Tour 2015 - Dollah aims for 'miracle' in Malaysia
19 May 2015|Tottenham Hotspur
It's a long road to international football's promised land of the World Cup Finals for Malaysia - but national team coach Dollah Salleh hopes he will be taking the first steps towards this 'miracle' with our friendly against Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, May 27.
One of his country's best-ever players with no less than 97 caps to his name, Dollah is using our friendly at the Shah Alam Stadium as preparation for Malaysia's FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign.
Malaysia had four qualifying stages to reach the 2014 finals in Brazil.
They made it through the first preliminary round against Chinese Taipei back in June 2011 but fell at the next hurdle against local rivals Singapore.
Asian qualifying then went into phase three - five groups producing 10 qualifiers - before the final phase of two groups of five with the top two making it through to Brazil 2014 - Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran.
The qualifying process has changed for the 2018 finals in Russia.
Malaysia have gone straight into the second phase of qualifying which now consists of 40 teams - eight groups of five in a round-robin format - with eight group winners and four best runners-up going through to Round Three. Those 12 teams will split into two groups of six with the top two in each group going straight through to Russia.
Malaysia kick-off against Timor-Leste on June 11 and will play UAE, Saudi Arabia and Palestine home and away in a bid to make it into phase three.
Below: Dollah and the Malaysia bench celebrate a goal against Thailand
It's therefore no surprise that Dollah is looking forward to getting his players together - albeit under the Malaysia XI banner - for this friendly.
What are your thoughts on the game against Spurs?
Dollah Salleh: “My first thought is that it’s good experience for our local players and then, I think about our preparations for the World Cup qualifying round.”
Are the players looking forward to the challenge?
Dollah: “Yes, of course. As I just mentioned, it’s about experience and we will play against some big names. We will try to do something in the game, but we do have some core players still involved in the AFC Cup. That’s why we’ve called up five foreign players to participate.”
The Premier League is very popular in Malaysia and Asia in general. Do you watch regularly yourself?
Dollah: “Yes, as a coach and even when I was a player. The Premier League is one of the most popular leagues in the world. I don’t support any clubs but I always watch the individual players that I like to see.”
What is the next big target for the Malaysian national team? The 2018 World Cup?
Dollah: “It’s not easy but of course we will try to work a miracle - people don’t expect that we can go that far. I believe I will try to do something. I need some time with all the players together and as a coach, I will try my very best. As I just said, I will try to do something miraculous for Malaysia.”
Can you tell us about the Malaysian League? What is the strength of the domestic game at the moment?
Dollah: “Actually, our league is improving a lot. I believe our league is getting better and better due to our foreign players. There are many good foreign players coming to Malaysia because we are one of the best leagues in Asia. Our individual players are getting better and better.”
You played 97 times for Malaysia. What is like to now manage the national team?
Dollah: “I still remember when I played against South Korea, my first match for the national team and I scored the winning goal, we won 1-0. As a coach, I want to make a miracle for the national team and I hope that one day Malaysia will qualify for the World Cup, hopefully.”
Below: Dollah's interview on Spurs TV