PETALING JAYA: National team coach Tan Cheng Hoe has admitted that his men will not be in good shape when the World Cup 2022-Asia Cup 2023 qualifying resumes.

World football governing body, FIFA, and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have agreed that the qualifiers, scheduled for March 23-31 and June 1-9, be postponed to October and November.

On the home front, the Malaysian Football League (MFL) have proposed that the Super League restart from Sept 1 with the now reduced seven matches to be played in a single round.

“I’m concerned with the players’ condition. If the season resumes in September, they will start training in August and the national team will play the qualifiers in October. The schedule is very tight.

“As you can see, there’s not much time actually and there’s a great risk they will pick up injuries as they’ve been idle for months,” said the former international.

“We don’t have a big squad and losing any player can greatly affect our chances. They last played football in March and their trainings at home during the MCO is inadequate.

“Apart from the physical aspect, I’m also worried about their mental condition because they have been cooped up too long at home.

“Clubs in Thailand have started training while Vietnam will resume their football this month. “Their players will definitely have the edge when the qualifiers resumes.”

The Harimau Malaya are currently second with nine points from five matches in Group G of the second-round qualifiers.

Vietnam are on top with 11 points while Thailand are third on eight points. Fourth are the United Arab Emirates with six points while last-placed Indonesia are without any points.

Malaysia were scheduled to face the UAE in Dubai before hosting Vietnam at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in March. However, both matches were postponed following the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, all is not doom and gloom for the national squad.

FIFA recently given the green light for naturalised player Liridon Krasniqi to don the national jersey.

“Of course, it’s always good to have more options to pick from but he will have to earn his spot just like everyone else. Once the league resumes, all players must perform to earn the call-up.”

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