Coach Nelo Vingada believes the postponement of the game in North Korea will give Malaysia added impetus to beat Hong Kong on Oct. 10 to register their first win of a stuttering 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign.
Malaysia's trip to Pyongyang on Oct. 5 was called off for the third time by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Thursday after Malaysia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel ban.
"At first, we had to prepare for both North Korea and Hong Kong. But after the ban from the government, which was confirmed by AFC, our focus will be solely towards Hong Kong who are our strongest challengers," the Malaysian head coach told Berita Harian.
"When the players report for centralised training on Wednesday, their preparations and focus would be based on my input on Hong Kong only. A win is mandatory for us to continue our challenge against Lebanon and North Korea."
The 24-man squad will report for centralised training on Oct. 4 at the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) headquarters before leaving for Hong Kong on Oct. 6.
For winless Vingada, he must immediately produce results to match the rhetoric about how an experienced, foreign coach would improve the fortunes of the national team.
So far, he has done worse than his predecessor Ong Kim Swee, despite having the full support of Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) -- with four of their players coming out of retirement -- and JDT owner TMJ, who is also the FAM president.
Lose another game, and the chances of Harimau Malaya making it out of Group B would be remote, with only one point from two home games to begin their campaign, and given their appalling away record in recent years.
Since coming on board in May, the ex-Portugal boss has overseen three losses and a draw.
Malaysia's first qualifying match against Lebanon on June 13 ended in a 2-1 home defeat before they escaped with a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong on Sept. 5 after the visitors missed an added-time penalty.
Sandwiched between both the home qualifiers were the friendly defeats to Syria (2-1, home), Myanmar (1-0, away).
After Hong Kong, Malaysia will prepare to face North Korea at home on Nov. 14.
The Malaysians last won a game at last November's AFF Suzuki Cup under previous coach Ong when they defeated Cambodia 3-2 in Myanmar.