faces United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on September 3 and then Saudi Arabia at home five days later.
After two games in the second round of qualification, Harimau Malaya have just a single point and a minus-six goal difference. Moreover, the team – and the country's football scene in general – is still coming to terms with the 6-0 thrashing handed out by Palestine in Kuala Lumpur in June.
That result came five days after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Timor Leste.
“Even I myself, until now I don't know what happened against Palestine,” Dollah told FourFourTwo in Kuala Lumpur. “It's a very difficult question actually. The time with the players was quite short, but anyway there are some youngsters in the new squad who can do the job for me.
“We have to fight, we have to make sure there is a time to prove something.”
Dollah knows taking on the UAE, who finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup and have stars such as Omar Abdulrahman and Ali Mabkout in their ranks, will not be an easy prospect.
The Emirati are ranked 70th overall in the latest FIFA rankings, while Malaysia are languishing in 168th.
“UAE are one of the best teams in our group, but the most important thing is for the players to show something, to give something for the country,” he said. “I hope that in a week with the players, that we can do something.
“For me, we go there not to defend but to play our normal game. The most important thing is discipline. The players need to know what our concept is, our style of play, and make sure that they follow the instructions.”
The coach denied that he is worried about his job after being summoned by the Football Association of Malaysia to explain the Palestine defeat.
“I didn't think about that actually, but I don't care,” he declared defiantly. “I am still with the team and I have to do something and we have to buck up and do the very best for Malaysia. This is a difficult job and we have a problem calling up players. Every state is stopping their players [playing for us]. I don't know why. It's part of my job to solve this.”
While qualification for the World Cup is almost certainly out of the question after just two games, there is still a chance to book a berth at the 2019 Asian Cup.
The Asian Football Confederation has combined qualification for both tournaments.
“It's a challenge and I am not scared of anything happening to the team,” Dollah said. “I believe that we will give our best. Our first target is to qualify for the Asian Cup and at least we can go for second and third place [in our group].”comments