KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — Besides amazing match strategies, Under 23 head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has the aura to ensure his players remain positive throughout the AFC U-23 Championship in China, recently.
Defender Dominic Tan revealed the 48-year-old coach from Melaka often gave words of motivations which were the key to the rise of the Malaysian squad to deliver a surprise by advancing to the quarter-final.
“In the AFC U-23 Championship, every country seemed to have an advantage over us. So, in the first match against Iraq we were in a shock, but managed to arise (to the occasion) in the next two matches.
“He (Kim Swee) always believes in our ability and often says that there is no difference between us and the opposing team. Those were the words which made us more confident and ultimately prove that we are able to compete with them.”
Asked about the championship, Dominic admitted it was a tough competition but was still satisfied when they achieved the target set by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), namely, to get past the group stage.
“It is a different level for Malaysia but we have achieved our goal. I was sad when the goalmouth was breached in the final moments of the match but this is football. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.”
Malaysia started the campaign with a 1-4 loss to Iraq before rising to draw 1-1 with Jordan, followed by a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
The Young Tigers lost 1-2 to South Korea in the quarter-final match.
Despite the loss, Malaysia did well to level the score via substitute striker N.Thanabalan after trailing 0-1 just 15 seconds into the match.
However, Malaysia’s hope of another upset ended when Han Seung-Gyu scored the winner for South Korea in the 85th minute to secure a place in the semi-final. — Bernama