Defeat to Bahrain is not an option for Malaysia – Pan Gon

Malaysia have to go for a win or draw against Bahrain in their next crucial test in the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers .

The two options were given by the national head coach Kim Pan Gon to his players ahead of the clash against favourites Bahrain in the second match of their Group E campaign at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil, tomorrow night.

Pan Gon said Malaysia respect Bahrain as one of the great teams in Asia which had an impressive run in recent years including the success in making an appearance in the final round of the World Cup Qualifiers.

However, he said Harimau Malaya are ready to face their opponents and have their own way of trying to succeed in their mission, and do not rule out the possibility of springing a surprise on Bahrain led by Helio Sousa.

“One point or three points, we definitely need at least one point. We will use our strategy and tactics to get a point because it is very important. We must be very strong against Bahrain,” he said at a pre-match press conference here, today.

“I believe it will be a very tough game in terms of their (Bahrain) qualities and experience. But I can say that we are ready. We respect our opponents but still we want to go our own way to fight, they are strong but we are no easy team as well, all our players are strong, mentality they are ready,” he added.

The 53-year-old South Korean coach also took into consideration the world rankings which puts Malaysia far behind in 154th place compared to 89th for Bahrain but it would not mean anything on the pitch tomorrow night.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of the opponents’ ranking, we want to show them our Malaysian mental strength, the fighting spirit…we want to give pride to Malaysian football fans, that’s our focus at the moment,” he said.

For the record, the last meeting between the two teams in May last year saw Bahrain beat Malaysia 2-0 who were then under the guidance of former head coach Tan Cheng Hoe.

Malaysia and Bahrain now share three points at the top of Group E after winning their respective opening matches against Turkmenistan 3-1 and Bangladesh 2-0 at the National Stadium, on Wednesday.

Only the group champions and top five runners-up will qualify for the finals of the 2023 Asian Cup with Malaysia’s last appearance in the prestigious tournament in 2007 when co-hosting, but for more than 40 years the national squad has failed to advance on merit since the 1980 edition in Kuwait.

Meanwhile, when asked about his prediction of another Group E clash between Bangladesh and Turkmenistan tomorrow, Pan Gon said he would support Bangladesh and hoped they would get a positive result.

In the meantime, Pan Gon said the presence of former Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president and Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim at the stadium tomorrow would motivate the national team.

“Our players here I understand they like him (Tunku Ismail) very much,” he said. — BERNAMA