PETALING JAYA: ‘We must be firm and strong from the first until the 90th minute’.
That was the message relayed by Harimau Malaya’s coach Kim Pan Gon to his charges ahead of their first match in the 2023 Merdeka Tournament against India at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium tomorrow.
Pan Gon said a daunting task lies ahead for the national team as he expects them to face a stronger Indian side, coached by Croatian Igor Stimac, in the match to be played at the newly upgraded pitch of Harimau Malaya’s home.
“As we all know their ranking is near the top 100 (ranked 102) and are the top team in South Asia. They are aggressive and really work hard (on the pitch).
“They love to hunt, chase the ball and make strong body contact (against opponents). So, that kind of element will be very tough for the opposition team,” he told a pre-match press conference here today.
Based on preparations so far, Pan Gon however is optimistic that his players will be raring to take on India and deliver an entertaining match for the home fans.
The 54-year-old also said Kuala Lumpur City FC skipper, Paulo Josue will be out of the match due to illness.
Tajikistan, who received a ‘bye’ following Palestine’s withdrawal from the 42nd edition tournament at the eleventh hour, will play either Malaysia or India in the final on Tuesday.
Palestine had to forgo the 2023 Merdeka Tournament due to the current tense situation back home.
While acknowledging the fact that he did not know much about India before, defender Matthew Davies heaped praise on Pan Gon and company for their hard work in providing details and tips to play against the opponent.
The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) player is also looking forward to playing in the new pitch and took the opportunity to thank Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim for sponsoring the replacement cost of the pitch, estimated to be around RM1.4 million.
The National Stadium has undergone refurbishments including the planting of Zeon Zoysia turf grass to replace the previous cow grass pitch. – Bernama