Dion promises to make it count after being handed the armband

Calm before the storm: National coach Kim Pan-gon and captain Dion Cools speaking at a pre-match press conference at the Grand Dorsett Hotel in Subang Jaya. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

SUBANG JAYA: It is centreback Dion Cools’ turn to lead the team to success as the captain.

And the 27-year-old has promised to justify the faith in him to spearhead Malaysia’s challenge as they take on Tajikistan in the final of the Merdeka Tournament at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.

“There is a huge responsibility for those who wear the armband but even if I am not wearing it, I will still give my all to lead the team. The ultimate goal is to win,” said Dion.

Dion is one of four leaders – along with Matthew Davies, Faisal Halim and Brendan Gan – who take turns captaining the country.

The Buriram United player said the team were playing a different style football under national coach Kim Pan-gon and it was bearing fruit.

On Friday, the world No. 134th team had beaten a higher-ranked India 4-2 in the opening game of the Merdeka Tournament.

“The coach demands a lot from us and he knows we can deliver what he wants. In every camp, we are adapting and getting better. We know bigger challenges are ahead,” said Dion.

“We are climbing up the rankings and our game is on the up.”

Besides beating the world No. 102 India, they have also held Syria (No. 93) and China (No.80) in friendlies last month.

“We are learning to be even more flexible and know how to overcome pressure in any kind of situation. The game against Tajikistan is the platform to show how much we have progressed.

“We want to put up a great show and hoist the trophy in front of the home crowd.”

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