Malaysia's campaign to reach UAE 2019 started out in the second round, after the draw was made in Kuala Lumpur in April of 2015. Placed in Group A alongside Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Palestine and Timor Leste; it was a tough group for the Malayan Tigers.
Then under the guidance of Dollah Salleh as the head coach, Malaysia started the campaign poorly with a 1-1 draw against Timor Leste but was later awarded a 3-0 win after Asian Football Confederation (AFC) deemed Timor Leste to have fielded inelligible players.
That was quickly followed by a 0-6 roasting at the hands of Palestine in June 2015 that signalled the end of playing time at Bukit Jalil National Stadium. Dollah would oversee only one more match after that, the unforgettable 10-0 hammering away to UAE that saw Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) replacing Dollah with Ong Kim Swee.
Ong's first match was a home one at Shah Alam Stadium against the Saudis and hopes were high after Safiq Rahim put the team in front in the 70th minute. But two quick goals from the away side in the 73rd and 76th minute saw the game turned on its head.
However, that would not be what the match will be remembered by as massive amount of flares were thrown onto the pitch and the surrounding track by the Malayan Ultras which caused the match to be abandoned with minutes to go. AFC fined FAM and changed the result to a 0-3 win for Saudi Arabia.
An Amri Yahyah goal secured Malaysia an away win at Timor Leste in the following match but like the earlier meeting, this one was also ruled in favour of Malaysia with a 0-3 scoreline. In the first of the reverse fixtures, Palestine replicated their scoreline in Kuala Lumpur with yet another 6-0 beating of Malaysia.
A much improved Malaysia held UAE at bay for large chunks of the home match but eventually succumbed to a respectable 1-2 defeat in a match where star midfielder Omar Abdulrahman was in a class of him own.
The final match in the group was played in Jeddah as Ong employed a very discipline and defensive tactic to ensure Malaysia did not go away from Saudi Arabia with a heavy defeat and the 2-0 loss meant Malaysia finished the group in fourth place with seven points.
Such is the format of the qualification, it hadn't close the door on Malaysia just quite yet. Luck would have it that Malaysia will have to play next in Round 1 of the play-off round. Timor Leste were easily disposed off this time, although the result would ultimately be chalked off for Timor Leste's failure to comply with the regulations.
The win sent Malaysia into the third round and after the draw was done, placed in Group B with Lebanon, Hong Kong and DPR Korea. Being put in Pot 4 before the draw obviously meant that Malaysia will be in a tougher group than their counterparts.
When the first match against Lebanon came around, Eduardo Vingada had already replaced Ong and raised hopes after a narrow 1-2 defeat to Lebanon in the opening match played at Johor Bahru.
But that would proved to be a false dawn as Vingada only oversaw one match without defeat as the walls came crashing down on him. A home 1-1 draw against Hong Kong was all Vingada's team could muster as defeats in the away tie as well as both DPR Korea matches followed.
When the final group match came around yesterday, Tan Cheng Hoe has assumed the head coach role as Malaysia ends the third round group, like how they started, with a 2-1 defeat to Lebanon which makes everything looked like it came full circle.