KUALA LUMPUR: National team head coach Kim Pan Gon urged all parties to enhance efforts in preparing Harimau Malaya for the tough challenge of qualifying for the 2027 Asian Cup following their setback in the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

The South Korean said he understands the regulations for releasing players for international duty, which means he cannot force clubs to release their players outside of the FIFA international match calendars.

However, the former Korea Football Association (KFA) Technical Director said that South Korea were once on the brink of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but the extra effort put in eventually paid off.

“I think we need to put in extra work and support. I know it’s clearly a FIFA period, we can’t demand, but even the Korean national team in crucial moments went to the World Cup 2018 final stage, we almost didn’t make it. In the home game against Iran and away game against Uzbekistan, that time we gave extra effort.

“So, when thinking about the last game against Oman and this game against Taiwan, that’s why we asked for help. But I cannot complain because that is not the rule, and it is not their obligation,” he told the post-match press conference after Malaysia defeated Taiwan 3-1 in the last Group D match of the second round of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil here last night.

Elaborating further, Pan Gon suggested that a strategic plan be formulated for the 2027 Asian Cup, taking into account the participation of clubs in international tournaments to gather the best players and form an ideal squad.

He said that Malaysia also needs to improve its ranking to place itself in Pot One for the third round of the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers starting March next year in order to avoid a more challenging path.

“If we are in the second pot, that’s very dangerous, so we must start discussing how we can improve our FIFA ranking. We need to gain more points to get into the top six and be in the first pot. Then, we improve all the players and seek support from the clubs as well.

“I can’t complain; clubs always sacrifice a lot to help the national team, which is why we are here. Otherwise, it would be very difficult. If we relied only on the FIFA period, I think Malaysia would be far behind. But going forward, we need to get more support from the clubs,” he said.

When asked if he would be discussing his proposal with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Pan Gon said that they often talk about it but there are constraints.

“I think we do a lot of talking about this one but sometimes reality hits in the Malaysian situation, even I can see that it is quite tough, very tough, but I don’t know how to fix because huge things to fix here, cannot compare with Korea and Japan because we have a very good system.

“Now i think we need to check and establish our system and produce young players - that’s most important, every year have to produce young talents,” said the 55-year-old coach.

At the end of Group D of the second round of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers, Oman and Kyrgyzstan qualified for the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers after emerging as the group champion and runner-up respectively, each accumulating 13 and 11 points.

Meanwhile, Malaysia finished third with 10 points and Taiwan at the bottom with no points..

Failure to reach the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers saw the Harimau Malaya squad having to go through the third round of the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers in an attempt to make a second consecutive appearance in the competition.