Cools said the two friendlies away from home are important matches ahead of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers starting this November and the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar in January next year.
“We had two very good games (in June) but now it’s time for some serious work, very important games are coming up, two very strong opponents,” said Cools.
Cools is looking forward to leading the team against Syria (Sept 6) and China (Sept 9) in Chengdu, China.
The task won’t be easy, though, as Malaysia will be facing teams that are much higher ranked than them.
China are ranked 81st in the world, while Syria are ranked 90th. Harimau Malaya are currently ranked 138th.
Cools, 27, will return to captain Harimau Malaya led by Kim Pan-gon after not being able to join the team last June as he was getting married.
“Last time, I was getting married, couldn’t be here but the team did a good job. Now it is time for serious work. Important games coming up, two important opponents, getting ready for the World Cup qualifiers and the Asian Cup in January,” said Dion, who plies his trade for Thai club Buriram United.
“Playing home or away is different. Being away has more pressure. Playing in China would see where we are as a team. It will be a good challenge.
“If we look at the rankings, these teams (Syria and China) are close to the opponents we are facing in the Asian Cup in terms of ranking.
“We will play Jordan in the Asian Cup. We are facing teams at their level.
“We want to see if we are good enough to beat them. We will take it step by step and see what needs to be done.”
Meanwhile, in an FAM Facebook post today, their president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin wants improved performance from the players starting from the two matches in Chengdu as they face the 2026 World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers next year.
“This is the testing ground for Harimau Malaya ahead of the Asian Cup which begins with two actions in China before facing India and Palestine/Tajikstan at the 2023 Merdeka Festival. Next in November, the World Cup 2026/Asian Cup 2027 Qualifying campaign against Kyrgyzstan.
“All of these teams are ranked higher than us. Of course, this is the best testing ground for us to showcase our true ability to compete with the best teams in Asia,” he said.