China set to knock Malaysia out in last eight
No one is under any illusions. Malaysia look certain to be knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Youth Championship Finals at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium tonight.
Even coach K. Rajagopal was resigned to the fact.
“There is not going to be any special approach to the game tonight,” he said. “Without a doubt, China are far better than us. I hope the players will go out there and give their best.
“I don’t want to put pressure on the players, they have done well so far. We have finally made it to the last eight after 33 years,” added Rajagopal.
In fact, it was a major feat considering that Rajagopal had only 10 days with the team before the competition started, having taken over from barely a month ago after Brazilian Jorvan Vieira was relieved of his duties.
And Rajagopal had dropped a dozen players and brought in fresh faces who have had little time to polish up on their teamwork.
To add to the woes, the national Under-20 team will also be without striker Ahmad Azlan Zainal, who is out on a one-match suspension after collecting two yellow cards.
Realistically, though, Ahmad, would have made little difference against a China side who have Manchester United signing Dong Fangzhou in their frontline.
Fangzhou was on target for China in their final Group C match against Qatar to give them a 1-0 win and emerge as group champions.
In Group B matches, Malaysia defeated Vietnam (1-0) and Nepal (3-0). But they were simply outclassed by Japan, losing 0-3.
Another such result looks imminent today.
But Rajagopal has brought a positive attitude to the team and has instilled confidence in his players.
A defeat may be on the cards but if they can even keep the score down to a goal or two, it would still be almost as good as a victory, given the tribulations the team have been through.