KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) today confirmed that next month’s international friendly against Saudi Arabia has been cancelled.

FAM secretary-general Datuk Noor Azman Rahman said the match against the world number 56, scheduled for January 4, had to be cancelled at the request of Saudi Arabia’s new coach, Roberto Mancini.

Noor Azman said this was because Mancini felt that his team might face Malaysia in the last 16 of the 2023 Asian Cup which will be held in Doha, Qatar from January 12-February 10.

“If Saudi Arabia emerge as Group F champions and Malaysia finish second in Group E, then these two teams will clash in the last 16 on January 30,” he said in a statement today.


According to Noor Azman, the international friendly, which was supposed to be a warm-up game ahead of the Asian Cup, had been long planned and agreed upon by both teams.

Mancini is a high-profile appointment by Saudi Arabia, with a vast experience of having coached at the club and national team levels. He also had an excellent record with English Premier League giants Manchester City and Serie A outfits Inter Milan, besides having guided Italy to emerge triumphant in Euro 2020.

It is learnt that FAM are trying to get a replacement team that is either on par with Saudi Arabia or at least meets the requirements of Harimau Malaya head coach Kim Pan Gon ahead of the Asian Cup campaign.


This will be easier said than done as most of the teams have already confirmed their friendly matches.

World number 130 Malaysia, who have qualified for the Asian Cup on merit for the first time after 42 years, will begin their Group E campaign against Jordan on January 15, followed by Bahrain on January 20 and two-time champions South Korea on January 25.

Pan Gon aims to help Harimau Malaya make history by getting past the group stage in Doha. — Bernama