Malaysia offered cash incentive to beat Hong Kong in Asian Cup qualifier
Coach Nelo Vingada has promised his Malaysia side will "fight and run" in their mission to earn a first victory of their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign when they face Hong Kong away from home on Tuesday night.
The Portuguese head coach, who is winless in four matches since taking over the team in May, desperately needs three points to lift the Malaysians from the bottom of Group B.
"We have come here with optimism to run and fight for the win," Vingada said.
"This team is better than when I arrived. The players have had more time working with me, and I know their level having been in Malaysia for some time now. We have had some adversities along with way, and done our best to overcome them.
"[Tuesday] will be like a final."
The teams are familiar with each other's style, having played a 1-1 draw in the Sept. 5 clash at Malacca's Hang Jebat Stadium.
For the visitors, an added incentive to chase a first victory of the year is also a RM30,000 bonus promised by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president.
Malaysia's search for goals and three points will be made difficult, with one out-and-out striker in Darren Lok after Shahrel Fikri and Ahmad Hazwan Bakri pulled out through injuries.
Malaysia have scored only three goals in five matches this year.
Apart from Syazwan Zainon's equaliser against Hong Kong, Malaysia netted in the 2-1 losses to Lebanon in their first qualifier on June 13, and against Syria in an August friendly.
Kim Pan-Gon fielded seven naturalised players against Malaysia last month, and will look to a foreign-born trio for this match. The Dragons will rely on the physical strength of ex-Brazil native Sandro, Jaimes McKee and Jordi Tarres to unsettle the Malaysian backline.
Vingada's men boast a decent record at Hong Kong Stadium, having drawn 1-1 in 2011 and won 3-0 in 2012 under former coach K. Rajagobal. A victory for Malaysia could take them to second in the group, which offers automatic qualification spot to the Asian Cup.
Lebanon, runaway Group B leaders on seven points, could also do Malaysia a big favour by defeating North Korea in the later match.
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.