FOR Malaysia to win the AFF Under-15 title today, they must neutralise four deadly Thai players.
This was stated by coach P. Maniam after his boys beat Vitetnam 3-1 in the semi-final in Chonburi on Wednesday.
Malaysia have reached their first AFF (Asean Football Federation) Under-15 final in five years after winning the title in Myanmar in 2013.
Maniam said his boys are in high spirits following their spectacular run in the competition.
But he warned the young Harimau Malaya to be wary of four Thai players.
“I have told them to chain or shut down four Thailand players, striker Minhart Kadeeroj, midfielders Niphitphon Wongpanya and Adisak Yochaon and centreback Chonnapat Buaphan.”
Minhart and Kakana Khamyok have been instrumental in the War Elephants’ progress to the final with the duo being the team’s top scorers with three goals apiece.
Niphitphon emerged as Thailand’s hero when he secured their berth in the final after scoring both goals in the 2-0 win against Indonesia in the semi-final.
In a group match earlier, Malaysia held three-time champions Thailand 1-1 on Monday. Maniam’s team have been a revelation in the tournament, shocking a formidable Australia 3-0 earlier. In group matches, Malaysia routed Brunei 8-0 and Cambodia 2-0.
The national under-15 team will bank on Muhammad Nabil Qayyum Zainuddin, who helped Malaysia win the Jockey Club Youth International in Hong Kong in April.
Nabil, a student at Mokhtar Dahari Academy, plundered two goals in the semi-final against Vietnam, and is currently the team’s top scorer with four goals in three matches.
Apart from Nabil’s stellar performance, Maniam stressed that credit should be given to the whole team as well as the coaching staff.
“He (Nabil) is good but I would commend the whole team. We made it this far in the competition due to hard work and dedication.
“I would also like to thank the coaching staff who, on a daily basis, make sure the boys get sufficient rest and proper dietary intake.
“I also want to thank the parents of our players who made their way down to Thailand to cheer the team on.”
If Malaysia triumph today, it will be Maniam’s second success. Last month, he led the same squad to the CFA tournament title.
Meanwhile, the national under-12 team finished third in the Soon Ching Ling Cup behind Thailand and hosts China.
In the AFF U18 Cup challenge, Brad Maloney had a disappointing debut as the national under-18 coach when Malaysia lost 1-0 to Vietnam.