Malaysia vs Mongolia: Can the Tigers end a 10-match winless run in their Bukit Jalil return?
Hosts chasing a first win since 2016 in coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s debut.
It is merely a friendly and Tan’s first match as Malaysia boss since taking over following Nelo Vingada’s brief six-month reign, but expectations are already high.
Harimau Malaya are desperate for their first win since defeating Cambodia 3-2 in the ill-fated 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
Tan was initially brought in as an assistant to Vingada – the same role he held under K. Rajagobal for over four years – and built up quite a resume during his time at Kedah between 2014 and 2017. Many are keen to see him replicate the same style of football with the national team.
He has quite rightly come out saying the situation won’t change overnight, but Mongolia are a side Malaysia should be beating despite only being separated by 10 places in the FIFA world rankings.
The Malaysians dropped to an all-time low at No.178 this month while Mongolia remain at No.188. In 2016, however, Mongolia were the worst ranked Asian side at No.202.
Malaysia were held to a bore draw by Macau, the second-worst team in the continent, that same year.
With a daunting trip to Beirut to face Lebanon for the final 2019 Asian Cup qualifying group match taking place next week, and expectations virtually at zero for that tie, Tan will be hoping to get a win under his belt in Kuala Lumpur or risk waiting until the next scheduled matches in June to get Malaysia winning again.
S. Kunanlan, Kiko Insa and Nor Azam Azih have pulled out of the squad due to injury but the Malaysians still have a side looking like its strongest since the Ong Kim Swee line-up that oversaw a 6-0 aggregate win over Timor Leste in June 2016.
The inclusion of Kiko’s elder brother, Natxo, and star left-back La’Vere Corbin-Ong add much needed stability and excitement.
Both players have yet to make their international debuts since obtaining their Malaysian passports. Corbin-Ong has tasted international football after making an appearance for Canada in a friendly and his inclusion solves the issues at left-back.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Natxo Insa: The Spanish-born midfielder has been a revelation in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) since signing for the Southern Tigers at mid-season last year.
He requested to sit out of international football at the back end of last season, wanting time to settle in and recuperate from a long 2016/17 Spanish campaign, when he helped Levante win promotion to La Liga.
His form has taken a slight dip in 2018 compared to what he displayed when first arriving, but he still remains among the best central midfielders in the country.
FACTS AND FIGURES
- Malaysia suffered six defeats and two draws in 2017, taking their winless stretch to 10 matches since November 2016.
- Harimau Malaysia have not won at Bukit Jalil Stadium since the 2014 Suzuki Cup final second leg against Thailand, when they won 3-2 but lost the tie on aggregate.
- Malaysia have not played at the stadium since it was renovated for the 2017 SEA Games. They lost 6-0 to Palestine when they last played there in June 2015.
- Malaysia scored only five goals and conceded 16 from eight matches last year.
Malaysia 2 Mongolia 0: A strong line-up will set Tan up for a winning debut.