Malaysia want SEA Games results, not 'pretty' football says Ong Kim Swee
Ong Kim Swee says getting results is more important than playing "pretty" football, as the unbeaten Malaysians look ahead to Saturday's semifinals in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The Malaysia under-22 coach saw his side overcome Laos 3-1 on Wednesday night to finish as Group A champions. A double from Jafri Firdaus Chew and an Adib Zainuddin strike gave them a fourth win in four matches in the men's football competition.
In their semifinal on Saturday, the host nation will play either Vietnam, Thailand or Indonesia, who all do battle in their final Group B matches on Thursday night.
"It doesn't need to be pretty all the time. The most important thing is that we get the result," Ong told ESPN FC.
"The players were committed against Laos, and I thought Amirul [Hisyam Awang Kechik], Syafiq [Ahmad] and Jafri all worked hard."
Unlike the all-action triumph over Myanmar, Malaysia were measured, yet effective, against a Laos side who lacked quality to produce an upset in front of 35,000 fans at Shah Alam Stadium.
Ong is now bracing himself for the biggest test yet, against any of the three teams in Group B.
Vietnam and Thailand, who are level on 10 points, will face off, while Indonesia, who are two points behind, play Cambodia.
If Vietnam-Thailand play out a draw and Indonesia win, then goal difference will determine who makes it to the last four.
"We can't really choose who we play in the semifinals, but our opponents will be the toughest yet. We have to be prepared mentally and tactically for anyone on Saturday," Ong said.
"Good enough is not good enough"... I would want to take some time to thank everyone who stood behind me, who supported me from the day one... Guys thank u so much.. All of u were so supportive... I have no words to say... And those who texted me, ill reply to each and everyone of u... Thank u guys... Thank u so much...
"I was happy not only with our result against Laos, but also the fact that we didn't pick up any cautions. At this stage, I need to be mindful of who is fresh and not suspended."
The hopes of a nation are mounting for a first football gold medal since 2011. Ong's side have been in rampant form, with six victories in seven games since the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers last month.
After lukewarm interest in the developmental side just a few weeks ago, plus a lack of support from Malaysia's top teams, match tickets now sell out within hours.
If Malaysia win Saturday's semifinal, they will earn a spot in the gold-medal match at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Aug. 29.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.