WHEN Cambodia scored their third goal in the 68th minute, the heads went down. And when the final whistle went, the Malaysian players sank to their knees.
They knew they had let the country down. It was the country’s first-ever defeat to Cambodia and a shameful exit for a team touted to be group-toppers before the start of the event.
A crestfallen captain Adam Nor Azlin declared that he had failed as the captain of the team.
After just one win – even that against no-hopers Timor Leste – and fourth place in the five-team group, Adam did not hide his feelings and said that the whole team were disappointed.
The Johor Darul Ta’zim centreback felt his teammates did their best but luck deserted them most times.
He has told the younger players, who are still eligible to play in the 2021 Games and 2022 Asian Games, to learn from the disastrous outing in Manila.
“This is truly disappointing, ” said the 23-year-old, one of two overaged players selected by coach Ong Kim Swee.
“We have failed and I have failed as a captain. But, this won’t be forever. We cannot dwell on it. We have to do our homework and be better prepared in future tournaments.
Adam said Kim Swee cannot be blamed because he gave his instructions well, it is the players who should bear the responsibility.
“We are professionals and we have always been taught that there will be a time when we will bounce back. Right now, a lot of work is needed.
Adam was in the team that qualified for the final in 2017 only to lose to Thailand 0-1 at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Many expected the team to bounce back from that defeat, but this outing has certainly shown that the Under-23 team have regressed.
“Some people have claimed that we need players like Safawi (Rasid) but we cannot place the burden on one player.
“When you are selected for the national team, everyone should shoulder the
responsibility. Not one or two individuals. This failure will only make us stronger in the future.
“Players need to believe in the coach and execute whatever he says. I am sure these boys will bounce back.”
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