This Wednesday when Malaysia take on Japan in the final clash of Group A of the 2018 AFC U16 Championship, it will be one year plus two days to the last meeting between the two sides.
On 24 September 2017, Malaysia played and lost 4-0 to Japan in the qualifiers played in Indonesia. A sobering defeat that showed the difference in standards between the two teams.
One year on, many things have changed and the big question would be whether the gap has been closed enough for Malaysia to procure a win against them at Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
Sikh Izhan Nazrel sat out of the Thailand match due to suspension but is now ready to be thrown back into the mix and he's hopeful that Malaysia have improved sufficiently in these 12 months.
"The defeat against Thailand is not the end. We are raring to go again to give our best against Japan. If I'm chosen, I will give my best for my team and my country. We will be serious and put in 100% focus in the match."
"We've played them before once in Indonesia and I hope it won't be a repeat of that match. This time around, I'm hopeful that we've learnt our lessons from that day. Their strikers are good at holding the ball so our defence will have to be on our toes the entire time," said Sikh on Monday.
In Ryotaro Araki, Jun Nishikawa and Hikaru Naruoka; Japan possess a very competent attacking force with Araki being the main man up front. One of the tallest in the team, Nishikawa is the true playmaker of the Japanese side with skills that could unlock Malaysia's defence.
Malaysia have yet to keep a clean sheet in the two matches played thus far and looks unlikely to do so against Japan. But that may not be required as long as the forward line finds their scoring touch in the match.
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