Harimau Malaya’s World Cup hopes dim despite beating Taiwan 3-1

Taiwan’s Emilio Estevez attempts a shot at goal in the Group D match against Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium tonight. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s hopes of going further in the World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign are as good as over despite the Harimau Malaya defeating Taiwan 3-1 in their final Group D match in the second round of the World Cup 2026/Asian Cup 2027 qualifiers here tonight.

Malaysia will now have to hope for Oman to thrash Kyrgyzstan in the other Group D match in Muscat which is scheduled to start at midnight.

Oman need to win by at least seven goals for Malaysia to pip Kyrgyzstan to second place in the group on goal difference and thus, qualify for the third round of the World Cup 2026 qualifiers.

However, if that does not happen, tonight’s result will also douse Malaysia’s hopes of early qualification for the 2027 Asian Cup Finals. The Harimau Malaya squad will have to get past the third qualifying round to ensure a second consecutive appearance in the Asian Cup Finals.

Malaysia took to the field knowing that they needed to win by a big margin. Unfortunately, in their haste to rack up the goals, they left gaping holes in their defence and Taiwan, off one of their counterattacks, opened their account through striker Yu Yao-hsing in the 20th minute.

The goal was a result of a mistake by Akhyar Rashid who, in trying to take the ball out from Malaysia’s half, sent it straight to Kouame Ange Samuel who then rolled the ball to Yao-hsing to coolly beat the offside trap and goalkeeper Azri Abdul Ghani.

Stunned by the goal, Malaysia continued to waste several gilt-edged chances, with Safawi Rasid’s effort missing the target and Akhyar’s attempt saved by Taiwan goalkeeper Pan Wen-Chieh.

With Malaysia throwing bodies forward in search of the equaliser, Taiwan opted for swift counterattacks, leaving Azri having to be alert to stop two consecutive attempts from Emilio Esteves in the 29th minute.

The Malaysian players continued to be wasteful in front of their opponent’s goalmouth, with Akhyar the main culprit when, after receiving a pass from Safawi, he failed to beat Wen-chieh in a one-on-one situation in the 41st minute.

In the second half, Malaysia continued from where they left off and it paid off in the 53rd minute when Wen-chieh failed to hold a powerful shot by Safawi from outside the box.

The national team then doubled their lead in the 69th minute when naturalised midfielder Paulo Josue finished off a pass from La’vere Corbin-Ong off a move that started from the left.

Substitute Adib Abdul Ra’op then made it 3-1 in injury time with his first international goal in his second appearance.

Malaysia, who have completed their fixtures, currently lie third in the four-team group with 10 points, the same as Kyrgyzstan (second). Oman lead the group with 12 points while Taiwan prop up the standing with no points.


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