KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 ― Harimau Malaya’s significant progress in the Fifa ranking within a short span of time made its head coach Kim Pan Gon’s blood run cold.
Pan Gon divulged that sometimes he had sleepless nights following Malaysia’s rapid rise by climbing up 20 rungs from 154th to 134th in less than two years after being appointed as the new national team head coach in January last year.
“The team had improved so much, (and) we reached 134th ranking too early. Of course, the expectation was too high and I was scared to the point that I could not sleep.
“I could not even sleep before the final (against Tajikistan) because everybody thinks that we will win (Merdeka Tournament 2023),” he told a post-match press conference after Malaysia lost 0-2 to Tajikistan in the Merdeka Tournament 2023 final, last night.
The South Korean also said that a painful loss against the Petar Segrt team proved to be a litmus test for the home fans’ loyalty towards his charges.
As such, Pan Gon urged Malaysians, including local media, to keep supporting his team come rain or shine.
“This is the time we need to show support to our players, and hopefully, the media and fans can do so. If you want to attack, please attack me (not the players),” he said.
A clearly disappointed Pan Gon was gutted to see he failed to steer his team avenged last year’s Thailand King’s Cup final defeat at the hands of the Central Asian team, losing 0-3 via a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw after regulation time.
“I don’t want to lose to Tajikistan again. Their coach kept making excuses (before the final),” he said.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference on Monday, Pan Gon hit out at Segrt after the latter had no confidence in his squad after losing 15 main players due to club commitments.
Meanwhile, the 54-year-old coach hoped Malaysia would bounce back stronger in their 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup second qualifying round next month.
Harimau Malaya will kick off their Group D campaign against Kyrgyzstan at home on November 16 before they fly to Taiwan for an away game on November 21. ― Bernama
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