The 2019 Asian Cup enters the knockout phase today with two Southeast Asian teams in Vietnam and Thailand duking it out with Jordan and China respectively for a place in the quarterfinals. Having only recently faced both teams in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup, it is galling for Malaysians to see their counterparts being able to take part in Asia's most prestigious national team competition.
Malaysia started the qualification towards the current tournament back in 2015 in the second round. Finishing fourth behind Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Palestine meant that Malaysia were pushed into the play-off round but that proved also to be a eventual disaster.
Starting the previous campaign with Dollah Salleh at the helm, the baton was passed over to Eduardo Vingada before the play-off rounds and it will be a different head coach in charge for when the next set of qualifiers comes around. Tan Cheng Hoe guided Malaysia to the final of the AFF and has now been rewarded with a two years extension.
Yet with the new qualifiers expected to start in the middle of 2019 until March of 2022, there's a big concern on who will handle the team given that Cheng Hoe's new contract will only run until the end of 2020. But Datuk Hamidin does not want that to be a worry now and instead is calling for everyone involved to play a major role.
"The qualifers starts in 2019 and perhaps will end in early 2021 with maybe most of the matches being completed by 2020. When the time comes, we will decide whether to extend or not. Tan Cheng Hoe is the head coach of the system but it's a collective responsibility to help and ensure we realised the target.
"What I mean is that not only Tan Cheng Hoe is responsible but me, the exco, all the staff of FAM including the fans and media will have to play a part in helping the national team to reach the next Asian Cup," said Hamidin when met by the press on Sunday.
With Malaysia languishing in the bottom rungs of the FIFA rankings, it is very likely that in they will get a rather tough group in the second round once again. The best option would mean navigating the path of the play-off and if Cheng Hoe continues the upward progression of the team, then FAM will have little choice but to give him another extension to complete the Asian Cup job.
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