PETALING JAYA: The withdrawal of Solomon Islands from the Airmarine Cup will not affect the inaugural tournament.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have already lined up replacements and they are expected to be named today.

Solomon Islands pulled out from the four-nation tournament as they have lined up three friendlies during the FIFA international match calendar from March 18-26.

In an international window, teams can play no more than two matches according to FIFA rules.

The islanders had two matches in the Airmarine Cup from March 20-23 and a friendly with Taiwan on March 24.

FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam said that they have two candidates from West and South Asia as the replacement.

“Solomon Islands had a pre-arranged friendly with Taiwan and they couldn’t cancel it. We wanted teams from all of the region in this tournament, so we picked them,” said Stuart.

“But they have been advised by the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) to withdraw.

“We’ll get another team as their replacement and they will be a team ranked higher than us.”

Getting good results against Oman (90th), Singapore (165th) and the replacement team in the Airmarine Cup will give the 167th-ranked Malaysia the necessary points boost ahead of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

Malaysia, who are currently 35th in Asia, are in danger of playing in the preliminary round of the qualifiers.

“We need to be in Asia’s top 34 when the qualifying stages come around to avoid the first round. We’re currently in 35th position and we need to be at least a rung higher before the draw for the qualifiers,” said Stuart.

Source from: The Star