Malaysia will match Thailand at SEA Games, says Bernhardt

After being outclassed by the Thais in the Nations Cup final on Sunday, Malaysian under-22 coach Frank Bernhardt was nevertheless confident of building a squad as good as Southeast Asia’s best. 

Malaysia Under-21 coach Frank Bernhardt was not a single bit perturbed despite looking second best for most parts of their clash against Thailand, who as expected, won the Nations Cup with a 2-1 victory in the final on Sunday.

The scoreline may have been close but in truth, the match was very one-sided as the Malaysians only put the Thais under pressure in the final 15 minutes of the first-half.

Such were the Thais’ superiority that it would take a brave man to place a wager against Thailand winning their 13th SEA Games gold medal in 15 attempts. Malaysia’s back-to-back win in 2009 and 2011 were the only time Thailand did not emerge as champions since 1993.

Thailand won the inaugural Nations Cup

However, Bernhardt feels his charges can give Thailand a run for their money, saying: “At the SEA Games, we’ll compete at the same level.”

“It is possible to come closer or even beat them if we have more time to work on our strength and fitness … some of our players had cramps and injuries towards the end of the match.

“I think we had a good first half but the second half was the problem. We did not have the power and fitness to last 90 minutes. Thailand were clearly superior in this area. We got lucky a few times during the match … clearing the ball off the line and such.”

Thailand, however, vowed to be stronger than what their SEA Games contenders Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam witnessed in Malacca over the weekend.

“This group of players I brought are not the best in Thailand. These are players who were most ready at this moment. For next year, we will scout further and beef up the squad,” said Thailand under-21 coach Worrawoot Srimaka.

“Winning the Nations Cup was important for us. Being champions when we play in Malaysia, no matter what the competition, is a proud moment for us.”