PETALING JAYA: There are Captain Marvels. And then, there is Captain Cool.
And the national team can call Belgian-born Malaysian defender Dion Cools that, as he is set to lead the Harimau Malaya in the friendly against Turkmenistan at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri tonight.
The 26-year-old Cools certainly made the pre-match conference yesterday a cool affair with a joke that lightened up an otherwise seriously formal atmosphere.
He was asked what’s the best thing about playing in Thailand for Buriram United and the nonchalantly said: “For national call-ups, I don’t need to fly for more than 12 hours to Malaysia. So that’s one good part about moving to Thailand.’’
And it has been a case of going north and going forth for the man who has won 13 caps with Malaysia.
“I love the atmosphere at matches as it’s very positive. The league is different compared to Europe and the experience I’ve gained will help me a lot when it comes to playing for Malaysia.’’
Cools also said that playing for the Harimau Malaya has certainly made him a better player.
“The responsibility that comes with playing for the national team has made me more mature, and I will continue growing as a player. The team have also improved a lot now and I intend to contribute more.”
He added that the stiff competition for the regular centreback spots has kept him and his teammates on their toes.
Cools is expected to form a back three with Johor Darul Ta’zim players Matthew Davies and Feroz Baharuddin against Turkmenistan.
“The coach has a lot of options in defence. Feroz, for one, trains well and works hard.’’
He is expecting a lively match against Turkmenistan, as Malaysia beat them 3-1 in the 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Meanwhile, national coach Kim Pan-gon said that he is having a ‘’good headache’’ when it comes to naming his first XI as every player has done well during the centralised camp.
“The new players are adapting well, they showed their ambition, passion and hunger to be in the first XI,” said the South Korean.
“Every player is also fit to play, and I have a headache naming my first team.”