PETALING JAYA: The changes are so visible that Jorn Andersen says he hardly recognises the Harimau Malaya he knew six years ago.
At the 2018 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, the Norwegian, who was then North Korea’s coach, masterminded two 4-1 wins against Malaysia.
Now helming Hong Kong, the former Mainz coach, says he has become a big fan of Malaysian football, and believes the standard has improved in the presence of naturalised and mixed heritage players.
“Almost 50% of the Malaysian players are foreigners. When I coached North Korea, we beat them easily,” said Andersen.
“Compared to then and now, the quality has been raised. I like their style – offensive and quick football, which suits the modern game.
“The presence of the naturalised and mixed heritage players have helped Malaysia raise their level in Asian football,” said the 60-year-old.
He did have a taste of the marked improvement when Malaysia beat Hong Kong 2-0 last year, but this time, Andersen said his side, nicknamed “the Strengths”, will give a better fight in a Tier 1 friendly game at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri today.
In their last friendly, Hong Kong were held 1-1 by Singapore at the Mong Kok Stadium in Hong Kong last Thursday, with Andersen expressing mixed reactions. He hailed his boys for dominating the game but was peeved with the result.
But he knows the same method cannot be used against Malaysia.
“We always try to do something new. For me, it is two different games. Singapore were defending for 90 minutes. The game against Malaysia will be different,” he said.
“Malaysia will attack and press us high but I can promise that we are a little bit stronger than the last time we played.”
Andersen said two of his key players – Helio Goncalves and Matthew Orrdid – did not board the flight to Malaysia, and he will have 21 players available for the friendly. Goncalves has an issue with his passport while Orrdid is down with a muscle strain.
Meanwhile, rightback Tsui Wang Kit is looking forward to taking on Malaysia’s speedy wingers, who impressed in the 1-0 win against Turkmenistan on March 23.
“Last time, we lost 0-2 to Malaysia, but the past is past. We will try our best to win the game, and we can cause trouble for them,” said Wang Kit.
“I do not know the players’ names, but I know Malaysian wingers are fast and skilful.
“I will do my best, I know my defending is strong, so I’m not afraid.
“I’m ready for the challenge.”