ONG Kim Swee should have been celebrating his 43rd birthday yesterday and got a cold shower instead from his players.The national youth coach has postponed all celebrations to Dec 21, the day of the men's Sea Games football final, in the hope Malaysia will complete a hat-trick of gold medals.
"My birthday wish would be to receive the perfect gift, not only for myself but also for the country, a hat-trick of gold medals," said Kim Swee as his players were put through their paces at the Paung Laung Stadium in Pyinmana yesterday.
Shortly afterwards, Kim Swee was drenched after the players poured a pail of cold water over the coach, who would become the only Malaysian coach to win back-to-back gold medals if successful on Dec 21.
First, though, there is a minefield to negotiate and Malaysia's unconvincing display in the opening 2-0 win over Brunei on Tuesday gave Kim Swee many things to ponder.
"We had so many chances to score but I can't teach them how to kick the ball into the net," said Kim Swee of his side's profligacy in front of goal.
"The boys know they were not up to the mark and they will have to work harder. Against Laos (tomorrow) and Singapore (Sunday) we will have to be at our best.
"If we beat them and get the maximum points, then we're definitely in (the semi-finals). If we can settle this early then we can afford to look at other options against Vietnam (on Tuesday)."
Reflecting on the Brunei match, Kim Swee said he chose to field an attack-oriented line up which was why the defence was exposed to dangerous counter attacks.
"The main reason that happened was because I fielded Nazmi (Faiz Mansor) and Irfan (Fazail) who are mainly attacking midfielders," he said.
"We did not underestimate Brunei but we wanted to create chances, which we did, but lacked the finishing touch.
"We will adopt a different approach against Laos. It won't be an all out attack because Laos are a decent side.
"I may field just one striker because I also have to think about the Singapore match two days later and I need to balance the line ups."
Kim Swee is considering starting with Nasir Basharuddin and S. Sivanesan in midfield at the expense of Nazmi, who cannot last a full 90 minutes due to cramps, and striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan.
Ahmad Hazwan Bakri may also start in place of fellow forward Rozaimi Abdul Rahman, who scored the opener against Brunei.
"Of all the midfielders in the squad, Nasir is the best at defensive duties," said Kim Swee.
"When the attacks broke down, Irfan was slow to track back which is why Nasir and Sivanesan can come in to support the midfield.
"Our back line would not be changed. We have to live with the mistakes which Shahrul (Saad) tends to make every game and I think Fadhli (Shas) will have to play all the games here without a break."
Read more: Celebrations on hold - Soccer - New Straits Times