Malaysian football now behind Thailand, Vietnam

Malaysian football now behind Thailand, Vietnam
Kim Swee speaks to the media after the 1-0 loss to Thailand in the group stage.

SINGAPORE - Malaysia won the SEA Games football gold medal in two successive editions - 2009 (Laos) and 2011 (Indonesia).

Datuk K. Rajagopal took the national Under-23 team to victory in Laos while Datuk Ong Kim Swee continued the success in Jakarta.

Both coaches were feted for making Malaysia the kingpins once again in the region.

But the last two Games have shown how far Malaysian football has regressed.

In Myanmar two years ago, the team under Kim Swee lost to Indonesia on penalties in the semi-finals.

This time, they may not even go that far.

A 1-0 loss to Thailand in their third Group B match at the Bishan Stadium on Thursday has put Malaysia on the brink of elimination at the group stage.

Skipper Sarach Yoo Yen struck the winner for Thailand from outside the box with an unstoppable shot in the 80th minute. This comes in the wake of the embarrassing 5-1 humbling by Vietnam on Tuesday.

Malaysia, who edged Timor Leste 1-0 in their opening match, are now fourth in the group with three points from three matches. Their remaining matches are against Brunei (Monday) and Laos (Thursday).

But those two remaining matches may not matter much as the fancied Thailand and Vietnam are now in the drivers' seat to qualify for the semi-finals from Group B.

And this has put coach Kim Swee's future in doubt.

Kim Swee, whose contract ends in December, said that he would decide on his future after completing the two final group fixtures.

"Our preparations for the last two SEA Games were longer and we managed to do well. This year, we had only two months to prepare," said Kim Swee.

"I'm not playing the blame game ... we have to accept that Thailand and Vietnam are above us now. We have to look at how long they prepared for the tournament.

"We were drawn in a tough group, and it's unfortunate that we had to play Vietnam and Thailand early. Losing to Vietnam put us under pressure for this match but we have to admit we lost to a better team."

Commenting on the loss, Kim Swee said his side failed to capitalise on their chances and paid the price.

Midfielder Gary Steven Robbat had the best chance in the 38th minute. He found himself in plenty of space at the edge of the Thailand box but was quickly closed down by a Thai defender before he could take a shot.

"We had a chance in the first half but Gary couldn't convert it. Our opponents took theirs well and it made a difference," said Kim Swee.

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