Hats off to Kim for keeping faith with unknowns and reaping success


NATIONAL football coach Kim Pan-gon found himself in a dilemma when some players chose not to represent the country for the AFF Mitsubishi Cup campaign.

However, the wily South Korean coach managed to find a workable solution despite the limitations.

He put his faith on players who have not been tested on the international stage and things turned out right in the end as his choices delivered results.

In the recent AFF Cup campaign alone, Lee Tuck and Stuart Wilkin scored their first goals in their debut match against Cambodia and Laos respectively.

Teenager Mohd Haqimi Azim Rosli also scored his first international goal for Harimau Malaya, making it 4-0 for the team before Stuart sealed off a stellar 5-0 win over Laos.

Pahang’s Sergio Aguero also found the back of the net for the team against Laos while who can forget Faisal Halim, who is one of the smallest players in the Super League but ends up as the national team’s top scorer in the tournament with four goals.

The Malaysian team started the tournament without much expectation but exited the AFF Cup with their heads held high as fans showed appreciation for the unstinting fighting spirit of the players.

Perhaps it is good that Pan-gon managed without the key players who featured in the qualifying tournament that steered Malaysia into the Asian Cup Finals next year as it allowed him to experiment with players with a do-or-die attitude.

The team may be short on experience and quality but they chalked up three wins and one loss in the group stage, scoring 10 goals and conceding four.

Their only defeat was 3-0 to Vietnam in Hanoi.

Malaysia remarkably took the shine off defending champions Thailand by winning 1-0 in the first leg semi-final at Bukit Jalil before falling 3-0 in the second leg in Bangkok on Tuesday.

Malaysia’s chances of advancing to the final may have been spoiled by the wrong tactical move in the end but it is rather glaring that we are still behind the Thais and the Vietnamese in terms of overall strength.

Hopefully the exposure gained from the tournament plus making some tweaks to their game will make the players better for the future and offer Pan-gon a bigger pool of quality footballers to choose from for the Asian Cup Finals.

On another note, the Asean Football Federation (AFF) should have a re-look at the schedule.

The tournament’s home-and-away format can be taxing even for the fittest players as the tourney is played at the end of the domestic football season.

It is not easy to travel from one country to another from the group stage with hardly any rest during the off-season.

And then what about the quality or rather the lack of it in the refereeing department? A few dubious decisions left the teams and fans perplexed and AFF certainly need to look into this aspect.

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