PETALING JAYA: Australian Brad Maloney will surely be grinning all the way home with the national Under-19 football team.
Maloney, who was appointed interim head coach in June, steered his charges to the AFC Under-19 Championship next year in Uzbekistan after they topped Group G in their qualifying campaign with 12 points.
They ended their campaign by edging regional rivals Thailand 1-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Umar Hakeem was the hero for Malaysia when he prodded a sumptuous cross from Azam Azmi in the 83rd minute.
Maloney said weeks of tireless work and training have paid off handsomely and is happy that his charges stuck to their principles throughout the campaign.
“The tournament has been great for us. The games have been difficult and certain things went against us but we stuck to our principles and produced positive results, ” said the former international.
“Thailand needed to win this game but we didn’t sit back and hope for a draw.
“We were resilient throughout the campaign.”
Malaysia also ended the group unbeaten as they won all four matches.
The Young Tigers kicked off their campaign by beating hosts Cambodia 5-4, followed by two thumping victories against Brunei (11-0) and Northern Mariana Islands (10-0).
The qualification means that Malaysia will be playing in their 24th AFC Under-19 Championship since its inception in 1959.
Last year, Malaysia finished last in Group D with just a point.
Maloney said the boys have what it takes to be a force to be reckoned with in the future but said that work will continue for them until next year.
“If they continue to work like this in the years to come, Malaysian football is in good hands. These boys have a bright future.
“Take Umar for example. His goal was a result of his own hard work. He doesn’t get much credit, but he continues to put in the hours.
“The boys are fearless.”