Happy news for fans of the Malaysian football team — Harimau Malaya has secured a spot at the 2023 Asian Cup after defeating Bangladesh.
For the first time in 42 years, the team qualifies for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Finals on merit. Although Malaysia also featured in the Asian Cup Finals in 2007, it was the co-host along with Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The last time Malaysia made it into the Asian Cup Finals was back in 1980 in Kuwait.
The qualifier match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil saw an almost 53,000-strong crowd cheering for the team, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Malaysia in action at the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifier
Coach Kim Pan Gon made the call to leave out first-choice goalkeeper Farizal Marlias from the starting eleven for the final Group E match, giving Ahmad Syihan Hazmi Mohamed his international debut. Last Saturday (12 June), Farizal received criticism for his mistake in conceding a penalty that lead to the 1-2 defeat to Bahrain.
Yesterday, from minute 31 onwards, Malaysia began its assault on Bangladesh, scoring one through Mohd Ibrahim. Before the half-time mark, Dion Cools made a scoring shot in the 38th minute, marking his first goal for Malaysia.
In the 47th minute, Syafiq Ahmad shot another one for the team through a header, resulting in a 3-1 score. For the final kicker, Darren Lok slotted in the fourth goal at minute 73 — capping a historic night for Malaysia.
After this victorious game, Malaysia finished Group E with six points. The 2023 Asian Cup will be Malaysia’s fourth appearance at the Finals.
Due to the Zero-Covid policy in China, the country will not be hosting the event in 2023, according to the AFC. After this withdrawal, a second round of bidding will be decided by the organisation later.
All images credit: FA Malaysia/Instagram