Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Now for the crunch
Malaysia kept their semifinals hopes alive in the Sea Games soccer tournament when they defeated Cambodia 4-0 in their third Group A match at the Chao Anouvong Stadium, this evening.
Earlier, Thailand had thrashed whipping boys of the tournament, Timor Leste, 9-0, at the same venue.
The Malaysian team with this win, now will have a showdown with Thailand on Friday to determine their semifinals berth.
While Thailand only needs a draw to make the last four, Malaysia needs an outright win to pip Thailand, who are eying a record ninth Sea Games gold medal in soccer.
Although the odds seems stacked against Malaysia, at the same time a victory over Thailand is not impossible.
Forget the Vietnam match. This is a whole new game and one which will virtually decide if the actions of the players against Vietnam will be forgotten or see them being taken to the cleaners.
With no excuse for the players behavior and performance against Vietnam, the match against Thailand, is indeed a chance not only for the team to redeem itself, but give Malaysia soccer a fresh breath of hope.
For K. Rajagobal, who has also been taken to task by National Sports Council (NSC) director-general, Datuk Zolkples Embong, it is indeed an opportunity for him to prove that he is made of sterner stuff and the right man to give Malaysian soccer some hope.
Personally for Rajagobal, it will also be a battle of strategy against Steve Darby, who has coached Johor and Perak in the M-League.
Rajagobal himself believes that his team is capable of beating Thailand.
"I believe that this team has what it takes to beat Thailand. I am not underestimating Thailand, but merely talking of the strength of my players," said Rajagobal.
"The win over Cambodia was good as we have put our Vietnam episode behind us. Now it is a battle of survival against Thailand, and I hope to see my players rise to the occasion and prove that they are no longer boys but men.
"It is going to be tough, but not impossible," was Rajagobal's parting words.
In today's 4-0 win over Cambodia, Malaysia took some time to get into gear and only scored their first and only goal in the first half when in 34th minute when Abdul Manaf Mamat scored to make amends for his earlier misses.
Malaysia had their hearts in their mouth when Cambodia were awarded a penalty in 52nd minute, but were let off the hook when Kouch Sokkumpheak shot straight into the arms of Malaysian custodian Sharbine Allawee Ramli, after his first attempt was disallowed for an infringement.
That reprieve woke the Malaysian players up and Norshahrul Idlan Tahala duly scored in the 75th minute to take the pressure of them, before S. Kunalan made it 3-0 six minutes later.
Safiq Rahim made it 4-0 when he converted a penalty five minute from time.
Rajagobal has until Friday to get his players ready for the Thai challenge and with the match being played at 3pm, it could prove to be further test on the players.
While Malaysia and Thailand play at the National Stadium (above), Vietnam and Cambodia play simultaneously at the Anouvong Stadium.
It will indeed be anxious moments for the Malaysian team and fans alike, waiting for Friday afternoon.
P W D L F A Pts
Vietnam 3 2 1 0 8 2 7
Thailand 3 2 1 0 14 1 7
Malaysia 3 2 0 1 16 3 6
Cambodia 3 1 0 2 4 9 3
Timor Leste 4 0 0 3 3 20 0
Laos 2 1 1 0 3 1 4
Singapore 2 1 1 0 4 3 4
Myanmar 2 0 1 1 2 3 1
Indonesia 2 0 1 1 2 4 1