Pan-gon urges players not to be overawed by much stronger teams

Watchful: National football team coach Kim Pan-gon observing his players during a training session.

PETALING JAYA: National football team coach Kim Pan-gon hopes the players will put away the tendency to give too much respect to much stronger opponents from now on.

The South Korean coach noticed that his men were able to provide fierce competition when facing opponents such as Thailand and Bahrain but still failed to record a victory over their opponents.

“We have played against stronger teams before and the positive thing is that we started well and managed to score first. But I think the players were not confident in themselves after taking the lead,” said Pan-gon, who added the mental strength factor is what separates the national team from their higher ranked rivals.

“They seem uncomfortable when they are first in front, so they have to get used to this situation.

“Don’t be surprised because when our opponents are surprised, we struggle and lose the ball and lose the match.

“This psychological factor, mentality and confidence should be there because the players should be confident in themselves. We are at the same level as the opposing team.

“Our defence line is also good but based on statistics, we always concede a goal after the 75th minute against a strong team. So it’s important for the players to focus and maintain concentration until the end of the game,” he added.

Hence Pan-gon feels that the two upcoming friendly matches against two teams that are in the world’s top 100, Syria and China, will be good indicators of how far the Harimau Malaya have improved so far.

Malaysia will face Syria and China in two Tier 1 International friendlies in Chengdu, China, on Sept 6 and 9 respectively.

Pan-gon added it is crucial for Malaysia to register away victories.

“We did a good job over the last year and a half when we won 16 of the 21 matches we faced but we rarely got the chance to face strong teams like Syria and China.

“So we want to see how much improvement the players can show and this window is very important for preparations for the World Cup qualifiers in November and also the Asian Cup Finals next year,” he said.

The national team have registered four consecutive wins in international friendlies but all those matches were played on home turf.

Malaysia edged Turkmenistan 1-0 and Hong Kong 2-0 in Johor in March and defeated Solomon Islands 4-1 and Papua New Guinea 10-0 in Terengganu last June.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur player Azri Ab Ghani, who was in the standby list initially, was called up for centralised training camp.

Azri replaces Sabah goalkeeper Damien Lim, who had to skip the training camp due to an injury.

Johor Darul Ta’zim midfielder Nathaniel Shio Hong Wan was also unable to join the training camp after suffering an injury but his place was not filled by anyone from the standby list.

A total of 26 players are involved in the training camp for the upcoming international friendlies against China and Syria.

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