PETALING JAYA — Harimau Malaysia departed for Manila yesterday for an international friendly which coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said his team simply have to win.
Kim Swee said even the friendly status of the match, at Rizal Stadium tomorrow, would not detract from its significance as a morale booster should it result in a Malaysian victory
“We need a good start to the season, especially to boost our confidence for the next matches,” he said before the team’s departure.
“We are up for the game,” he said.
Malaysia are now ranked No 161 in Fifa’s rankings.
Kim Swee, who intimated he was ready for the possibility of being replaced as national coach should a new president be elected at the FA of Malaysia polls on Saturday, said the national players were doing well and were ready for the match.
The initial plan was to use the match as a warm-up for the tie against North Korea (2019 Asian Cup qualifying Group B match) in Pyongyang that was scheduled for March 28.
But that match, as a result of the diplomatic furore with North Korea over the Kim Jong-nam assassination, has been postponed to June 8.
Kim Swee said the friendly in Manila was part of the plan to get the players adapted with the artificial pitch at the Rizal Memorial Stadium as Harimau Malaysia would have to play on a similar pitch in Pyongyang had the March 28 match proceeded as scheduled.
Kim Swee said his team wasn’t taking the Philippines for granted.
“Philippines are an improved team and we cannot take them lightly,” he said.
In the AFF Suzuki Cup last November, Malaysia and Philippines were in different groups but both shared the disappointment of failing to advance to the knockout stage of the competition.