KUALA LUMPUR (June 15): National mixed-heritage centre-back Dion Cools has zero regrets in deciding to represent Malaysia on the international stage following the success of the Harimau Malaya (national football squad) in qualifying for the 2023 Asian Cup, last night.
Cools, who joined the national team about a year ago, said he was happy with his choice and the decision was made not based on football aspects alone but on everything related to the country.
“I’m Malaysian by blood as well, so for me I would die for the country.
“I give everything on the pitch so as long as I have this mentality then I can give my 100 per cent every time for the team and the whole country,” the player of Belgian-Malaysian parentage said at the post-match press conference after Malaysia thrashed Bangladesh 4-1 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil to seal a spot in the Asian Cup, last night.
In their final Group E match of the Asian Cup Qualifiers last night, Malaysia clinched a convincing win and ended with six points to finish behind champions Bahrain thus booking their ticket to the prestigious competition as one of the best five runners-up.
Cools appeared among the scorers for Malaysia which saw him finally scoring his first goal with the national squad, besides Muhammad Safawi Rasid, Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad and Darren Lok who also manage to get their names on the scoresheet.
Despite having scored a couple of goals with his club in Europe, Cools, who is currently on loan to Zulte Waregem from FC Midtjylland, said the feeling of scoring for the national team was different, especially when the goal was the very first.
“To score my first goal today (last night) for me was an amazing moment. I don’t think I really realised what was happening at that moment, but this was a good moment to score, I will enjoy and I hope soon I score more goals,” said the 26-year-old defender.
Meanwhile, Cools who was named player of the match in last night’s game, admitted that he was satisfied with his teammates’ commitment and fighting spirit throughout the qualifying campaign.
“We’ve been here one month already, so to finally qualify for the Asian Cup is the cherry on top of the very big cake,” he said.
For the record, Cools joined the national team ahead of the second round of the 2022 World Cup/ 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April last year before being selected for the 2020 AFF Cup also last year.
Malaysia last played in the Asian Cup in 2007 when they co-hosted the tournament, but it has been more than 40 years of failing to advance (to the finals) on merit since the 1980 edition in Kuwait. — Bernama