Not impossible for M’sia to head to World Cup in 2026, say national players

PETALING JAYA: The upcoming 2022 World Cup campaign in Qatar not only brings joy to football fans globally but also fuels the spirit of the Harimau Malaya squad to bring Malaysia to the prestigious tournament one day.

National defender Ahmad Khuzaimi Piee and young talent V. Ruventhiran believe that it is not impossible for the Harimau Malaya squad to play in the prestigious tournament after improvements shown under head coach Kim Pan Gon.

Ahmad Khuzaimi, who plays with Negeri Sembilan FC, said that if fortune favoured the national team, Malaysia would be able to play in the 2026 World Cup, thus creating a new history in the national football arena.

“For me, we cannot make predictions in terms of our ‘rezeki’ (sustenance), maybe in the next four years Malaysia will qualify for the World Cup, who knows? I hope the commitment of the players called up to represent the country can help create something special for the country and the fans,“ he said at the launch of the new Harimau Malaya squad jersey here, today.

He was asked how long it would take to see Malaysia finally feature in the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Ruventhiran who plays for the Petaling Jaya (PJ) City FC team when asked the same question, also believed that Malaysia would play in the World Cup soon.

“Soon, it’s close (to qualify for the World Cup)…we believe in the coaches as well as we believe in ourselves…we will surely make our country proud one day,“ said the 21-year-old player who earned his first international cap against Brunei in May before making it into the history-making national team to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup a month later.

National squad goalkeeper Ahmad Syihan Hazmi Mohamed concurred, saying that as players, they would always try hard to make the country proud at the highest level.

The confidence shown by the three national players is not surprising, as Pan Gon, during his first press conference as national team coach in February, stated his goal to help Malaysia qualify for the World Cup one day.

Malaysia’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup are now brighter as the Asian region has been given up to nine slots for the 2026 World Cup, which for the first time will feature the participation of 48 teams, compared to the current format of 32.

The squad coached by Pan Gon created history by ending a 42-year wait to qualify for the Asian Cup on merit in June, but Malaysia are yet to play in the World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1930 in Uruguay, often losing out in the qualifying rounds.

The World Cup in Qatar takes place from Nov 20 to Dec 18.-Bernama