Vingada has not delivered for Malaysia, needs to go

There were high expectations for Nelo Vingada when he took charge of Malaysia in June. While making the 2019 Asian Cup was always going to an uphill battle, the Portuguese gaffer has done his credentials very little justice throughout the qualifiers and may need to walk sooner or later...

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This isn’t about the results or Malaysia’s winless 2017 - for the most part under Vingada.

It shouldn’t be because even world-renowned coaches would struggle to lift Harimau Malaya and turn them into world beaters. A year would have been too short a period of time, let alone Vingada’s tenure of six months.

Nobody expected wholesale change to happen overnight after abandoning the ever-growing need for development for years. Malaysian football has faced decades of disappointments and have been content with a smattering of triumphs in regional competitions such as the SEA Games and AFF Suzuki Cup.

Even Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who initially appointed a foreign coach to improve things at international level, has come around the fact that the current national team is a lost cause and it’s all about the building for the future – including getting the set-up, administration and the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in order.

The future does look brighter following the qualification to the Under-23, Under-19 and Under-16 AFC competitions in 2018 compared to the senior team, who will finish bottom of Group B after back-to-back 4-1 losses to North Korea this month.

But there are strong reasons for FAM to start looking elsewhere.

Malaysia have not won a game this year

Take Vingada’s team selections in the qualifiers for instance - which have been puzzling since his arrival.

External circumstances are a fair reason for omissions in his first three call-ups. His first match against Lebanon, which was perhaps Malaysia’s best match in 2017 despite the 2-1 loss at home, was with a squad he did not pick.

His first match against Lebanon, which was perhaps Malaysia’s best match in 2017 despite the 2-1 loss at home, was with a squad he did not pick

The following squads from August to October had glaring absentees from Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT)’s backline. There were a couple of injuries and Tunku Ismail, who is the club’s owner, revealed to FourFourTwo that the Southern Tigers were not going to release key players beyond the minimum four-day regulation stipulated by FIFA.

Malaysia suffered defeats Syria and Myanmar in August before a lacklusture 1-1 draw with Hong Kong in Melaka the following month. A 10-man Malaysia, who started the match without a recognised striker, lost to Hong Kong 2-0 in October.

Safiq Rahim was the only JDT starting 11 player involved in those matches.

Vingada has every right to feel hard done but the squad in November, however, with the exception of Syazwan Zainon, Rizal Ghazali and Natxo Insa’s absence, is the arguably the strongest at his disposal.

Safiq Rahim (left) was one of the few JDT players to feature

The return of JDT defenders were expected to beef the backline, a weakness in previous matches. The inclusion of Nor Azam Azih, Malaysia’s star performer at the SEA Games, was expected to strengthen the midfield.

Instead, Vingada opted to make questionable selections in his team fielded to face the North Koreans.

Vingada stumped many with his selection in midfield for the Tigers

In the first match on Friday, Vingada dropped Kiko Insa into a centre-back role, having fielded him in the No. 6 role in previous matches. Fazly Mazlan, S. Kunanlan and Fadhli Shas were as good as it could get for Malaysia.

It was midfield, however, Vingada stumped many. 

JDT’s Afiq Fazail was given his debut in the holding role despite the Portuguese previously saying he needed a combative player for the role. Afiq is a good distributor of the ball with an excellent passing range, but he lacks in the aggression department – the same reason Gary Steven Robbat started for JDT in the Malaysia Cup final a fortnight ago.

Syamer Kutty Abba deservingly got a second outing after impressing in his debut but with skipper Safiq Rahim suspended, Vingada surprisingly opted for Nazmi Faiz Mansor as the former’s partner over Azam.

Afiq Fazail proved to lack the aggression in midfield

The line-up on Monday was even more puzzling after excluding JDT players in the 11.

There were calls to inject the squad with youth and in Vingada’s defence he gave debuts to Amirul Azhan Aznan, Adam Nor Azlin, Ahmad Khairil Anuar and Syafiq Ahmad.

If giving several youngsters international experience was the motive, the argument holds little water

Yet if giving several youngsters international experience was the motive, the argument holds little water because Nazirul Naim Che Hashim was picked over Fazly Mazlan, Shahrom Kalam over Fadhli Shas and Wan Zack Haikal over Safawi Rasid.

Nazirul has been playing regularly for Malaysia since September 2015 while Fazly, though arguably the best left-back in the country, has not seen much international football. Fadhli too could do with more playing time in national colours after sitting out for the entire year before Friday.

[NEXT: A team without JDT players?]