BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Despite having guided his Malaysia U22 charges to a 1-0 SEA Games men's football semi-final win over archrivals Indonesia U22 on Saturday, Young Tigers head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee wants to stay focused on the task at hand.
At the Shah Alam Stadium, Thanabalan Nadarajah headed in the only goal of the match from a corner kick three minutes from time, to set a final encounter against Thailand, who earlier defeated Myanmar in the other semi-final tie also with a 1-0 scoreline, on Tuesday.
"I have to wait for three more days to be happy. It's good that we have qualified for the final but it's not over yet.
"It's good to celebrate (beating Indonesia) but the players need to focus on the final," said Ong in the post-match press conference.
Ong told the press that the win happened due to his charges' knowing what they had to do in the clash.
"The boys worked hard. In the first half we weren't really pushing forward, but in the second half we came back strongly.
"We controlled most of the possession in the second half, showed good character, they knew what they wanted, and all these made our job easier.
"Indonesia played well and we initially were too careful, but in the second half we played higher up the pitch especially the midfield.
"Only then were we able to gain more possession and attack them more often," explained the 46-year old trainer.
Another factor that contributed to Malaysia's stellar run in the tournament according to him is the improvement that they have been able to produce, as exemplified by the fact that they kept a clean sheet against Indonesia.
In the group stage, Malaysia conceded one goal in each of their four matches, although they all ended in wins.
"The boys have risen to the occassion, if you look at the way they played in the first match against Brunei, the line-up has kept on changing but everybody produced results everytime.
"It's good that we didn't concede today as it will give us more confidence, but we must stay grounded. Thailand are a good team and we have to be very, very focussed," said the former Malaysia senior team head coach.
When asked by a journalist, Ong admitted that he initially thought that the match would go into extra-time.
"I had to prepare for all eventualities and by the 85th minute I still had to spare substitutions.
"That's why we kept them until late (in the game)," he noted.
However, his attention is already on the final match, and Ong promises that his men will be an improved side, unlike the way they played in their 3-0 thrashing by Thailand in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers, earlier in July.
"We're playing in the final at home so we shouldn't be afraid of them. This time we're fully prepared to face them unlike the last time in Bangkok.
"They may be happy with the 3-0 result, but in the final it will be totally different.
The final match will be played on Tuesday, August 29 at the Shah Alam Stadium, with kickoff at 8.45 pm.
Ong Kim Swee's post-match comment