Cools urges teammates to be cool against Vietnam


KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian-Belgian player Dion Cools believes his Harimau Malaya teammates are well prepared for their must-win match against Vietnam in the World Cup 2022/Asian Cup 2023 Group G qualifiers tonight.

Cools, 24, said following the defeat to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week, the squad had worked hard in training throughout the week to fix the team’s weaknesses, besides analysing their opponents’ game.

“It’s been good for the whole team to prepare for this game; it’s a very important game for us also. I think the team is ready, so I hope we can start fast and … make a good result,” he told a pre-match press conference in Dubai at midnight last night.

Vietnam are eyeing to extend their unbeaten run in the qualifying campaign to seven games at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, the UAE.

The Harimau Malaya, under the guidance of Tan Cheng Hoe, suffered a 4-0 defeat against the UAE, a result which undermined their two preceding wins and dented their hopes of finishing among the top two in the group.

He said it was always hard to justify a team’s performance after losing 4-0.

“I was maybe satisfied (with individual performance) but at the end of the day you want to win games,” Cools added.

Cools, who will be facing Park Hang-Seo’s side for the first time, said it would be a physical and mental test for the Malaysians to play Vietnam because of the Golden Dragon’s ability to play fast and stay compact.

“It will be a big challenge. It’s up to us tomorrow to show what we’ve trained, to do it on the pitch,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cheng Hoe said his side had shown improvement in their game individually as well as playing as a team.

“(After a) few days of preparation, few days of training, I think my players are ready for tomorrow’s match against Vietnam. We know that we didn’t have a good result against the UAE. I believe my players have stepped up in their performance,” he said.

After six matches, Vietnam now lead the group with 14 points, followed by the UAE (12 points), Thailand (nine points), Malaysia (fourth, also nine points) and Indonesia at the bottom with just one point.

The national squad under Cheng Hoe have drawn once and lost three times in their last four matches against Vietnam, with Malaysia losing 0-1 in the qualifying campaign group action in Hanoi in October 2019.