After topping the gold medal tally as hosts in last year’s SEA Games, Malaysia created history last Tuesday by becoming the first Asean member nation to reach the quarterfinals of the ongoing AFC U23 Football Championship in China in their first appearance after a 1-0 win over the much favoured Saudi Arabia.
Beaten 4-1 by Iraq in their opening Group C encounter, Malaysia bounced back by holding a strong Jordan 1-1 and then upsetting the Saudi’s to emerge as the runners up with four points behind Iraq’s six to snatch a place in the last eight. There is a prospect of another Asean nation, Vietnam, who stunned mighty Australia in Group D, also moving up if they overcome Syria in their final game.
In the event of Vietnam topping the group, then the Saturday’s quarterfinal will pit them against Malaysia. “I believe we have never beaten the Saudis for a long time. After what has happened to our football, I think this is a massive achievement for Malaysia” local media reports quoted coach Kim Swee Ong as saying at the post match news conference.
The KL 2017 Gold Medalists Thailand finished bottom of Group B after losing all their three matches. Six teams who have already made the quarter finals are Iraq, Malaysia, Japan, Uzbekistan, Qatar, and debutants Palestine.