BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Despite their valiant effort, Malaysia's 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualification hopes were dashed.
They weren't able to hold on to hang on to their 2-1 lead against favourites China in their last Group J match on Tuesday, conceding a late equaliser in the match held at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Malaysia vs China match highlights
The failure to upset Gus Hiddink's charges meant they only finished the group in second place, and as the seventh best second-placed team, nowhere near the top-four second-placed teams, who will follow the 11 qualification stage group winners to the finals in Bangkok next year.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, the Dutch trainer remarked that his team showed character and stuck to their plan well in the game.
"I think my team was very resilient after they went down 1-0 and 2-1. They showed a lot of character and personality, they made it happen through the two headers.
"It also gave a lot of satisfaction because we knew what we had to do in the last minutes; to go in attack, and we were rewarded with qualification to the next round (finals). I'm proud of how my boys did it," said the famed manager.
He described the match as a good game between two good sides and praised the hosts, whom he thinks are good enough to be in the finals just like his charges.
"We just saw a good game of intense football between two teams that like to play, wanted to go for the victory instead of aiming for a draw. Both teams played fast, attacking football. It's good for these young guys to play in such a game. Malaysia have very good, skillful players and can play very well, they made it a tough game for us!
"...I'm not saying this because I'm here (in Malaysia), but because I've seen the quality of Malaysia, I hope they will also be in the best [four] second-placed finishers. They deserve to be there (finals) because they have the quality," stated the 72-year old manager.
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