BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
With Malaysia's campaign in the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship coming to an end after a meek 2-0 defeat to China on Friday, head coach Bojan Hodak will now turn his attention towards building the next iteration of the team.
Needing to beat China while hoping that Saudi Arabia defeat Tajikistan in the other Group D match, Hodak's charges failed to take the chance, despite the Saudis eventually trouncing the Tajikistanis 3-1.
Commenting on the defeat, the Croatian chalked down the loss to his team's naivety, fatigue and inability to perform under pressure.
"In overall, we have been very naive for this level of competition. You need to score from the few chances you'd get, as the opposition would not give you more than that. We conceded goals naively as well. In the 43rd minute, my boys should have ended the first half at 0-0. Instead they rushed things, lost the ball, and conceded. And this is the third match in six days, it wasn't possible to play with high-intensity all the time.
"China did not score in their first two games and tonight they've scored two goals, and it's because tonight they played without pressure, having already been eliminated," explained Hodak.
But he also asked that the early exit be put in perspective by the media and the fans, so that future success and consistency can be built from the finals appearance.
"We've got the maximum out of this generation, we won the AFF U-19 Youth Championship earlier this year and qualified for the AFC finals for the first time in 12 years. I think for Malaysia this is good, it's a great experience. We cannot be disappointed because the boys have tried their best. Now I know the that the most optimistic expectation is to qualify for World Cup U-20, but we're just not ready for that yet.
"But now we have to try to be consistent; by qualifying every two years. Once we have this, we'll be better in the future. There have been glaring mistakes in the way they played, but these are not aspects I can fix in two weeks. You need years to be able to play under pressure.
"My contract runs until next year; so I'll look at players born in 2001. This is the age that has been a little left behind, (for example) boys born in 2002 have the NFDP (National Football Development Programme, Malaysia's youth football scheme). We'll start the selections, everything, all over again," he revealed.
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