The hard truth is that Malaysia remain a long way from matching Asia's best as yesterday's 4-0 defeat to Japan in the 2012 Asian Olympic Group qualifier at the National Stadium underlined.
The national Under-23 team lacked imagination and cutting edge as they crashed to their heaviest defeat in nine matches in this campaign and the fifth in a row in Group C.
Coach Ong Kim Swee admitted his team were below par and that plenty of work needs to be done to catch up with the likes of Japan.
"I hope everyone can see that we have a lot of work to do. We lost to a better team and people would compare with the first match (in Tosu last year) when we parked the bus and lost 2-0.
"Today (Yesterday) we tried several attacking options and it got worse. We need to be consistent over 90 minutes, we lack the ability of Japan and we got punished.
"We learned a good lesson of what it takes to achieve their level, it's what separates us from being a good and matured team," said Kim Swee after presiding over a seventh successive defeat to Japan at Under-23 level since 1999.
Japan dominated the game from the start as Khairul Fahmi Che Mat was the busier of the two goalkeepers early on when he twice denied Japan in the first 16 minutes -- saving from Manabu Saito in the eighth minute before turning Hiroki Sakai's low effort past the post.
Malaysia suffered a blow when right-back Mahalli Jasuli hobbled off in the 18th minute to be replaced by Affize Faisal Mamat before Japan struck in the 35th minute on the counter.
Genki Haraguchi beat Amer Saidin in pace and though the defender recovered with a last-ditch tackle, he only succeeded in diverting the ball into the path of Sakai to slot past Fahmi.
Nazmi Faiz Mansor engineered the best chance for Malaysia four minutes later but A. Thamil Arasu struck his shot weakly at Shuichi Gonda.
Japan punished Malaysia for that miss on the stroke of half-time when Yuya Osako nodded in unchallenged off a free-kick to make it 2-0.
"That goal killed us," said Kim Swee. "It was hard to get back, that was the turning point. The boys tried hard but I have to admit we did not play that well."
It got worse for Malaysia after the break as Sakai turned provider ten minutes later when his cross from the right was met by the on-rushing Haraguchi at the far post to effectively kill the game as a contest.
On the hour mark, Takahiro Oghihara's shot from outside the penalty box was parried by Fahmi to a lurking Saito, who only had to tap it in for the fourth goal.