KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — 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 (Malaysian time).

Oman need to win at least 7-0 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 doesn’t happen, tonight’s result has also doused Malaysia’s hopes of qualifying earlier 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.

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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 accounts through striker Yu Yao-Hsing in the 20th minute.

The goal was a result of a mistake by Muhammad Akhyar Abdul 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 cooly beat the offside trap and goalkeeper Muhammad Azri Abdul Ghani.

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

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With Malaysia throwing bodies forward in search of the equaliser, Taiwan opted for swift counterattacks, leaving Muhammad 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 Muhammad Akhyar the main culprit when, after receiving a pass from Muhammad Safawi, 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 gather a powerful shot by Muhammad 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 Muhammad 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, are currently third in the four-team standings with 10 points, the same as Kyrgyzstan (second). Oman lead the group with 12 points while Taiwan prop up the standing with no points. — Bernama