MALAYSIA'S failure to qualify for next year's AFC Under-22 Championship is an opportunity lost for some of the promising players to gain big-match experience.
They were expected to make a big impression on the Yangon qualifiers, which ended on Tuesday, but a string of inconsistent performances proved to be their downfall.
Malaysia needed a win against Myanmar in their final Group G match but the hosts turned in a splendid display to win 2-1 and join South Korea in the tournament proper.
Coach Ong Kim Swee blamed his team's backline for the defeat.
"My defenders allowed Myanmar to score easy goals. I am disappointed as I expected more from them. It is a poor result," said Kim Swee after the match on Tuesday.
"Everyone in the team played below par. I believe they were affected by the slippery pitch and also the very vocal Myanmar fans."
Kim Swee had limited replacements in the absence of the injured centreback Amer Saidin and the situation got worse when Shahrul Saad was suspended for the final match.
National centreback Fadhli Shas was the only dependable defender but even his experience could not stop Myanmar from scoring as his partner Fandi Othman was under-performing.
Malaysia could have had a good start in the event when they played South Korea but woeful defending gifted their opponents a 3-2 win.
Portugal-bound Nazmi Faiz Mansor was expected to make a huge impression but the 18-year-old failed to live up to his star billing throughout the tournament.
Malaysia, however, have a new star in Sabah-born Rozaimi Abdul Rahman, who emerged as the group's top scorer with 10 goals.
Rozaimi, 20, gained his maiden international experience in Kim Swee's squad in last year's friendly against Chelsea but featured in only one match in the recent Asian Zone Olympic Qualifiers.
The midfielder was also tested by national coach K. Rajagobal in an international friendly against Sri Lanka in April.
Malaysia, who ended their campaign with nine points, have no chance to qualify as the third-best team in the seven-group qualifier as Oman finished third with 10 points in Group A. Either Oman or Thailand will host next year's tournament proper. By Ajitpal Singh