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Asian Cup: Harimau Malaya can nick the points in opening ties
Published on: Sunday, December 31, 2023
By: Bernama
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Asian Cup: Harimau Malaya can nick the points in opening ties
Filepic by Bernama
SHAH ALAM: National football legend Datuk Zainal Abidin Hassan is confident that the Harimau Malaya can nick points from the two opening ties against Jordan and Bahrain in the 2023 Asian Cup Finals in Doha, Qatar from Jan 12 to Feb 10.

The former Selangor striker said this is based on the fact that national head coach Kim Pan Gon has managed to paper over the cracks in the national team and the encouraging performances dished out by the Harimau Malaya this year.

"We did not lose by a big margin to Bahrain and Tajikistan, and that was before Pan Gon had time to strengthen the team. Jordan is not much different (in terms of performance) from Tajikistan.

"The national team also found themselves trailing against Kyrgyzstan but our men bounced back to win. If they can maintain that performance in the Asian Cup, I am confident they can beat Jordan,” he said when met recently.

The Harimau Malaya lost 2-1 to Bahrain in the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers in June 2022 and 2-0 to Tajikistan in the 2023 Merdeka Tournament in October.

Malaysia then created a sensation in November when they fought back from 3-1 down to edge Kyrgyzstan 4-3 in their opening Group D match of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

Malaysia will begin their 2023 Asian Cup Finals Group E campaign against Jordan on Jan 15 before taking on Bahrain on Jan 20 and completing their group fixtures against two-time champions and favourites South Korea on Jan 25.

Zainal Abidin also hailed Pan Gon's decision to include Kuala Lumpur (KL) City FC's newly naturalised striker Romel Morales in the squad, saying it was a brilliant move to give the Harimau Malaya attack more bite.

He added that the Harimau Malaya backline had also shown significant improvement this year.

"We have seen the strength of our backline. Although they still make some mistakes, let them be a lesson. I feel that Pan Gon knows what he wants from the defenders and they must cut down on the mistakes at the back,” he said.

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