NOT READY TO FIGHT

Malaysia ill-pre­pared to face pow­er­ful North Korea

New Straits Times - - Sport - AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my

NORTH Korea will be out to hu­mil­i­ate Malaysia when both na­tions meet in an Asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing Group B match in Pyongyang on June 8.

With less than a month be­fore the en­counter, the na­tional team will likely head to Pyongyang ill­pre­pared as the FA of Malaysia (FAM) have yet to hire a new coach.

Worse still, Tan Cheng Hoe who was re­leased by Kedah on April 29, has yet to be of­fered a con­tract by FAM and the 49-year-old is still in Alor Star.

He is only ex­pected to be of­fered a valid con­tract next week af­ter the on­go­ing Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC) congress in Bahrain.

Cheng Hoe was sup­posed to start scout­ing for play­ers first be­fore the ar­rival of a new na­tional head coach.

“I am still in Alor Star... how­ever, a con­tract will be of­fered soon, prob­a­bly next week when FAM gen­eral-sec­re­tary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin returns from the AFC Congress,” said Cheng Hoe yes­ter­day.

But things could be too late for Malaysia as ac­cord­ing to sources, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has or­dered his na­tional team to em­bar­rass their Asian ri­vals on June 8.

“Jong-un not only wants his team to win… he wants to win big on June 8.

“He wants his team to make a state­ment in this match,” said a re­li­able source.

North Korea have sev­eral play­ers who ply their trade abroad.

Their big­gest name is Han Kwang-song who made his de­but for Cagliari in Italy's Serie A on April 2, the first player from his coun­try to ap­pear in a top-class Euro­pean league.

He net­ted a goal past Eng­land goal­keeper Joe Hart in the 3-2 win over Torino on April 9.

Ong Kim Swee pre­vi­ously coached the se­nior team be­fore he was re-des­ig­nated to han­dle the un­der-22 Sea Games squad.

Ar­gen­tine Mario Gomez, who guided Darul Ta’zim to sev­eral suc­cesses in the do­mes­tic and Asian­level com­pe­ti­tions, was an­nounced as the new se­nior coach by Tunku Is­mail Sul­tan Ibrahim af­ter he was elected as the new FAM pres­i­dent.

How­ever, the deal was called off af­ter a mis­un­der­stand­ing be­tween Gomez and FAM over con­tract is­sues.

Tunku Is­mail has dis­closed that he is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing with a coach from Por­tu­gal and that he will be fork­ing out his own money to cover the salary of the new coach.

One of the coaches linked to the hot seat is for­mer Por­tuguese in­ter­na­tional Paulo Bento, who was sacked by Greek cham­pi­ons Olympia­cos in March.

The 48-year-old Bento has won ti­tles with his for­mer clubs Sport­ing Lis­bon and Olympia­cos, and also coached Por­tu­gal’s na­tional team be­tween 2010-14.

Hamidin said FAM are look­ing for a coach who will ac­cept their of­fer on a long term ba­sis.

“You need to know we have lit­tle money left in the cof­fer.

“If we want to hire a coach, not only do we need to look for some­one with a good back­ground, but also some­one who will ac­cept our of­fer,” he said.

For the Asian Cup qual­i­fiers, Malaysia also have Le­banon and Hong Kong for com­pany. Malaysia will en­ter­tain Le­banon in their sec­ond Asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing match on June 13.

The top two teams from the six groups in the qual­i­fiers will join 12 other sides in the tour­na­ment proper in UAE in 2019.

FAM gen­er­alsec­re­tary Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin

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