Ong Kim Swee hails 'courageous' Malaysia AFC U23 giant killers
Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee paid tribute to the character of his history-making team ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal in the AFC U23 Championship in China.
In their first-ever appearance in the tournament, the Southeast Asian minnows secured a place in the last eight with a stunning 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Kunshan on Tuesday evening.
Danial Amier Norhisham's goal, and a resilient defensive performance secured the win that Ong's improving team needed. Following a 4-1 defeat to Iraq on Group C Matchday One, they had earned a point against Jordan to give them a chance against the Saudis.
"To achieve this is a great achievement," Ong said. "The players have shown character and that we can compete with superior teams, not just Jordan but Saudi too. We have never beaten Saudi in so many years.
"The boys showed courage and determination and that has brought us to the quarterfinals. I don't want to talk about how we played, because in these situations the result is the most important thing.
"I'm very satisfied in terms of the result and to get into the quarterfinals. That's history for us and we have shown we have a bunch of players who can play in the future."
With the senior team in abject form over the last 12 months, the performance of the country's under-23 team will give the game in Malaysia a much-needed confidence boost.
Ong was delighted with the way in which his side weathered the Saudi storm for the hour after Danial's goal.
"We have prepared the team for every kind of condition, whether we were to play defensive or offensive," he said. "But after getting the first goal we knew Saudi were going to come with everybody towards our defence.
"This is a great achievement. The players have shown character and that we can compete with superior teams," says 🇲🇾 Ong Kim Sweehttps://t.co/pV2h3oSUHE— #AFCU23 (@theafcdotcom) January 17, 2018
"We train on our defence and they showed very good discipline and when you defend you have to be very, very disciplined. We cut off a lot of penetrating passes and crosses and the players showed courage. That's very, very important."
Malaysia will now focus on preparing for Saturday's last eight encounter, and the possibility remains that Ong's side could be involved in an all-Southeast Asian quarterfinal.
South Korea lead Group D after two rounds of matches and take on Australia on Wednesday evening.
A win for the Aussies, coupled with a victory for Vietnam over Syria, would see Ong's team going face-to-face with the Vietnamese.
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch