Malaysia dare to dream of a famous win over Asian giants Japan in the Asian Zone Group C Olympic qualifying match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil today.
It is a Herculean task but national Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee is counting on his boys to give their all to upstage the Japanese by not allowing them to win the penultimate fixture.
Malaysia’s Olympic dream has long been dashed after four straight defeats. They went down by identical 2-0 margins to Japan and Syria and 3-2 to Bahrain.
In Manama on Feb 5, Malaysia’s hopes of qualifying even for the playoffs went up in smoke after losing 2-1 to Bahrain.
Syria and Japan are tied on nine points but the former lead the standings on a better goal difference. Japan have to score as many goals as they can before playing Bahrain in their last game.
For Kim Swee, it is a challenge for his boys to make their presence felt by getting a favourable result.
“The pressure is on Japan and not Malaysia. Japan need a big win,” said Kim Swee.
“If the Japanese are too offensive they will get caught by our counter attacks. It is totally a different ball game now as we are not under any pressure and playing in front of our home crowd will certainly give us an advantage.”
The homesters will be without exciting midfielders Gary Steven Robbat and Wan Zack Wan Haikal, who are out on suspension. Striker Ahmad Hazwan Bakri is out with an injury while midfielder K. Gurusamy is doubtful after suffering a thigh injury.
Meanwhile, Japan will be without their Germany-based players – Borussia Moen-chengladbach midfielder Otsu Yuki and Stuttgart fullback Gotoku Sakai.
Coach Takashi Sekizuka reckons that their fleet-footed strike force will deliver the three points.
They beat Malaysia 2-0 in the first leg in Fukuoka on Sept 2.
“We need to win our remaining two qualifiers for the automatic slot to the Olympics,” said Sekizuka.
“Goals will be important for us in the last two matches and we need to be clinical in our finishing. I hope my strikers will be at their best.”