The last time that Malaysia faced Singapore in a match was a friendly played prior to the start of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup and now the two teams will renew their rivalry in the Airmarine Cup. In the draw done on Monday, Singapore was pulled out of the bowl to face the Harimau Malaya on March 20.
The match which will be played at Bukit Jalil National Stadium will be the second match on that day with Oman drawn to face Afghanistan in the earlier match. The winner of the two matches will face each other on March 23 to decide the winner of the tournament. If the two teams could not be separated after 90 minutes, the match goes straight into a penalty shoot-out.
Malaysia will be using the tournament as the final opportunity to gain valuable FIFA ranking points to make the top 34 best team in Asia in order to gain a place in the second round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Malaysia are currently in 35th spot with Singapore coincidentally sitting in the 34th spot.
"I thought we'll get Oman because they have the highest rank among the four teams because we want to get points for the rankings in order to qualify for the World Cup qualifiers. But it's Singapore and now I hope Tan Cheng Hoe and the boys can beat them and reach the final."
"The Under-23 is important because they are aiming to qualify for the finals as well as the Olympics, the senior side is also important because they are looking for points. I've met with Tan Cheng Hoe and Ong Kim Swee, and we've come to an agreement.
"It will still remain that the best U23 that Kim Swee wants, will be in the squad. The rest Cheng Hoe can select from the many choices available. Maybe like Matt Davies or Nor Azam Azih who didn't make the squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup can come in.
"There's a limit to the best U23 that Kim Swee can selects like Safawi (Rasid) and Akhyar (Rashid) whereas Cheng Hoe does not have the same limitation and perhaps there are other players who have shone during the opening rounds of the domestic league season," said Datuk Hamidin bin Mohd Amin in the press conference after the draw.
The FAM president confirmed that Kim Swee's U23 side that will be competing in the AFC U23 Championship qualifying round in Kuala Lumpur will have first choice over the players despite the need for the senior team to do well in the Airmarine Cup.
On top of that, after the tournament Malaysia will play one more international friendly against Nepal on March 26, a team that is also placed higher than Malaysia in the rankings. FAM intends to put that friendly at Bukit Jalil National Stadium in an early evening kick-off with Kim Swee's U23 side playing the China U23 in the final group match at the same venue.
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