IT was a sham, it was shameful and the national Under-23 football team were a shambles in Manila.
Not only were they humiliated by Cambodia 1-3 in their final Group A match of the SEA Games, they finished the group in fourth place with just four points, ahead only of Timor Leste.
The last time Malaysia were booted out at the group stages was in 2015, when they finished behind Thailand and Vietnam in Group B.
Cambodia scored through Sodavid (55th minute), Sieng Chanthea (56th) and Keo Sokpheng (68th) to take a healthy lead before Malaysia’s consolation goal by substitute Quentin Chang in the 89th minute. It was the first time ever that Malaysia had lost to Cambodia in the SEA Games.
Myanmar and Cambodia qualified for the semi-finals although Philippines beat Timor Leste 6-1. Cambodia pipped Philippines on a one-goal goal difference.The real talking point, however, was Malaysia’s exit as they had come in fancied to be the group winners after having lost 0-1 in the final to Thailand two years ago.
After all, Malaysia had been drawn in the weaker group as Group B had the more fancied Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Laos and Brunei.
There will now be question marks over the poor performance of the Harimau Muda who were toothless in almost all games except against hapless Timor Leste.
As the team prepare for an early flight home today, coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said his players have learned a valuable lesson.“They must understand that Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Laos are no more pushovers. They have grown in the last five to six years, “ he said.
“Congratulations to Cambodia. We did not play well. We struggled every time. Even before flying to Manila, I told everyone this group would not be easy.
“We should never take things for granted.”
Kim Swee said the short preparation was not ideal for the team. The likes of Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos and even Vietnam had prepared months ahead of the Games.
“We have to look back at how we prepared the team. We could not show our real strength since day one.
“We did not play our usual game yesterday. We have the same players but they have not been together for a while. Some have not been playing regularly. We only had a few days after the World Cup qualifiers to get them together.
He stated that longer preparation has always benefited the junior teams in the country.
“Right now, I do not want to point fingers at any one. We were just not good enough.
“For me, it’s not the end of the world, we have to buck up. This is an important wake-up call in our football.”
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