The moment of truth: Malaysia face Vietnam in AFF Cup Under-23 semis

Rayong, THAILAND: How far is Vietnamese football ahead of Malaysia? Are we still playing catch-up with them?

We should have a good idea when the two nations meet today in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-23 championship semi-final at the Rayong Province Stadium.

The Vietnamese seem to be exuding confidence as their coach, Hoang Anh Tuan doesn't mind missing a key player or two.

The no-nonsense coach even asked for his midfielder, Nguyen Van Truong, to be sent off by the referee for being involved in a scuffle in the 1-0 win over the Philippines on Tuesday.

Defending champions Vietnam have come to the tournament with six under-18 and 10 under-20 players.

Anh Tuan said his goal is to raise the standard of the young Vietnamese side to Asian level.

"The most important thing for me is that through this tournament, we develop ourselves," Anh Tuan said at a pre-match press conference yesterday.

"In my opinion, we will have an interesting game tomorrow."

Malaysia coach E. Elavarasan said his team have achieved their target of reaching the semi-finals.

"Firstly, I want to congratulate our team for qualifying for the semi-finals after four years.

"Vietnam are a strong side in Southeast Asia and they have been doing well. I admire the coach of Vietnam," said Elavarasan.

Malaysia's best achievement in the tournament was fourth in 2005. At the last edition, held in Cambodia, Malaysia failed to win even a single match.

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