No easy passage but Tan is cautiously optimistic

Tan is optimistic that Harimau Malaya have a chance to progress into the next round of qualifying. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: National head coach Tan Cheng Hoe reckons it won’t be easy for Malaysia in the second round of the 2022 World Cup/Asian Cup 2023 qualifier but is cautiously optimistic that Harimau Malaya can make it to the next round.

Having been drawn into Group G with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, he said, Malaysia needs to become one of the top four runners-up to advance into the third round and at the same time qualify on merit for the 2023 Asian Cup finals.

Cheng Hoe said intensive preparation and focus from his players are the elements which will help the team realise their dream.

“We can’t just talk about qualifying for the third round and complete the group matches in second place.

“We need to understand if we want to be runners-up, we need to get the best results.

“So, we need to have good preparation and focus on every game.

“It (the grouping) is not easy … most likely most countries are happy with this draw. We know UAE is the best and the strongest team and when we talk about the World Cup, every coach wants to get a good result,” he told reporters when met after the 2022 World Cup/Asia Cup 2023 qualifier draw held at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil on Wednesday.

Cheng Hoe said their first match against Indonesia at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Sept 5 is very important.

“It’s a surprise because four Asean countries are drawn in the same group. It looks like a mini Asean tournament, and what’s more important, I want players to be ready for the first match against Indonesia.

“Everyone knows it’s not easy to play at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium,” he said.

Meanwhile, FA of Malaysia secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam said the national squad needs to use this golden opportunity to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup but acknowledged that all teams have an equal chance.

“I think we have a chance … luckily the draw is in our favour and now we expect good performance on the pitch. All teams want to win, and the opportunity is balanced,” he said.