BUKIT JALIL: Barely four days after the country celebrated a scintillating victory in the final of the Sea Games football final in Jakarta, the Tigers suffered a reality check.
Last night at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, the message was chilling, and yet loud and clear — that though the Sea Games gold signaled a triumph, Malaysian are still minnows when they step out of the boundaries of Southeast Asia.
Ong Kim Swee’s boys suffered a 2-0 defeat to Syria in the Olympics qualifier which virtually puts them out of the running. Japan and Syria are favourites to move on to the next round from this group.
While Malaysia seemed o have held their own in the first-half which ended in a stalemate, they were visibly tired when play resumed. Solaiman Solaiman scored the first goal for the visitors in the 52nd minute followed by Nassouh Nakkdahil two minutes before the end.
Well, if one wanted to look for a silver lining from yesterday’s game, it was this — if there was a Malaysian player Syrian coach Imad Khankan was impressed with, it was Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor.
The KL-born lad had missed the flight to Jakarta because of an injury but was a pleasant surprise with his performance last night.
Wan Zack, however, suffered cramps towards the end of the match and was substituted by Izuan Solahuddin.
“Your number 16 (Wan Zack) was very good. He played well,” said Khankan.
“The win was very important for us… important points. We studied the Malaysian team well before the game.”
Khankan and his team picked up pointers while watching the Indonesia-Malaysia Sea Games final match on Monday.
“We know Malaysia played a tough game on Monday and the players would be tired, especially in the second-half. We took advantage and pressured the Malaysian players and we got the goals,” added Khankan.
Malaysia will take on Bahrain next at Bukit Jalil Stadium on Sunday. Syria, meanwhile, will play Japan on the same day.
Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor (Izuan Solahuddin), Thamil Arasu Ambumamee, Zubir Azmi, Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Amer Saidin, Muslim Ahmad, Fandi Othman (Nazirul Naim Che Hashim), Mahali Jasuli, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (GK, C), K. Gurusamy (D. Saarvindran)