Harimau Malaya head coach Kim Pan Gon
27/03/2024 10:35 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 (Bernama) -- Harimau Malaya head coach Kim Pan Gon stood by his players despite their 0-2 loss against Oman in the Group D match of the second round of the 2026 World Cup/ 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil here, last night. 

The South Korean said his team's situation, which failed to perform at its true potential, derived from the absence of competitive matches.

He said the absence of competitive matches affects the players’ performance due to the lack of match fitness and that matter could bring big regret to all parties in future as it seems to affect Malaysia's chances to go further in the World Cup qualification campaign

“Don’t blame anyone, players can make mistakes because of how we prepared them in this circumstance, how many months since they had a competitive match? They are not machines. I feel the pain when they make mistakes because we forced them to get into this situation.

“Maybe later we (stakeholders) will have big regret because not the players who created this circumstance, we created this kind of circumstance,” he said in a post-match press conference here.

Pan Gon’s men were not completely prepared for the two matches against Oman including a 0-2 loss in Muscat, last week, after playing a competitive match in the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar, last January.

The Malaysian league is in its pre-season phase, whereas the Oman league is currently in full action thus giving them an advantage.

Last night’s loss was Malaysia's second defeat thereby making it difficult to achieve their mission of qualifying for the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers and qualifying early for the 2027 Asian Cup.

Malaysia remain third in Group D with six points while Kyrgyzstan lead the group with nine points after beating Taiwan 5-1 last night, followed by second-placed Oman, also with nine points, while Taiwan is last without a single point.

Only the top two teams in each group qualify for the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers and confirm a place in the 2027 Asian Cup, while the bottom two teams will play in the third round of the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers.

Malaysia will next meet Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek on June 6 and finish Group D against Taiwan in Bukit Jalil on June 11.

Meanwhile, Pan Gon said the injury suffered by defender Muhammad Azam Azmi Murad was quite serious and most likely will miss the upcoming 2024 U-23 Asian Cup in Qatar next month.

In the meantime, the 54-year-old coach refused to comment on the pitch's surface, which has been a hot topic lately.