"FORGET about Laos. Focus on Vietnam."
This is the message from national coach K. Rajagobal to his players ahead of tomorrow's Sea Games football final against Vietnam.
"They need to focus on Vietnam as their performance on that day will be the decider on whether Malaysia end the 20-year gold medal drought. This is the last shot, it's a make-or-break situation and they must prepare themselves mentally for the final," said Rajagobal in Vientiane yesterday.
"Many people wished me luck and promised to pray for the team's success before I left for Vientiane. I want to thank them for their support. My message to all Malaysians is to be patient with the team. I believe in the players and they should also give them time.
"Reaching this far in this tournament is a great effort as we only played friendly matches in the build-up to the Sea Games. I hope the people of Malaysia will support and credit the team no matter the outcome against Vietnam."
In the build-up to the Sea Games, many questioned Rajagobal's move on picking his Under-23 players for senior-level matches.
"Yes, many asked me why. As a coach I wanted my Under-23 players to get the exposure. In my personal opinion, my move has paid dividends as the team are now in the final of the Sea Games," said the 53-year-old coach.
He said the return of Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak will give him more options in the final.
"I am happy that he (Zaquan) is back but I have to be fair to the other players. I can't say anything right now. I will pick players in accordance to the game plan," the coach said.
On Malaysia's chances against Vietnam, Rajagobal said he and his support team have studied their (Vietnam's) game and are in the midst of preparing a plan.
"Vietnam may be thinking that our game plan will be the same as when we played Thailand and Laos. Our team will definitely not make it easy for Vietnam this time. It is a different ball game as anything can happen in the final," he added.
Malaysia last won the gold medal in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur when they beat Singapore 3-1 in the final.
The last time Malaysia won a gold medal outside Kuala Lumpur was in the 1981 Manila Games. They defeated Indonesia 1-0 in the final.