BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Although Malaysia's training session on Monday was not attended by Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) players who had received the call-up, head coach Nelo Vingada was not too concerned by the absence, despite the fact their first DPR Korea tie will be played this Friday.
Malaysia Cup finalists JDT and Kedah played the final match last Saturday, and Malaysia squad members involved in the tie had been scheduled to arrive at the Malaysian FA headquarters in Kelana Jaya on June 6, Monday for the training camp. But by Monday evening, players from JDT, who won the final with a 2-0 scoreline, had not arrived in Kelana Jaya, whereas the only Kedah player to have received the current call-up, Syafiq Ahmad was present during the training.
JDT players had been seen celebrating their Malaysia Cup win on Sunday evening in Johor, an event that was also attended by club owner and Malaysian FA (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
JDT's Malaysia Cup win celebration
The Southern Tigers make up the majority of the Malaysia squad, with 10 of their players included in the 23-man squad that Vingada will take to Buriram, Thailand on Tuesday.
"As a coach, I know what it means to party, to commemorate (celebrate) when you win a great competition.
"I'm sure the JDT players are doing what is usually done, celebrating, enjoying themselves, having dinner and sleeping late. This is normal in football, it happens here and everywhere else.
"The game is on November 10, so they have time to recover. We will conduct a special training for the JDT players," said the Portuguese when met by the press on Monday.
The JDT players arrived in Kelana Jaya later near midnight, and flew to Thailand along with the rest of the team on Tuesday morning.
He also revealed that JDT defender Junior Eldstal had requested to be exempted from the call-up due to a personal reason, although Vingada refused to divulge the exact nature of the situation.
His teammate Darren Lok and Kedah's Baddrol Bakhtiar too were dropped because of injuries, according to the updated squad list announced on Monday afternoon, and they were replaced by Felda United winger Hadin Azman and Perak midfielder Ahmad Khairil Anuar Ahmad Zamri. Vingada did not pick any player to replace Eldstal, bringing down the squad size for the DPR Korea matches to 23 players, from the earlier planned 24.
"He (Eldstal) requested to be released for personal problems. I cannot make any comments, you have to ask him yourselves," said Vingada.
When asked about his target for the two back-to-back encounters, the former Saudi Arabia boss declined to state it, simply remarking that he will take them one match at a time.
"Let's go game-by-game. Of course after what has happened in Hong Kong, we need to win both games.
"But let's go for the first game, we need to win, we need to score. We have to take some risks and attack, in order to win. But six points will be great, for sure," he noted.
Malaysia's Asian Cup qualification Group B matches against DPR Korea will be held at the designated neutral venue I-Mobile Stadium on November 10 and 13 respectively, with DPR Korea as the designated hosts for the earlier clash, and Malaysia 'hosting' the latter encounter.
The two matches had been postponed numerous times this year, due to escalating tensions between Malaysia and the hermit kingdom.
The Malayan Tigers are in a precarious situation in the group, sitting in bottom place with only one point after three matches. They too have not won since Vingada took over earlier this year. Out of the five matches they played under him, they have lost four and drawn one.