The Harimau Malaya are trailing 2-1 ahead of a tough away game in Hanoi on Thursday, but recent history suggests they might not even bother going for the trip…
The heavens opened shortly after Nguyen Van Quyet gave Vietnam a well-deserved 2-1 lead at the Shah Alam Stadium. The torrential rain did not halt the match – it most probably would have if it was played in Singapore – but it did figuratively reflect the overall mood of the home supporters inside the stadium: sorrowful and dejected.
After Dollah Salleh’s men defied the odds to knock Singapore out of the competition to give the fans the euphoria, the same fans were promptly brought back to earth, realising that the national team has been playing poorly for the past two weeks, let alone the past two years. Did you know that Malaysia have recorded only four wins in 28 games (including friendlies, exhibitions and official matches) since 2013 until right before the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup?
Most Malaysian fans (including this correspondent) are hoping that there will be a miracle, but chances of the Tigers qualifying for the final are extremely slim especially because recent history is not on their side:
- Up until their Sunday’s defeat to Vietnam, the Harimau Malaya have faced AFF Suzuki Cup hosts/co-hosts 19 times, winning only four times and drawing five.
- The only times the tournament did not feature any host nations in the final was Singapore ’96 (Thailand vs Malaysia) and Malaysia-Vietnam ’04 (Singapore vs Indonesia), so the Harimau Malaya’s first leg conquerors are pretty much a shoo-in for the final.
- Since the home-and-away format was introduced for the semi-final and final matches in 2004, the tournament has only witnessed 10 away victories out of 32 matches (including the 2014 edition).
- Lastly and perhaps most depressingly, only on one occasion that a team ever overturned a first leg deficit to qualify for the final, which ironically involved the boys in black and yellow (or blue and red, your pick). Indonesia won 5-3 on aggregate against Malaysia despite losing 2-1 in the first leg in 2004.
So, with the statistics clearly against them, the question is: are Malaysia all but out?