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 By Nicolas Anil

Nelo Vingada calls up six SEA Games players for Malaysia qualifiers

Malaysia midfielder Brendan Gan opens up about his recovery from knee injury, free agency and his ambition for a comeback.

Head coach Nelo Vingada has called up six players from the Southeast (SEA) Asian Games squad for Malaysia's upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers against North Korea and Hong Kong.

Malaysia's under-22 side clinched the men's football silver medal at last month's multi-sports festival in Kuala Lumpur.

Ifwat Akmal, Safawi Rasid, Matthew Davies, Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Syamer Kutty Abba and Adam Nor Azlin were the six chosen by the Portuguese boss for the crucial away clashes against North Korea on Oct. 5, and Hong Kong on Oct. 10.

However, there was no call up for N. Thanabalan, Malaysia's four-goal hero at the SEA Games.

Vingada had earlier spoken of using the services of Ong Kim Swee's men in his mission to revive Malaysia's disastrous qualifying campaign so far.

The national team are bottom of Group B, with one point from two games, both played at home. Failure to win at least one of the upcoming matches will effectively end their chances of qualifying for the tournament.

A fortuitous 1-1 draw against Hong Kong on Sept. 5 gave the Malaysians their only point after the visitors missed an added-time penalty. They were reduced to nine men in that match after losing defenders Rizal Ghazali and Aidil Zafuan, who were red carded in the dying stages.

Vingada's first match in charge of Malaysia ended in a 2-1 defeat to group leaders Lebanon, who were missing JDT striker Mohammed Ghaddar, on June 13.

The Harimau Malaya then fell to two friendly defeats against Syria (2-1, home) and Myanmar (1-0, away), in warm-up games for the Hong Kong match.

The 24-man squad will report for centralised training in Johor on Sept. 30, before they leave for Pyongyang, via Singapore and Beijing, on Oct. 3.

Malaysia's Vingada, Safiq, Tan Cheng Hoe
Malaysia coach Nelo Vingada, left, has yet to win a match after three losses and one draw since taking over in May.

Malaysia's match against the North Koreans have been twice postponed due to strained diplomatic ties, following the death of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

The game was supposed to be played on March 28, before it was postponed until June 8. But the Asian Football Confederation still deemed travelling to the Republic a risk at that time, and rescheduled the game for Oct. 5.

The Asian body gave their assurance for this match after Lebanon played in Pyongyang on Sept. 5 in an incident-free encounter. The North Korean government has also guaranteed the safety of the Malaysian national squad for this crunch qualifier.

Malaysia squad vs. North Korea and Hong Kong:

Ifwat Akmal (Kedah), Baddrol Bakhtiar (Kedah), Syazwan Zainon (Kedah), Khairul Helmi Johari (Kedah), Akram Mahinan (Kedah), Fitri Omar (Kedah), Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (JDT), Safiq Rahim (JDT), Amirulhadi Zainal (JDT), Darren Lok (JDT), Nazmi Faiz (JDT), Safawi Rasid (JDT), Hafizul Hakim (Perak), Shahrom Kalam (Perak), Nazirul Naim (Perak), Amirul Azhan (Perak), Kiko Insa (Pahang), Mattew Davies (Pahang), Nor Azam Abdul Azih (Pahang), Khairul Azhan Khalid (Selangor), Adam Nor Azlin (Selangor), Wan Zack Haikal (Felda United), Shahrel Fikri (PKNP FC), Syamer Kutty Abba (Penang)

Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.

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