Malaysia's hopes to win gold in the 2017 South-East Asian (SEA) Games football event received a big boost after the draw for the group stage was done on Saturday afternoon.
The event is held as an Under-22 age group tournament, with Thailand coming into the competition as the last gold medal winner from the Singapore 2015.
After the draw, national team head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is happy to have received a good draw but insist that his team will still need to be cautious of two teams in the group. With the planned friendly match against Myanmnar on 13th July next week, Ong said that the match will still go on despite the draw.
"Even though we are in an easier group but we cannot treat Myanmar and Singapore lightly. We have to put ourselves in a good position to advance to the next stage of the competition."
"We have an agreement with Myanmar that even though we could be drawn together, the friendly match next week will still go ahead," said Ong.
Looking at draw, there's a sense that for Malaysia to reach the final, they would have to finished top of Group A to avoid favourites Thailand in the semi-final but Ong doesn't want to jump the gun and instead prefers to take it one step at a time.
"We don't know what is going to happen in the other group with Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia there. It's important for us to just focus on our group and our games," added Ong.
The Group A matches are expected to be played at Shah Alam Stadium while the Group B matches should proceed at Selayang Stadium, after Cheras Stadium was deemed unfit for the competition following inspections done last week.
Bukit Jalil National Stadium will only be used for the football competition in the event that Malaysia qualify for the knockout stage. Should Malaysia exit at the group stage, the semi-final and final matches would be played at Shah Alam Stadium.
The General-Secretary of Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), Datuk Hamidin Amin is hoping that Malaysia can reach the final and while FAM have not set a target for the team, he knows that on home soil, that would be the hopes of all Malaysian fans.
"If we look at the draw, Singapore and Myanmar have good U22 teams but with the games played here, all of us here want to see Malaysia enter the final for the fans. There's no specific target set for the team, we want them to as well as they can but from a personal standpoint, we have to reach the final," said Hamidin.