Vietnam's decline gives opportunity to Malaysia: football critic

By Trung Thu   April 15, 2024 | 03:34 pm PT
Football critic Richard Scully said Malaysia could create an upset at the upcoming U23 Asian Cup as Vietnam have not been in good form recently.

Vietnam have long produced the best results at the U23 Asian Cup out of all Southeast Asian team.

They have qualified four times in a row and finished second in 2018.

However, the team have just been forced to change their head coach only 20 days before the Cup, after coach Philippe Troussier was dismissed last month.

"Vietnam have an experienced squad, but they seem to be unsettled in recent times, and I see that we have the quality to edge them. It's the same with Kuwait, we can beat them based on the quality of the players that we have," Scully told New Strait Times.

Malaysia players during training for the 2024 U23 Asian Cup. Photo by FAM

Malaysia players during training for the 2024 U23 Asian Cup. Photo by FAM

Former U23 Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee shared the same perspective as Scully.

"We are in a tricky group with Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Kuwait, but I believe we have a chance to go far in the tournament. Vietnam have not been doing well in recent times. I don't think Kuwait are too far ahead of us, and we have beaten Saudi Arabia at this level before."

Recently, Malaysian have continuously lost to Vietnam at the U23 level, most recently was their 1-2 defeat in the group stage at SEA Games 32. Previously, Malaysia lost 1-4 to Vietnam in the semifinals of the 2023 U23 AFF Cup, 0-2 in the 2022 U23 Asian Cup group stage and 0-1 in the semifinals of SEA Games 31.

Coach Ong helped U23 Malaysia achieve their best results so far, which include reaching the quarterfinals of the 2018 U23 Asian Cup, winning the gold medal at the 2011 SEA Games and the silver medal at the 2017 SEA Games. He believes there is little difference in level between the current Vietnamese and Malaysian squads.

"We should not be too worried about winning from the first match, or winning all the matches. We shouldn't put unnecessary pressure [on ourselves]. I believe the last group match against Kuwait will be the decider of the team's fate," he added.

Malaysia will face Uzbekistan on April 17, Vietnam on April 20 and Kuwait on the 23rd. Before participating in the tournament, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAT) even set expectations that the team could enter the semifinals to compete for the 2024 Paris Olympics qualification, an achievement that no Southeast Asian team have achieved in the past.

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