Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee is not happy with the criticism his side, ranked 161, is facing even after they came up with a spirited performance to hold higher-ranked Philippines to a goalless draw on the road in an international friendly on Wednesday.
The 46-year-old tactician led the team to Manila amidst uncertainties surrounding his future with the national team as changes are reportedly expected to happen after the Football Association of Malaysia election on 25 March. With their AFC Asian Cup opener against North Korea postponed due to political tension prevailing between the two countries, Kim Swee would have wanted to start the year on high and carry some momentum into the qualifying campaign.
However, Philippines, who were looking to overcome last year's AFF Suzuki Cup disappointment, opened the game on a strong note and kept pressing relentlessly. Despite Baddrol Bakhtiar and Amri Yahyah not able to pull the strings efficiently for Malaysia, the Tigers' backline did its job by fending off challenges from the Azkals.
Also, Kim Swee's tactics to bring in S Venood in the dying moments almost paid off as the midfielder went close to snatching the lead minutes before the final whistle. Despite Malaysia not being able to find the back of the net for the third consecutive time, the defensive discipline shown by the team early in the season would have boosted the coach's confidence.
However, Kim Swee reacted sharply to fans' disappointment over the result. The former international believes that his team did their best to snatch a draw against the Filipinos, who, according to him, are an "improved side" aided by naturalised players.
"As I said, for us to get a point away from home is valuable. It is tough to play against the Filipinos. They are an improved side with their naturalised players. The draw will give us more ranking points than the Philippines but yet people are complaining," Kim Swee said on Thursday, as quoted by The Star.
"I do not understand what they want from us. When we lost or drew with lower ranked teams in friendlies last year they called us clowns. Now when we drew with the Philippines – a team almost 40 points higher than us ... they call us failures.
"We have a mixed blend of players and no superstars. We had a chance to win the game in the closing stages but just could not finish it."