ALL GOLD MEDALS’

Kim Swee says Malaysia have depth and qual­ity to end Thai­land’s dom­i­nance

New Straits Times - - Sport -

AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my guid­ing Malaysia to their last gold medal suc­cess at the 2011 Jakarta Sea Games.

In the last two edi­tions, how­ever, Kim Swee’s boys were un­lucky, fin­ish­ing fourth in 2013 in Myan­mar, be­fore fail­ing to make the semi-fi­nals two years ago in Sin­ga­pore.

Re­garded as the ‘Jose Mour­inho’ of South­east Asian foot­ball, Kim Swee is not pay­ing too much at­ten­tion on com­ments made my ri­vals to dis­ori­en­tate his camp.

In­stead, he has urged his play­ers to fo­cus on play­ing every game like it was a fi­nal.

For the record, Malaysia have failed only once to make the fi­nal in the pre­vi­ous edi­tions they hosted with vic­to­ries in 1977 and 1989, and sil­ver medals in 1971 and 2001.

Their only blem­ish was in 1965 where they made the semi-fi­nals but fin­ished fourth.

Malaysia have a bet­ter record away from home with four ti­tles Sea Games coach Ong Kim Swee seems con­fi­dent Malaysia can use home ad­van­tage to break Thai­land’s dom­i­na­tion. in 1961 (Yangon), 1979 and 2011 (both in Jakarta), and 2009 (Vi­en­tiane).

“The Sea Games is unique as ev­ery­one wants to win the foot­ball gold medal. We hope, at the end of day, we can make it to the fi­nal,” said Kim Swee.

“I do not want to com­pare my team with the pre­vi­ous Sea Games squads. How­ever, this batch of play­ers of­fer more depth in all de­part­ments, and this is good for the team.

“I can af­ford to make changes in each game as my op­tions are equally good and can adapt to the foot­ball I want them to play.”

Kim Swee also re­minded his play­ers to keep their tem­per in check dur­ing matches as it will only weaken the team if they are sent off.

In the 2015 edi­tion, Nazmi Faiz Man­sor was sent off for spit­ting at a Ti­mor Leste player in Malaysia’s open­ing match in Sin­ga­pore. He was sub­se­quently sent home by Kim Swee and was later sus­pended for six matches.

“I hope a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent will not oc­cur this time. It will only af­fect my strat­egy if my play­ers are sus­pended.

“I think the cur­rent batch is good. We only had two yel­low cards in last month’s AFC Un­der23 Qual­i­fiers and this shows our play­ers are very dis­ci­plined in matches,” said Kim Swee.

Malaysia will open their Group A cam­paign against Brunei at Shah Alam Stadium to­day, fol­lowed by Sin­ga­pore (Wed­nes­day), Myan­mar (Aug 21) and Laos (Aug 23).

Brunei have im­proved a lot over the years and Kim Swee is not ex­pect­ing an easy match as the min­nows are likely to be de­fen­sive through­out the match aim­ing for a draw.

“It won’t be easy to­mor­row. I want my play­ers to fo­cus on their game rather than wor­ry­ing about what Brunei will try to do in the match,” said Kim Swee, whose play­ers are brim­ming with con­fi­dence af­ter qual­i­fy­ing for the AFC Un­der-23 Cham­pi­onship last month.

Kim Swee will have the ser­vices of six play­ers who played in the 2015 edi­tion, and they will of­fer the sta­bil­ity the team need in the Sea Games.

They are Kedah’s Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik, Syafiq Ah­mad, Ariff Farhan Isa, Pe­nang’s S. Ku­maahran, Se­lan­gor’s Adam Nor Azlin and Pa­hang’s Matthew Davies.

In women’s foot­ball, Malaysia have im­proved a lot, but they are not ex­pected to fin­ish on the podium with Thai­land, Viet­nam and Myan­mar be­ing the favourites.

In fut­sal, it will be tough for Malaysia to fin­ish on the podium in the men’s and women’s com­pe­ti­tions.

In the men’s event, Malaysia, the World No 65, are ranked be­hind Thai­land (15th), Viet­nam (40t) and In­done­sia (51st).

The women’s team are be­hind Thai­land, Viet­nam and In­done­sia.

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