Check out highlights and goals in Malaysia's 2-1 victory over Thailand here
Have the Malaysian U-23 players become men overnight with their come from behind 2-1 victory over Thailand this evening to book their Laos Sea Games soccer semifinals berth?
While coach K. Rajagobal and his staff, and the players should be commended for their spirited, committed, focused and determined display, to down Thailand and reach the semifinals after missing the berth in the last two editions of the Games, it is far too early to celebrate.
Striker Ahmad Fakri Saarani who scored a last-gasp winning goal in stoppage time against defending champions Thailand to put Malaysia into the semi-finals of the men’s football competition being pinned down. - Starpix
The very officials who had condemned Rajagobal and his players after their disgraceful outing against Vietnam, where they harassed the referee, might be singing praises of the team today.
Make no mistake that there is no compromise for their indiscipline of the players, but all matters must viewed in the right perspective and not let the emotions, just like the players, get the better of officials.
In any case, lets hold our horses before rejoicing or singing heaps of praises to the team! Lets not get carried away. The team has only reached the semifinals.
Let us be reminded that the last time we won the Sea Games gold was 20 years ago in the 1989 Sea Games hosted in Kuala Lumpur when Englishman, Trevor Hartley coached the team to victory over Singapore in the final.
A loss against host Laos in the semifinals, will most probably see the team crucified again, although the initial target for the team, was to qualify for the semifinals.
This is Malaysian sports. Many allow their heart to rule their mouth rather than sensible analysis and looking at situations realistically.
Let us also be reminded of the 2003 semifinals, when another Englishman, Allan Harris who coached the Malaysian team that played host Vietnam in the semifinals and lost 4-3. The atmosphere for the semifinals tie was electrifying, to say the least. I covered that match in Hanoi and I expect the same buildup and atmosphere for the clash on Monday evening in Vientiane. Read what I wrote about the atmosphere in Hanoi then.
Many will be already be jumping for joy and seen visualising a place in the final, just because we are playing Laos.
Never mind that Malaysia is ranked 28 in Asia and 146 in the world as compared to Laos who are ranked 38 in Asia and 174 in the world in the FIFA released ranking on Nov 20.
For the people of Laos, the team reaching the soccer final will mean more than the country finishing tops in the medal tally of the Sea Games.
Just like Vietnam, the people of Laos are fanatical of the game of soccer - like a majority of countries anywhere in the world.
It is really going to take a lot from the Malaysian team to beat Laos in their own den.
It is no excuse for the Malaysian team to fail, but the realistic picture had better be seen.
However above all, win or lose, it all rest on the character and concentration of the Malaysian players.
They showed some character in their comeback victory over Thailand. But one swallow doesn't make a summer.
In sports, repetition of a good performance and consistency is what makes a good player or team.
It is the best opportunity for this team to prove that they have finally become men to rise to the occasion, make the final, in all probability meet Vietnam again and make amends once and for all.
Will that happen or is it just wishful thinking? We will just have to wait and see.
In addition, it is hope that the players keep their feet firm on their ground and not get carried away with their victory over Thailand.
It is hoped that the players will go for broke and give Malaysian soccer something to cheer about for real and not create false hopes once again.
While there is no doubt that this team has tremendous potential, nothing less than making the final, will pave their path for better things to come in terms of long term planning and training.
Malaysians sports officials, fans and critics alike, are all starved of a reason to celebrate more often than not. They are not patient enough to wait for the fruit of labour to ripen, before celebrating.
For all you know, this team may well be crucified if they do not reach the final.
The ball is indeed at the feet of the players to make it happen for them and Malaysia soccer.
We can only wish them the very best and say a silent prayer that everything will go their way.
But the team should also know that no divine intervention can help them, if they do not help themselves.
Here's hoping that that the Malaysian soccer chapter will be changed, although realistically, this team needs more time and exposure to realise their true potential.
Today's Bangkok Post report on the match (Sports Section): Read here
And also here
(News Section): Read here