What we learnt from Malaysia Under-22 defeat to Thailand
JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH
There was one thing very clear at the National Stadium in Bangkok.
The Malaysians were nowhere close to the Thais in quality. Granted there were flashes of brilliance by the likes of Akhyar Rashid, Danial Ashraf and Jafri Firdaus Chew, but the difference in class was telling.
It may have been a closer affair had Ong Kim Swee had a full squad to choose from but it was still far-fetched on paper.
The likes for Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik, Adam Nor Azlin and Syahmi Safari are not only regulars in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), but have been earning praises for their rise in domestic competition.
Yet they too were no match for Thailand on Friday.
The Thais were better at moving the ball, finding space and had better ball control. Passes were more often pin-point while Malaysia at times struggled to even stop the ball well.
A PERPETUAL BACK-FIVE
Malaysia started the match with a 3-4-3 formation but it really was a back-five with four midfielders and Jafri leading the frontline alone.
The introduction of Akhyar changed this in the second half as he pressured the Thais, but defending was what Malaysia did for most parts of the match.
The 3-4-3 formation, also used by P.Maniam at Selangor, was meant to do this against stronger teams as the wing-backs would drop into a full-back role.
It adds numbers at the back but at the cost of sacrificing an option up front.
That said it could have rained goals in Bangkok had Malaysia taken a gung-ho approach.
CONTRASTING INTENSITY LEVELS
Thailand were having a go at Malaysia until the final whistle and things were done at a great pace.
The host moved the ball from defence to attack and from left to right swiftly, and accurately too. The passes were quicker, the runs were better and there were very few Malaysians on the pitch who looked capable of beating the Thais for pace.
In a recent interview with NST Malaysia senior team coach Nelo Vingada, who was in the stands for the match, said the intensity levels were lacking in the MSL. What the Portuguese and many saw on Friday was only a testament to his statement.
Malaysia only made two changes (both forced) to their line-up while Thailand’s line-up saw six changes from the side that were held 1-1 by Mongolia.
Ong did not mince his words during the post-match press conference.
“Thailand have plenty of depth but I can’t afford to do that. Some of our players looked tired,” he said.
It wasn’t just the fact the Malaysians had played Indonesia two days prior. Much of the league schedule had to be blamed as well as the domestic calendar saw six matches played over two weeks before the start of the qualifiers.
There are another six more matches until the eve of the SEA Games, making it a total of 12 matches in 40 days and fatigue could be a concern then too.