Malaysia Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee believes Thursday’s 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games semi-final against Indonesia will once again be a close encounter.
Both sides met in the final of the previous edition two years ago and on that occasion, it was Harimau Muda who prevailed 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.
There will not be a gold medal on the line this time around as both sides are meeting in the last four instead, but Ong is expecting another tense affair between the two rivals.
“It will be a totally different ball game this time round, unlike the group stages,” he said on the AFF’s official website.
“I have seen their matches but that will count for nothing in the semi-finals. It will be a mind game and the team which makes mistakes will pay for it.
“It was close two years ago and it will be no different this time round.”
Although they were regarded as one of the favourites at the start of the tournament, Malaysia needed a final-day 2-1 win over Vietnam to book their spot in the last four as Group A winners.
Likewise, Indonesia had looked on their way out after a crushing 4-1 loss to Thailand and a shock 0-0 draw against Timor Leste, but beat Myanmar 1-0 on the final match day to pip the hosts to the runners-up spot in Group B.
And Merah Putih coach Rahmad Darmawan believes his side will need more of the fighting spirit they showed against Myanmar if they are to advance to the final.
“In our last match against Myanmar, we showed that we have that fighting quality,” he said. “It is this which is so important in the semi-final.
“I don’t want to be on the losing end this time round.”
While Malaysia have quality players all over the park that could do real damage to the Indonesians, Rahmad claims he will not be setting out his side to counter these threats, but will instead back them to play to the best of their abilities.
“I can pick up a few pointers in terms of the quality of their players,” he added.
“But as far as tactics are concerned, it is best that I concentrate on my own team.”
In the other semi-final, 13-time champions Thailand take on Singapore, who will be looking to make the final for the first time since 1989.