Asian Cup provides Harimau with the experience to resume World Cup quest

DOHA: Coach Kim Pan Gon believes that Harimau Malaya have gained a "priceless" experience despite their failure to progress to the round of 16 at the Asian Cup in Qatar.

Importantly, the South Korean believes this will better equip the team when they resume their World Cup qualifying campaign in March.

Pan Gon said although things did not go to plan in Doha, he feels that world No 130 Malaysia are on the right track.

Fans were left unhappy that Malaysia failed to score a single goal in two matches (lost 4-0 to Jordan and 1-0 to Bahrain) prior to tonight's final Group E game against South Korea.

When asked about this, Pan Gon brushed it aside by saying that it is a meaningless matter.

"What does scoring a goal mean? The bigger picture is to prepare for the future. We need to get a taste, feel and smell (of the Asian Cup) against stronger teams to help us gain confidence and prepare us better," he said.

Pan Gon pointed out that it is more important Malaysia consistently qualify for the quadrennial Asian Cup proper and not just a one-off thing.

For the record, Malaysia qualified on merit fo the Doha edition after 43 years.

"As Malaysia's coach, I want us to fight strongly so that we can showcase something that the nation can be proud of," said Pan Gon.

"We encourage our players to play against giants of football."

Pan Gon, who replaced Tan Cheng Hoe as national coach in 2022, chalked up 20 wins, four draws and seven losses for Malaysia with a winning rate of 65 per cent. Malaysia's world ranking also shot up to 130 from 154 under the Korean.

Harimau Malaya's most impressive performance was upstaging world No. 98 Kyrgyzstan 4-3 in a World Cup qualifier last November.

And after beating Taiwan 1-0 away in the same month, Malaysia found themselves topping Group D with six points followed by Oman (three), Kyrgyzstan (three) and Taiwan (zero).

Pan Gon will lead his men for two more World Cup Group D

qualifiers, against No. 74 Oman in Muscat on March 21 and at Bukit Jalil on March 26.

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