Easy opener against Brunei? Malaysia coach OKS says no

Malaysia under-22 coach Ong Kim Swee wants his second SEA Games gold medal and said it would be even more satisfying to earn it on home soil, but he is not taking anything for granted. 

Facing lowly Brunei in the opener on Monday, Ong’s charges are expected to collect maximum points against the opponents they defeated 2-0 on three occasions in the previous editions’ round-robin.

Malaysia gave Brunei a 5-0 hiding the last time Kuala Lumpur were hosts in 2001.

We cannot underestimate our opponent. I’m not expecting any match in the competition to be an easy one

Yet, Ong was wary of the fact that Malaysia had a slow start against Timor Leste at the 2015 edition and never really recovered.

“We cannot underestimate our opponent. I’m not expecting any match in the competition to be an easy one,” said Ong.

“We struggled to defeat Brunei at the last Games and staying focused will be key. Not just against Brunei but every match. Our preparations have been smooth but I think it is the same for everyone else.”

Ong admitted playing on home soil made the squad more motivated but said it was the same target in all four SEA Games he had coached.

Malaysia’s hopes of reaching the final lie in avoiding defending champions Thailand in the last four but Ong insisted it would be foolish to try and avoid them.

“Everyone wants the gold medal and it is the same for us … more so because we are hosts,” he said.

“I can’t choose who we want to play in the semi-final. We must take things step-by-step and first qualify for the knockout stages. Whoever we face will pose a challenge because everyone wants to win the gold medal.

Brunei coach Kwon Oh-Son, meanwhile, showed little sign of being intimidated during the pre-tournament press conference on Sunday.

“We don’t have any issues of acclimatisation because the weather is about the same in Brunei. My players are raring to go and are hungry to win matches. They will need to strive … everyone will be giving their best,” said Kwon.

Group favourites Myanmar and Malaysia, as well as dark horses Singapore and Laos, will be looking at ties against Brunei as one where maximum points is a must to stay in the running for the last four.