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Nelo Vingada, One-on-One: I have no regrets – and Malaysian players are better than they think

Nelo Vingada spent just seven months as head coach of the Malaysia national team. But, like many before him, he found that was more than enough time to develop a deep affection for the beautiful country and its friendly residents – as well as an opinion that Malaysian players are better than they realise.

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The Portuguese coach’s time came to an end in December 2017. It may not have been a happy one in terms of results, with six losses and one draw from his seven games, but the subsequent success of the Under-23 team made the 64-year-old happy, proud and a little wistful.

These results show that even though Malaysia is not a strong team in Asia ... it is possible to decrease the gap between Malaysia and the other teams

- Nelo Vingada

For those fans – surely very few – who are unaware, in January the under-23 team defeated Saudi Arabia in the group stage of the continental championship to move into the last eight, on debut no less.

Waiting there was South Korea but the expected thrashing never came and in the end, the Taeguk Warriors were delighted and relieved to squeeze into the semi-finals with a 2-1 win over these Southeast Asian tigers. Vingada watched with interest from afar.

“It was a great achievement,” he told FourFourTwo.

“The group worked hard and got their reward. I was having daily contacts with coach Ong Kim Swee and he did a very good job.”

There were also lessons there for the Malaysian senior team, according to the well-travelled Vingada.

Vingada watched the under-23 side with great interest

“These results show that even though Malaysia is not a strong team in Asia, if you have time to work and are given the possibility to have the best players, then it is possible to decrease the gap between Malaysia and the other teams.

“If you give coaches time with the players, Malaysia will get better results. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to work with the players.

We had a short time to prepare for both games. North Korea had come a week before, we had three days

The final stage of the 2019 Asian Cup qualification campaign started with some misfortune for Malaysia in June 2017 as Lebanon came from a goal down to win 2-1 very late in Vingada’s first game in charge.

A draw and a loss to Hong Kong meant that two games with North Korea in the space of three November days in Thailand (a neutral venue was used due to political issues at the time) were crucial to the Tigers’ chances of finishing in the top two spots.

Both ended in 4-1 defeats. Three weeks later Vingada resigned.

“The difference between Malaysia and North Korea is big. They are at another level,” Vingada said.

“This is a team that has played in World Cups. We had a short time to prepare for both games. North Korea had come a week before, we had three days. That was a weak point and it became difficult for us as it was at the end of the season.

[NEXT: Vingada explains his JDT absentees]