Jurulatih Malaysia Tan Cheng Hoe tidak mahu peminat tanahair meletakkan harapan terlalu tinggi pada Piala AFF nanti.
Tan Cheng Hoe said Malaysia are underdogs at the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup despite being drawn into a favourable Group A consisting of Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
“We are the underdogs for this tournament. I’m a new coach with the national team, and will bring a team of young players. I hope the players will give a good account of themselves,” said Tan after the draw in Indonesia on Wednesday.
The Harimau Malaya were drawn against the same teams, bar Laos, at the 2016 edition in Myanmar.
Despite being favourites to qualify to the semifinals in that tournament, the team under Ong Kim Swee failed to deliver and crashed out in the group stage.
Perhaps sensing a huge wave of anticipation from the fans, Tan was quick to be realistic about his team’s chances.
⚽ #AFFSUZUKICUP2018 DRAW ⚽
The groups for this year’s tournament have been decided! Are you happy with your country’s group? 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/Ol2UfJN48Q
— FOX Sports LIVE! (@FSAsiaLive) May 2, 2018
“The favourites in Group A would be Vietnam. I don’t want the players to feel the pressure, as there is a lot of expectations from our fans. We cannot produce results overnight, so I hope they will be patient.”
The new tournament format will see each team play two home and two away matches in the group stage.
Malaysia open their campaign away to Cambodia on November 8. After that, they will host Laos on November 12, followed by Vietnam (away, Nov 16) and Myanmar (home, Nov 24).
Group B is dubbed the ‘Group of Death’ with five-time champions Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapre and the winner of Brunei/Timor Leste.
But despite getting a seemingly easier group on paper, Tan is already racing against time to find his best squad for the biennial tournament.
Malaysia had recorded a first victory in almost 16-months when they beat Bhutan 7-0 on April 1, and success hungry fans in the country will not wait that long for another win.
But Tan can count upon a lot of promising young players who have impressed this year, especially at the AFC Under-23 Championship in January.
The football tournament at the multi-sport Asian Games in August will also give him an insight of which players can step up to the fore on the international front.
Photo credit: Football Association of Malaysia Facebook