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Malaysia urged to stay grounded in SEA Games’ football final

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysia’s coach urged his team to keep their feet on the ground and not be swept up by a wave of excitement in Tuesday’s Southeast Asian Games men’s football final against Thailand.

Expectations are sky-high after the hosts narrowly beat Indonesia 1-0 in the semi-finals to stand on the verge of their sixth title in the competition, which is for under-22s.

But Ong Kim Swee, who also coached Malaysia when they last won the SEA Games trophy in 2011, told his players to keep a cool head against Thailand, the holders and 13-time champions.

“It’s good that we didn’t concede against Indonesia. This will give us more confidence heading into the final. But we must stay grounded,” said Ong, according to The Star.

“Thailand are a good team. We have to be focused against them.”

Victories over Brunei, Singapore, Myanmar and Laos propelled Malaysia into the semis, where they edged Indonesia thanks to N. Thanabalan’s 87th-minute header.

Malaysia are enjoying a surge of success at the SEA Games, as the hosts sit well clear at the top of the medals table on 96 golds with only two full days of competition to go.

“Currently the team is in tip-top condition… the players are now very eager to play until the final whistle,” said captain Muhammad Adib Zainuddin, according to Bernama news agency.

“We have come this far and this is the best opportunity for Malaysia to nail the title and therefore I hope all players will fight to the end,” he added. 

“Thailand are the best team in Southeast Asia and to beat them is a dream of all teams competing in the SEA Games.”

Malaysia’s fans will also be closely watched after two Myanmar supporters were beaten up after their group game. A chant of “Singapore dogs” in the match against their neighbours was also condemned by SEA Games organisers.

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