Malaysian-Belgian mixed parentage player Dion Cools is expected to join the national squad when Malaysia play against Indonesia in the fourth Group B match on December 19 in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup 2020 in Singapore.
Team manager Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi said the 25-year-old defender will be the last player to join the Harimau Malaya in Singapore after completing his duties for his club, FC Midtjylland in Denmark, who are expected to face Brondby in the quarterfinals of the Danish Cup on December 13.
Football competitions in Denmark are then expected to take a break of almost two months to make way for the winter holidays before resuming on Feb 20 next year.
“Our officials are in touch with him and he has expressed interest in joining the Harimau Malaya in the AFF Cup,” he said when met by reporters after attending the signing ceremony of a sponsorship agreement between the Little Joe air freshener company and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) here today.
Mohd Yusoff is confident that Malaysia coached by Tan Cheng Hoe will be able to qualify for the AFF Cup final after last doing so in the 2018 edition which saw the Harimau Malaya emerge runners-up after losing to Vietnam 3-2 on aggregate.
“It’s been a long time since we won the AFF Cup, it’s been more than 10 years but so far I am not saying we want to be champions again, just target the final first,” he said.
In the AFF Cup 2020, Malaysia who are drawn in Group B, dubbed the “group of death”, will open their campaign against Cambodia on December 6, followed by Laos (December 9) and two epic clashes against Vietnam (December 12) and Indonesia (December 19) in the quest to grab a slot in the semi-finals.
Since its inception in 1996, Malaysia have only emerged champions once, in 2010 when they beat Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Cheng Hoe was grateful to know that FC Midtjylland were willing to release Dion for the AFF Cup 2020 as the player is deemed a good asset and thus will add value to his team in the tournament.
“We are gonna miss Cools in the first few matches in Singapore, we have to thank his club for releasing him because sometimes clubs are reluctant to let go their players during the winter break. He’ll be available in the fourth match and I heard he’s happy and is looking forward to help us,” he said.
Cools made his sensational debut for the national squad in the Group G round two of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asia Cup qualifiers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, last June.