Harimau Muda proved worth despite not meeting final target – Elavarasan

PHNOM PENH – National Under-22 football squad coach E Elavarasan seems to find it difficult to accept the fact that his team is no longer in contention for honours at the 2023 SEA Games.

The Harimau Muda squad’s hope of qualifying for the semifinals was dashed after it lost 1-2 to Vietnam in its third Group B match at Prince Stadium here last night.

He said that based on the team’s performance against defending champions Vietnam, Malaysia was actually good enough to be in the final.

“We targeted to at least qualify for the final and judging from the standard displayed just now, we should be there (final). Sometimes in such a situation, we have to accept the decisions made by other parties.

“Sometimes we have to acknowledge that we played well. We could not score when we had our chances, so we have to accept that we have been eliminated,” he told a media conference after the match.

Last night’s defeat means that Harimau Muda cannot clear the group stage as they have only three points from three matches, after beating Laos 5-1 and losing 0-2 to Thailand earlier.

Vietnam and Thailand are assured of qualifying for the semifinals after winning all their three matches so far.

Despite being disappointed with the squad’s failure to meet the target of qualifying for the final as set by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Elavarasan is still proud of the positive elements shown by his players.

“I seldom watched the SEA Games and this is the first time I’m leading the squad. I can see that the senior squad’s DNA is achievable for the players to be promoted to the senior team in the future,” he said.

Elavarasan said the team still needs to stay focused and give its best against Singapore in its last group match on Thursday.

The elimination of Elavarasan’s charges is a repeat of the 2019 episode in Manila where Harimau Muda was also sent packing early when it finished fourth in the group stage. At the 2021 edition in Hanoi last year, Malaysia finished fourth in the competition.

The last time Malaysia won a medal was in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur when it clinched silver while they last tasted gold at the 2011 edition in Indonesia. – Bernama