Who could Malaysia face in Round of 16 in the Asian Games?

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Safawi Rasid, Malaysia U23
Goal looks at who could be the possible opponents for Ong Kim Swee's side in the first match of the knockout stage of the 2018 Asian Games.

After an impressive start to the tournament with two wins from two matches, Malaysia are riding on a high having secured qualification out from the group stage and into the Round of 16.

A nervy 3-1 start against Kyrgyzstan was followed by a far more controlled 2-1 win over South Korea that meant that the Young Tigers are assured of topping the group and thus advancing to the next stage.

It was sweet revenge for Ong as Malaysia and South Korea were also paired together in the group stage in the 2014 edition and that time, the Koreans came out trumps with a 3-0 win.

The qualification to the next round meant that Malaysia have now at the very least matched the achievement of the 2010 squad, who also reached the Round of 16 when the games was held in China.

As Group E winners, Malaysia will be coming up against the runners-up from Group D where currently Japan and Vietnam are both tied on six points each. Japan and Vietnam play each other on Sunday to determine the group winners.

Both teams come with strong pedigrees with Japan being a perennial Asian powerhouse while Vietnam had only recently showed what they were capable of by reaching the AFC U23 Championship final.

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A possible meeting against China awaits at the quarterfinal stage should Malaysia get past the Japan/Vietnam hurdle. If Malaysia reach the semi-final, Palestine or Uzbekistan might be the possible opponents for a place in the gold medal match.

The high from the win over South Korea should put Malaysia and Ong in a very confident mood going forward in the competition. The final group match against Bahrain represents a chance for Ong to rest some players to keep them fresh for the knockout stage.

Having come into the tournament without high hopes placed on the team, the young boys have responded strongly and more than showed that if they put their minds to it, Malaysia may yet cause a few more surprises along the way in the 2018 Asian Games.