Malaysia coach calls on players to battle S. Korea without fear

Malaysia head coach Kim Pan-gon speaks at a press conference ahead of a Group E match against South Korea at the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup at the Main Media Centre in Doha, Wednesday. Yonhap

For the first time since taking over the Malaysian men’s national football team two years ago, South Korean-born coach Kim Pan-gon will be going up against his native country.It will be the teams’ final Group E match of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup on Thursday in Qatar. Malaysia, following consecutive losses to Jordan and Bahrain, have already been eliminated from knockout contention. At No. 130 in the FIFA rankings, Malaysia will be a massive underdog against 23rd-ranked South Korea when they face off at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, south of Doha.Though Malaysia have little left to play for, Kim insisted Wednesday that he still wants his charges to battle hard against “such a giant football country.”

“We as a staff will try our best to motivate the players for this game,” Kim said at his prematch press conference at the Main Media Centre in Doha. “I think it should be a good challenge, a very positive challenge for us. We have nothing to lose. Depending on our performance and situation, we may get some momentum or foundation for the future.”Kim admitted to feeling some pressure on a personal level as he prepares to coach against South Korea for the first time, but he understands he has to put aside his personal feelings.”As a person, there’s big pressure because I know more than others about Korea. I know those players are very strong, individually,” Kim said. “But to me, that’s not important. I need to turn off that part and take away all the pressure from my personal side. As a coach for Malaysia, we want to fight strongly and firmly, because we have to show something to the Malaysian public as well. We need to give them some hope and something to feel proud of. That’s very important. Don’t fear. Play bravely against Korea.”

South Korea beat Bahrain 3-1 to start the tournament but salvaged a 2-2 draw against Jordan thanks to a late own goal. Though the Taegeuk Warriors are under heat for their mediocre showing against Jordan, Kim said it was “not easy to find weakness” from South Korea.”There’s is a lot of doubting but to me, they have a good team. I expect they will be going to the final,” Kim added. “Internally, we’ve prepared to attack their weak points. But generally, it’s difficult to find them. They’re one of the top teams.”Kim said it was important for Malaysia to get an early taste of playing such heavyweights, especially because they could be going up against similar teams if Malaysia reach the final phase of the Asian World Cup qualifiers.”It will not be our last game of this year or the last tournament of this year,” the coach said. “The important thing is Malaysia came here (the Asian Cup) for the first time in 43 years. Malaysia must be here consecutively for every Asian Cup final stage. Then one day, we will take on the challenge to go to the round of 16. We must prepare well to 스포츠토토존 get to this stage again after four years.”

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