Malaysia got their 2018 AFC U16 Championship campaign off to a great start after recording a massive 6-2 win over Tajikistan in the opening match played at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Thursday evening.
Striker Luqman Hakim Shamsudin raked in four goals in the process and quickly set himself up as one of the contenders for the golden boot of the tournament. Considering that typically at any major tournament, the top scorer only hits six or seven goals, Luqman is more than halfway there after only one 90 minutes played.
The Young Tigers will next face more tougher opposition in the next two matches of Group A as they look to progress through to the knockout stage of the competition and inch closer to claiming one of the four tickets to the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup.
But despite the positive opening day win, Lim Teong Kim's boys could hardly afford to put their feet up as Thailand and then Japan lie in wait next, starting with the former on Sunday at the same ground.
If Luqman is Malaysia's main man, then Muenta Suphanat and Ryotaro Araki could suitably lay claim to be Thailand and Japan's version of one to fear. Coincidentally, all three have already found their scoring boots in their respective opening matches.
Araki scored twice and assisted one as Japan routed Thailand 5-2 at UM Arena on Thursday and the Higashi Fukuoka high schooler have already proven himself to be big attacking threat for his team. Not just sticking to the last defender, Araki's movement made him a remarkably tough to mark, often times combining well with Jun Nishikawa and Hikaru Naruoka.
For both his goals, Araki showed his predatory instincts to be at the right place at the right time, his ability to ghost into empty spaces could well hurt Malaysia in the final group game. In scoring both goals, Araki did not need a second invitation and both times, he confidently finished both chances with his first touch.
Despite suffering a heavy opening day defeat, Thailand will quickly realise that in Suphanat, they have a striker to fear in the mold of Teerasil Dangda. The 16 year old Buriram United player may be young in his age but has already featured for the senior side and have scored for the Thai Premier League champions this season.
An incredible feat for someone so young to be involved in Thailand's top tier. Suphanat showed his predatory instincts with Thailand's second goal against Japan. Physically built beyond his age, Suphanat's calmness on the ball is also matured beyond his years. He wasn't able to get into the game much against Japan but that could well be a different story against Malaysia.
Teong Kim's team did well to start off on the right foot but as they prepare for subsequent matches, they will come to realise that the tough journey to the World Cup is only beginning. In Araki and Suphanat, that is two individuals that could wreck the dreams of the Young Tigers.
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