Vingada: We can qualify for the Asian Cup and I will make Malaysia proud

In part one of our chat with new Malaysia coach Nelo Vingada, he stated his belief Malaysia can qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup despite an opening game setback at the hands of Lebanon on June 13.

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The Tigers were leading for much of the game in Johor only to tire in the final stages. Lebanon’s equaliser came after 79 minutes and the winner deep into injury time.

“The most important target at the moment is qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup,” Vingada told FourFourTwo. “We are still looking to finish in one of the top two spots.

We are still in the fight. Don't forget North Korea and Hong Kong drew and that is a good result for us

"It will be hard because we lost the first game, but there are five left.”

Vingada won the Asian Cup in 1996 with Saudi Arabia, but considering Malaysia have not qualified for the tournament since 1980, just getting to the United Arab Emirates in January 2019 would be a comparable achievement. 

“Of course it is good to win at home. We didn't manage it but we are still in the fight,” he insisted. “Don't forget North Korea and Hong Kong drew and that is a good result for us.”

The group is not easy. North Korea appeared at the 2010 World Cup and Lebanon reached the final round of qualification for the 2014 tournament.

Hong Kong, who the Tigers will host next up on September 5, held China to two draws in the previous round on the road to Russia.

The Tigers couldn't hang on against Lebanon

“We know it will be hard," said the well-travelled 64-year-old. "We are the lowest ranked team in our group, but we have our own strengths too.

“We have to work hard but in these situations, we will take it game by game. The next game with Hong Kong is the most crucial as it is the next.

We defended well with good organisation and then we collapsed as we were very tired

“We have to win. If so, the confidence will double.”

It’s also undeniable that preparations for the Lebanon game were far from ideal.

“People must understand, a coach who arrives a short time before the game can not make a big difference,” said Vingada

“I was worried in the first game as results have not been great. I am not here to give excuses but I arrived three weeks before the game.

“Also, Johor players were involved in AFC competitions and it meant that the real work with the full team was only one week. There was also Ramadan which changes things.

Vingada being introduced alongside FAM president Tunku Ismail

“So with all that – short training and Ramadan – my expectations were not high and I was worried.”

In the end, Vingada felt his team deserved a draw, which was very nearly the result.

“We did not play a fantastic game but we were at a high level for 60 or 70 minutes. We defended well with good organisation and then we collapsed as we were very tired.

“It was disappointing not to get a point. The players fought too much and as a coach I can’t only look at the result.

“I have to look at the wider picture and doing so, I feel we have potential to improve.

“We have to be ready to play for 90 minutes. The next game will be a different situation and we will have more time and more solutions.”

A arriving so close to the first game, Vingada was unable to select the squad for Lebanon, with that task falling to assistant Tan Cheng Hoe and the Technical Committee of the Football Association of Malaysia.

Malaysia's under-22 side before a friendly this week

The next squad will be his and after watching the under-22 team compete in the SEA Games in August and in qualification for the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in July, Vingada should have a decent idea of the young talent coming through by the time the senior side returns to action against Hong Kong.

“We have a good base and need to find the right pieces to come and enter the team without friction and improve the team. We are looking for those players.”

He is also ready to build close connections with the clubs.

“I will be watching all the league games when the season restarts. The clubs are very important as the players belong to the clubs and spend most of the time there.

“After Ramadan, I will start having good connections with the clubs and their coaches. The clubs have to feel that when they come to the national team, they can promote the clubs they are coming from.

“There is talent in Malaysia and I am looking forward to building a team for the future that fans can be proud of.”