PETALING JAYA: National team coach Tan Cheng Hoe has warned the Harimau Malaya to brace themselves for the second round of the 2022 World Cup qualifier in September.
Malaysia chalked up an easy 12-2 aggregate win over South-East Asia minnows Timor Leste in the first round of the World Cup qualifiers with a 5-1 win in the second leg on Tuesday and a 7-1 thumping in the first leg last Friday.
The draw for the second round will be held in Doha, Qatar, on July 17, and the national team will face tougher competition as 40 qualified teams including Asian top guns Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia will fight to earn 12 places in the third round and also the automatic slots for the 2023 Asian Cup.
The 51-year-old coach reckons that his side need to work harder and prepare well for challenges ahead.
He also reminded the players despite taking the team into the second round, no player is guaranteed of their spot.
“We will be facing stronger teams which are far better than us. I want all players to be fully prepared from now as the next stage would not be easy,” said Cheng Hoe at the post-match press conference.
“We may be drawn with Iran, Japan or Qatar. The players have to accept more intense pressure from these countries.”
“There is not guarantee the 30, 25 or even 23 players called this time would retain their places. We will monitor their performance in the league.”
Cheng Hoe said he is delighted with the team’s performance against Timor Leste and said that the Harimau Malaya are getting better in their playing style which was used since the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.
He also said Perak’s Shahrel Fikri Mohd Fauzi’s hattrick was a good sign for the team’s strike force.
“We have been playing the way we should be playing since the Suzuki Cup ... better decision-making in front of goal, players are more composed and we are not giving too much opportunity to the opponents to score.
“This is however part of their learning process. I hope in future the players will learn more and thus become better,” he said.
“Shahrel always gives his best, his commitment is very high and he always makes an effort to understand the tactical play.
“But he needs to tighten up his play, especially in front of the goalmouth.
“Hopefully, in the league, he will play more frequently as the number nine player.”