PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will play Middle East giants Iraq in a warm-up match ahead of their Asian Cup qualifying campaign, which begins next month.
Team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal said more quality friendlies are on the cards besides the one against Iraq in Dubai on Feb 1.
He said this after announcing the national team’s full calendar during a press conference at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.
He also said that the FA of Malaysia (FAM) had been in contact with several countries, including Thailand, Jordan, China, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, India and North Korea, to set up friendlies in between their Asian Cup qualifying round campaign, which concludes in March 2014.
“We have planned our calendar for this year and are on the right track in our preparations for the Asian Cup qualifying rounds. We have lined up several top notch sparring matches to give the national team a competitive edge,” he said.
The national team are scheduled to play Qatar in their opening Asian Cup qualifying Group D fixture in Doha on Feb 6 before hosting Yemen at home on March 22.
The competition will take a seven-month break before resuming with Malaysia hosting Bahrain at home on Oct 15.
The second round fixtures are against Bahrain away on Nov 15, Qatar at home on Nov 19 and Yemen away on March 5 next year.
National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal said the national team would have the opportunity to close the gap on the Asian giants during the Asian Cup qualifying rounds.
“Everyone knows this is a different level of competition altogether. We can try to close the gap on the stronger footballing nations in Asia,” he said.
A total of 20 teams have been divided into five groups of four teams each. The top two teams from each group and the best third-placed team among all the groups will qualify for the tournament proper in Australia in 2015.
Asian Cup 2011 winners Japan, hosts and runners-up Australia, third-placed South Korea, AFC Challenge Cup 2012 winners North Korea and the champions of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup will get direct berths in the Finals.
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