KUALA LUMPUR: It would be unfair to pin the blame of the national team's struggles this year solely on Portugal’s Nelo Vingada, who quit as national coach yesterday after five months in charge.
Malaysia failed to win any of the seven matches Vingada oversaw since June though he should be credited with injecting a stale-looking national team with youthful vigour.
What worked against Vingada was the lack of time to see through the changes he sought to make in the face of a demanding public seeking instant results.
While many factors contributed to Vingada's downfall, the players in the team should also bear some responsibility.
Defender Shahrom Kalam, who started in six of the seven matches under Vingada, feels the blame should be spread around.
"I was surprised to hear the coach had resigned as I thought he was making progress even though the results were obviously not there," said Shahrom, who has played 21 times for the national team, yesterday.
"We, as players, must also be partly responsible for what has happened. But we can't do much about Vingada leaving and now have to wait to see what happens next."
Vingada’s selection choices were called into question especially in November’s back-to-back Asian Cup qualifiers against North Korea in Buriram.
Only Shahrom, goalkeeper Hafizul Hakim Khairul Nizam Jothy and midfielder Kiko Insa were ever-present in Vingada's line-up as the Portuguese looked to find a right blend between experienced and young players.
Vingada gave 10 players their international debut since June including Under-23 players Adam Nor Azlin, Ahmad Khairil Anuar Zamri, Nor Azam Azih, Syafiq Ahmad and Syamer Kutty Abba.
Others who got their first taste of international football under Vingada are Afiq Fazail, Amirul Azhan Aznan, Shahrel Fikri Fauzi, Insa and Hafizul but a team with so few experienced internationals was always going to struggle.
Whoever the FA of Malaysia appoint to replace Vingada, some players will have reason to fear for their international futures.
Any new coach will be seeking to make changes but Shahrom believes it is too soon to rush to judgment.
"We don't even have a clue as to who will become the next national coach so I think it is too soon to say my international career is over," said Shahrom, 32, who is evaluating his options for next season after the end of his contract with Perak.
Working to the advantage of the next national coach is the availability of players who have been sidelined by injury or fatigue this year.
Johor Darul Ta'zim midfielder Natxo Insa, whose brother Kiko plays for Pahang, revealed recently he will be available for selection next year after playing non-stop football since mid-2016 when he was still with Levante.
Midfielder Brendan Gan has recovered from a long-term knee injury while defender Aidil Zafuan Radzak has only one match left of a four-game ban to serve after being sent off against Hong Kong in September.