Malaysia's Tri-Nations displays suggest Kim Pan-gon has plenty to work with

Still only 19, Arif Aiman looks to be the future of Malaysian football and featured in both of Harimau Malaya's games at the FAS Tri-Nations Series 2022 against Philippines and Singapore. Football Association of Malaysia

Malaysia may have had contrasting fortunes in their recent FAS Tri-Nations Series 2022 exploits -- beginning with a 2-0 win over Philippines on Wednesday before losing 2-1 to fierce rivals Singapore on Saturday.

If the displays in his first two games at the helm are anything to go by, it is safe to say that new Harimau Malaya coach Kim Pan-gon will be quietly optimistic that he has plenty of talent to work with moving forward.

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Especially in their opening victory over Philippines, Malaysia displayed a verve and intensity that had been absent from their game for awhile now -- especially at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup when they were disappointingly eliminated from the group stage.

There was no shortage of standout performers in that contest -- which they could and perhaps should have won by a greater margin -- even though it was two-goal hero Akhyar Rashid who grabbed the headlines, with the likes of Dion Cools, La'Vere Corbin-Ong and Kogileswaran Raj all catching the eye.

Then, against Singapore, Harimau Malaya also showed promising signs with their intensity and cohesion in a fierce battle that belied the game's 'friendly' status, and were only undone by an incisive counterattack and a individual piece of brilliance.

The dilemma for Kim now will be to balance the immediate target of reaching AFC Asian Cup 2023 -- with the qualifiers taking place in June -- with the long-term progress of the Malaysian national team.

Based on their two most recent displays, as well as those from the Suzuki Cup, it is evident that some of Malaysia's old guard continue to be among their best players.

Even at the age of 34, Safiq Rahim showed against Philippines and Singapore that he remains Malaysia's most-influential midfielder while Aidil Zafuan still has plenty to offer in defence. Veteran goalkeepers Farizal Marlias and Khairul Fahmi also appear to be the best bets between the posts.

But Malaysia also boast plenty of exciting young talent in Arif Aiman, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin, Safawi Rasid and Kogileswaran, who may not be ready to lead the team to an Asian Cup right now but who represent the future and will only benefit from continued exposure at international level.

The Football Association of Malaysia's recent dealings with naturalisation of foreign-born players has also had varying degrees of success. Mohamadou Sumareh has shown glimpses of the impact he can have but is yet to find consistency, while Liridon Krasniqi has had his fair share of critics but did hit back with a goal against Singapore after coming on as a substitute.

Considering Kim has been handed an initial two-year contract, it would be impossible to hold it against him if he is to focus on the immediate and aim for Asian Cup qualification -- which is certainly not beyond Harimau Malaya in a group that will pit them against Bahrain, Turkmenistan and Bangladesh with home ground advantage.

And that could mean keeping the faith in the tried and tested campaigners.

Nonetheless, for the future of a Malaysia outfit that -- even on the regional stage -- last tasted success in 2010 when they won their first and only Suzuki Cup, it could also be imperative that Kim also works with the undeniable young talent he has at his disposal and gives them their chance to shine.