PETALING JAYA (The Star) : The Olympic qualifiers have been a big disappointment, once again, for Malaysia.
First, there was the feel-good factor when Malaysia finished among the elite 12 teams to make the Asian final qualifying round for the 2012 London Olympics. But that was as good as it got as the team lost all six group matches.
The Harimau Muda boys under Ong Kim Swee clearly showed that they are minnows in Asia despite being big fish in the Southeast Asian (SEA) football pond.
In the Asian qualifiers, they conceded a whopping 16 goals in the six defeats. The difference in playing standards was so glaring that they looked like novices against Japan, Syria and Bahrain.
But for Kim Swee, the six matches were an invaluable learning experience as the team are unlikely to get another shot at playing against Asia’s best, like Japan.
It is sad that Malaysia are unable to find a breakthrough to the next level. The FA of Malaysia (FAM) have not been able to raise standards for the past 30 years and seem content to just win the occasional regional tournament.
It is obvious the stints in Slovakia have not helped as the players are still unable to cope at the top level. They clearly lack high intensity matches.
Whatever happened to the playing stints in the Corgon Liga in Slovakia for promising talents like Mohd Fadhli Shas, Wan Zack Haikal, Mohd Nazmi Faiz, Mohd Muslim Ahmad, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim? The Corgon Liga is said to be the 38th strongest league in the world and includes their top professional side MSK Zilina, who played in the Champions League.
For Kim Swee, the next mision is the inaugural AFC Under-22 Asian Cup qualifiers in June. This will be another acid test for his boys, who are drawn with South Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan and the Philippines in Group G.
Kim Swee reckons his side have a good chance of finishing in the top-two and qualify for the Finals next year.
He is hoping the exposure in the S-League will provide his boys with the right preparation ahead of the qualifiers.
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