Credit: Football Association of Malaysia's Facebook
24/04/2024 08:12 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 (Bernama) -- It is clear from the Harimau Muda's failure to win any of their three Group D matches and subsequent elimination from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup tournament in Doha, Qatar early today that not much homework or groundwork had been done.

The team's capitulation raises the question among football fans nationwide as to how far the Harimau Muda squad are prepared to go to make sure they will be ready for the next edition.

A glance at the social media posts shows that most netizens viewed Harimau Muda head coach Juan Torres Garrido's players treated the tournament in Qatar as a "holiday”.

The national squad ended their campaign by finishing at the bottom of Group D with no points after losing 2-0 to Uzbekistan on April 17, 2-0 to Vietnam on April 20 and 2-1 to Kuwait this morning (Malaysian time).

However, their failure did not come as a surprise to former national footballer Azlan Johar, who felt that the team did not prepare as thoroughly as they should have.

And that, he said, is why the team failed to deliver the goods in all the three group matches.

"The players were not given sufficient exposure at the international level. They need more international friendlies, more playing time and more experience.

"Did the Technical Committee prepare for the tournament in detail or assume that the Under-23 side is not as important as the senior squad?

"Player selection must also be expanded and not focused on just one academy where one needs to look at at least 10,000 players to eventually produce just one good player,” he said when contacted by Bernama today.

Sports analyst Datuk Dr Pekan Ramli, meanwhile, feels that the Harimau Muda were not given the attention they needed to gear up for such a tournament.

"Did our team think that their preparation was on par with that put in by the teams who topped their groups in the qualifiers?

"This is like doing enough to pass a trial examination and not putting in any extra effort for the final exam. Changing the 'teacher’ (head coach) alone is not enough,” he said.

He said the national team should have, after qualifying for the Under-23 Asian Cup, focused on gathering players with the highest quality.

"We have many good players in the various leagues but how come we did not force them to play for the country? We can't just take players from Mokhtar Dahari Academy (AMD) to represent the country.

"We must have a team with a clear direction, a fixed key performance indicator (KPI) and a practical and relevant time frame in terms of player development. Let's not start preparing a team one year before a tournament because that will be too short a time,” he said.

In yesterday's final Group D match against Kuwait, the Harimau Muda managed to end their goal drought thanks to Haqimi Azim Rosli's strike, although it was in vain as the national team still lost 2-1.

Malaysia, who advanced to the quarter-finals in the 2018 edition, had set the same target this time.

Only the top two teams from each group advanced to the last eight and stand a chance to fight for the three automatic spots in the 2024 Paris Olympics while the fourth-best team in Doha will have to take on Guinea in a playoff in Paris in May.