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.