PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will not rest on their laurels after having qualified to the AFC Under-16 Championship Finals in Thailand next year.
National Under-16 coach S. Balachandran said the boys will have to hone their skills further with playing cum training stints in Japan and Europe.
“The boys will have to work hard in their bid to scale greater heights. We have a long way to go and we should always aim for higher goals. What we have achieved is good but we must continue to raise the bar even higher if we want to be on par with the giants of the game,” said Balachandran after returning home with the team from Vientiane on Monday,
In the AFC qualifying competition in Group H, Malaysia emerged champions. They were held to a 1-1 draw by hosts Laos in their opening match before thrashing Brunei 8-0. In their third match, Malaysia stunned favourites South Korea 2-0 and ran riot whipping minnows Guam 13-0.
A total of 43 teams divided into 10 groups competed in the qualifying tournament. The 10 group winners and five best second-placed teams qualified for the Finals in Thailand next year.
Last month the national Under-16 boys won the Asean Football Federation (AFF) competition in Myanmar. Balachandran said their victory in Vientiane was no fluke.
“We had a slow start against hosts Laos (1-1) but we raised our game in the remaining fixtures and we even beat South Korea (2-0). Now we have to prepare ourselves for the Finals in Thailand next year. We will be seeded as the champions of our group and we will have to be ready to make an impact in this tournament.
“Technically, we are on par with the top teams. We have to work on other tactical aspects to meet the bigger challenges in store in the Finals,” said Balachandran, a former KLFA Academy coach (2000-2011), who has groomed talents such as national players Mohd Safee Sali and Yong Kuong Yong.