The Harimau Muda take on defending champions Vietnam in the semi-finals of the AFF Under-23 Championship today, looking to turn the tables on their rivals in Rayong, Thailand.
Malaysia lost 0-1 to the hosts in the group stage at the 2022 Vietnam SEA Games.
And at the Cambodia SEA Games in May, the Vietnamese again turned spoilers, winning 2-1 in the group stage and denting Malaysia’s hopes of making it to the semi-finals.
Coach E. Elavarasan has called for caution among his players as they tackle a dangerous side like Vietnam, coached by Hoang Anh Tuan, as they thrashed Laos 4-1 and edged the Philippines 1-0 to top Group C.
Malaysia, on the other hand, overcame Timor Leste 2-1 to top Group B.
It was their second win in the group following their 2-1 win over Indonesia last Friday.
“Vietnam have good players and their coach is smart in making plans and decisions. The coach is the strong point, he will always know what to do,’’ said Elavarasan
“I really admire the coach but I hope the players enjoy the game and also stay focused on our mission to win,” he said in an audio message to the media today.
Elavarasan rested several key players – including striker Fergus Tierney and first-choice goalkeeper Rahadiazli Rahalim – in the match against Timor Leste.
The key players are expected to be fielded tonight for the semis clash.
On target for Malaysia against Timor Leste on Tuesday were Alif Ikmalrizal Anuar (fifth and 65th minutes) and Aliff Izwan Yuslan (13th).
Timor Leste got their consolation goal through Olagar Xavier (41st).
If the Harimau Muda manage to beat Vietnam today, waiting for them in the final will be either Thailand or Indonesia who will be playing in the other semi-final match.
Malaysia’s best achievement at the AFF Under-23 Championship was finishing fourth in the inaugural edition in 2005.