Breaking Travel News

How Underdogs Malaysia Are Preparing For The 2023 AFC Asian Cup

How Underdogs Malaysia Are Preparing For The 2023 AFC Asian Cup

The Asian Cup comes around every four years, but for some countries, the wait is much longer than that.

For Malaysia, the last time they qualified for an Asian Cup tournament that they didn’t host was back in 1980.
They did co-host the Asian Cup in 2007 but were the worst team at the tournament, losing all three matches.

So it’s been a long wait for any kind of Asian Cup success.

But in head coach Kim Pan-gon, they have somebody who knows what it is like to appear at major tournaments.

During his time as vice-president of the Korean Football Association, Kim was at both the 2018 World Cup and 2022 World Cup. He’s the man in the background of the famous “Cheer’s Son’s crying” meme and was the head of the committee responsible for hiring former South Korea head coach Paulo Bento. Now, Kim wants to take that expertise to help Malaysia reach their potential.
“That is what Malaysia is expecting when they hire me, that knowledge” Kim says.


Malaysian players will have a training camp at the end of December before heading off to Doha ahead of the tournament. Playing in a tournament on the other side of the world can bring all sorts of off-the-field challenges. Many in Europe associate Qatar with the difficulties of playing in the hot weather, but for Malaysia, Kim says the somewhat colder weather, especially at night, means the backroom staff have to make sure none of the players get sick with a cold or similar illnesses.

When it comes to what happens on the pitch, Kim said that while he has often selected young players, for this tournament, he decided to go with experience, cutting some young players and instead selecting physically and mentally strong players who are more experienced.

Since taking over the Malaysia national team at the start of 2022, the 54-year-old head coach has been working to convince his players that they had the ability to defend aggressively and play proactively. Such efforts have seen Malaysia climb the FIFA rankings from 154 in the world when Kim took over up to 130 now. But they are still outsiders in Group E that contains Jordan, Bahrain, and Kim’s homeland South Korea.
Kim says that the pressure will be on Malaysia’s opponents, as those sides will be expecting a win, whereas for Malaysia, a draw would be good. If Malaysia can keep the game tight, then that pressure on their opponents, who “think they have to beat us” will increase and Malaysia could nick a goal. Accordingly, Kim says his training camp will focus more on the defensive side of the game as well as set pieces.

Another challenge of tournaments is keeping players in the right state of mind. Kim says that as the 2023 Asian Cup comes at the end of Malaysia’s domestic soccer season, the players could be tired mentally. With such a long training camp before the tournament, Kim has also planned team building activities off-the-pitch.

While the players shouldn’t need motivating for a big tournament like the Asian Cup, Kim says him and his staff will be working to keep them psychologically fresh and build their confidence, looking to convince the Malaysian players that they can go toe-to-toe with their opponents.

He’ll find out whether those methods worked on January 15 when Malaysia take on Jordan in their first game of the 2023 Asian Cup