MANILA: Under-22 national football head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee says it is not ‘the end of the world’ his squad were eliminated from the group stages at the 30th SEA Games, here.

In the wake of the humiliating 13 loss to Cambodia, he said people should be aware that Southeast Asian teams like Cambodia and Laos, which were previously considered the underdogs, had come up far from where they were. The 49-year-old also acknowledged that the team did not deserve to enter the semifinals based on the poor performance shown throughout the competition, which his men came into with only a short training stint.

“Of course we haven’t played well since day one; we can see that we struggled in every game. We did not convert our chances, where we had a very good chance in the second half, but that makes the difference after Cambodia scored the first goal.

“It is not the end of the world, only that we have to buckle up. After returning home, we will conduct a post mortem to look at not only the U-22 team, but all age categories.

Muhammad Danial Haqim Draman of Malaysia (second right) vies with cambodia players on Wednesday. Photo: Bernama

“Nobody wants this to happen, especially the players and me, but we have to take it. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but we have to think about what we should do next to not be left behind the other Asean teams,” he told a press conference after the match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.

Malaysia started the campaign with a 1-1 draw against Myanmar, and were stunned by a 0-1 defeat to the Philippines, before bouncing back against Timor Leste with a  4-0 win, only to lose 1-3 to Cambodia in the final match.

The dismal outing saw the repeat of the 1991 Manila SEA Games, where Malaysia also lost 0-1 to the Philippines at the same venue to be eliminated in the group stage.

Kim Swee, who led Malaysia to the 2011 SEA Games gold medal, however, refuted claims that the formation he used during the campaign led to the team’s downfall.

“When we qualified for the quarterfinals (of the Asian Games 2018) by beating South Korea, no one questioned my formation, but they do so now, even though many of the players (on the team) are the same. – Bernama