PETALING JAYA, March 9 (Bernama) -- New Zealand is expected to be the only team to test the level of performance of the Harimau Malaya squad in the FIFA international match window, this month.

Malaysian Football Association (FAM) deputy president Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi said discussions on alternative matches to the postponement of the second round action of the 2022 World Cup/Asia Cup 2023 qualification had entered the final phase.

According to Mohd Yusoff, New Zealand, which is ranked 122nd in the world, is the only country to have responded positively even though the world is currently under threat of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"In this month's FIFA international tournament window, we will still have a call to the national squad training camp and we have been in contact with several countries including the Philippines, Singapore and India but all are unable to attend.

"There is a bit of hope with the New Zealand team as the reaction has been positive except that they have not given a definitive answer yet. FAM is still hoping it can find a match for the national team this month,’’ he told a media conference after the FAM executive committee meeting at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya.





FAM Secretary-General Stuart Ramalingam said some football parent bodies in the world labeled Malaysia as a 'hot' area for ​​COVID-19 simultaneously making it difficult for FAM to finalise a team that would test the Harimau Malaya squad.

"I have been in contact with colleagues from other countries and they refer to Malaysia as a red zone, where some players are prohibited from coming here as this would prevent them from returning to the countries they play in the domestic league.

"This is a bit complicated, although FIFA gave the approach that FAM can organise friendly matches here, it still depends on whether the teams can accept the invitation from Malaysia," he added.

Last Thursday, FIFA and the Football Confederation of Asia (AFC) announced that they were looking into postponing the qualifying competition following the effects of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, with official confirmation expected to be announced in the near future.

Harimau Malaya under head coach Tan Cheng Hoe is scheduled to face the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Dubai on March 26 before hosting Vietnam at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on March 31 in Group G competition in the FIFA international match window this month.

In the FIFA international match window next June, Malaysia would end the qualifying campaign against Thailand in Bangkok on June 9.



TAG: COVID, FAM, New Zealand, friendly match, 2022 World Cup Qualification, 2023 Asian Cup Qualification, red zone