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Nepal surprised by Malaysia's poor FIFA rankings

12:16 PM WAT 01/06/2019
Tan Cheng Hoe, Malaysia v Nepal, 1 Jun 2019
Malaysia will face Nepal in Sunday's international friendly but unusually, the Harimau Malaya are the ones staring up at Nepal in the FIFA rankings.

When the draw made in April for the 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualification, Malaysia were among the last 12 placed teams in the Asian zone and had to play in the first round play-off. Nepal on the other hand finished one place higher than Malaysia in the rankings and thus earned themselves a spot directly in the second round group stage of the qualifiers.

That was a huge slap in the face for Malaysia as they are long considered a much bigger footballing nation than tiny Nepal, who are seven places higher in the FIFA rankings last updated in April. The Nepalese side had been as low as 192 in 2015 but have been steadily climbing the ladder even since.

For newly hired head coach Johan Kalin, the rankings will represent very little in Sunday's match at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. After three months in the job, Kalin knows that Malaysia are still the slight favourites heading against his young side.

"I was a bit surprised when I saw the FIFA rankings before I came here. I know that Malaysia has a really strong league. There's been some big players in the league. Some Malaysia results are also strong. You beat Afghanistan and then also Maldives. Maldives beat us. The rankings is surprising but it is what it is. 

"We expect a very tough game and we hope to get a very tough game. But I think that Malaysia are probably stronger than some people are expecting. In the qualifiers, we will be facing teams who are higher ranked than us, so we are looking to always play tougher teams," said Kalin in Saturday's pre-match press conference.

Nepal's last three matches showed the kind of team they are, strong and resilient with the ability to frustrate opponents. They played twice against Kuwait back in March, drawing one and narrowly losing the other. Before that, they also managed to restrict Asian Cup side Palestine to a 1-0 scoreline in October last year.

Their improvement has been largely down to the overall improvement of the team as well as the presence of Rohit Chand. The midfielder once rocked up at T-Team in the M-League but is currently one of the big stars in the Indonesian league.


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