Philippines vs Malaysia: Seeking a fresh start after AFF disappointments
Potentially Ong Kim Swee’s last match as Malaysia coach
- Myanmar 1-0 Malaysia
- Malaysia 0-1 Vietnam
- Malaysia 3-2 Cambodia
- Malaysia 2-1 Papua New Guinea
- Malaysia 1-1 Afghanistan
- Philippines 0-1 Thailand
- Indonesia 2-2 Philippines
- Philippines 0-0 Singapore
- Philippines 1-0 Kyrgyzstan
- Philippines 1-3 North Korea
The match was supposed to be both teams’ preparation game for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign but only the hosts have a qualifier up ahead as Malaysia’s visit to Pyongyang was postponed to June due to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Instead, the Malaysians only have pride and FIFA World Ranking points at stake.
For Tigers coach Ong, the match could be his last depending on how the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) elections pan out on Saturday.
He is almost certain to walk if Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim gets elected as president as the latter has made his intentions clear over the past one year to seek for a new national team head coach.
TMJ’s opponent, Tan Sri Annuar Musa, could be tempted to allow Ong to at least see out his contract till the end of the year because many factors outside the coach’s control came into play during Malaysia’s poor AFF Suzuki Cup outing.
The Tigers squad are said to be approaching the match knowing well that Ong may no longer be in charge during the next international break in June.
The Azkals, meanwhile, are also keen to put behind a poor Suzuki Cup outing after failing to qualify for the knockout rounds despite having home ground advantage for the regional tournament.
Thomas Dooley’s side welcome Nepal to Manila in the Asian Cup qualifying round-robin opener on March 28.
Malaysia have made five changes to their Suzuki Cup side with the likes of Farizal Harun, Khair Jones, Akram Mahinan, Hadin Azman and Nasir Basharuddin being re-introduced to the national team.
Left-back Nazirul Naim Che Hashim’s injury means Khair Jones is almost a sure starter as he is the only left-sided defender in the squad. Matthew Davies is another option but he seems more suited for the right side.
Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) centre-back Fadhli Shas is also doubtful after missing an unrecorded friendly against PDRM on Saturday.
Philippines have named a strong side this month and all eyes could be on Chinese Super League striker Javier Patino, who missed the AFF Suzuki Cup last year.
Among the other notable players expected to line-up against Malaysia include Phil and James Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran, Kenshiro Daniels, Amani Aguinaldo, and Hikaru Minegishi.
The clock is ticking for both coaches. Ong for obvious reasons as the FAM Congress is looming while Dooley needs to get Philippines ticking at the Asian Cup qualifiers or risk being in danger of getting replaced, especially after the early Suzuki Cup exit.
In Dooley’s defence, he oversaw upsets against Bahrain and North Korea in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but his players’ selection and tactics received some criticism at the Suzuki Cup.
Ong meanwhile could be cursing his luck since taking charge of the Tigers squad. He finally got his chance after being overlooked for the post in 2014, but things only got worse.
Four key internationals – skipper Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi Zainal – retired from international football while several other JDT players were conspicuously missing from the Suzuki Cup squad.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Past five meetings
- Philippines 0-0 Malaysia (International friendly, Apr '14)
- Malaysia 0-0 Philippines (International friendly, Mar '14)
- Malaysia 0-0 Philippines (International friendly, Jun '12)
- Philippines 1-1 Malaysia (International friendly, Feb '12)
- Malaysia 4-0 Philippines (AFF Suzuki Cup, Jan '17)
Once the whipping boys for Malaysia, Philippines have held Malaysia to draws in their last four matches. The last three – including during Ong’s tenure as caretaker coach – ended scoreless.
Philippines have only defeated Malaysia twice since 1962. The Tigers prevailed in 11 of the 12 other times they faced each other.
Dooley’s men have not won since a 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan before the Suzuki Cup while Malaysia are seeking their first win since defeating Cambodia in the tournament’s opening match.
Both teams have what it takes to cancel each other out and having done so in their last four meetings since 2012, another draw could be on the cards.