Malaysia national under-23 football team

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Malaysia Under-23
Nickname(s) Harimau Muda
(Young Tigers)
Association Football Association of Malaysia
Confederation AFC (Asia)
Sub-confederation AFF (Southeast Asia)
Head coach Ong Kim Swee
Captain Baddrol Bakhtiar
Home stadium Bukit Jalil National Stadium
FIFA code MAS
First colours
Second colours
First international
Malaysia Malaysia 1–1 Japan 
(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; December 1990)[1]
Biggest win
Malaysia Malaysia 11–0 Timor-Leste 
(Vientiane, Laos; 2 December 2009)
Biggest defeat
 Thailand 9–0 Malaysia Malaysia
(Bangkok, Thailand; November 1998)
Asian Games
Appearances 4 (first in 2002)
Best result Round of 16 (2010, 2018)
AFC U-23 Championship
Appearances 1 (first in 2018)
Best result Quarter-finals (2018)
Southeast Asian Games
Appearances 9 (first in 2001)
Best result Gold medal icon (G initial).svg Gold Medal (2009, 2011)

Malaysia national under-23 football team (Malay: Pasukan bola sepak kebangsaan bawah-23 Malaysia), also known as Malaysia Under-23, Malaysia U-23 or Malaysia Olympic football team) is the national team for the under-23 and 22 level, representing Malaysia in the Olympic Games, Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games, as well as any other under-23 international football tournaments including the AFC U-23 Championship.

It is controlled by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). The team won the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games gold medal.

History[edit]

The team is considered to be the feeder team for the Malaysia national football team. It is for players aged 23 and less, however 3 senior players can also be selected to play. Also in existence are national teams for Under-20s, Under-17s and Under-15s. As long as they are eligible, players can play at any level, hence it is possible for one to play for the U-23s, senior side and then again for the U-23s.

Olympic 2000[edit]

After the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, FAM aiming to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympic. Thus, the FAM spent about US$6 million and continue the contract of Malaysia youth coach, Hatem Souissi. Then FAM form a squad known as Olympic 2000 with a combination of 1997 youth squad and other under 23 players. FAM decided to include Olympic 2000 as one of the team in Malaysia League. Their first match was against Johor FA in qualification match for Malaysia Premier I League. The team won their first match away 1–0 before drawing 1–1 at home to qualify for Malaysia Premier I League. However the team finishes bottom during 1998 season with only 4 win in 22 matches.[2] The Olympic 2000 also show poor performance in international stage. They were humiliated by the Thailand Asian Games squad in a 1998 friendly match as the Thai's beat them 9–0. During the qualification matches, Olympic 2000 only manage to finish third behind Hong Kong and Japan. It is questionable among the fans how a squad who was playing together since 1995 given so much exposure and with fine talent cannot achieve the expectation.

Disbandment of Harimau Muda[edit]

After Harimau Muda project disbanded, FAM needed a fresh start for the U-23 team where a new set of players was brought in for the team with the creation of SEA Games Project 2017 team.[3] The players in the current team mainly consist of players with age around 18 to 21 years old where the oldest players will be below the age requirement of 22 years old when 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia started. With bigger pool of players within age of 18-22, the team will also play in other age-restricted tournament as the younger side such as U-21 and U-22 when needed.

Revival of the team[edit]

Southeast Asian Games[edit]

2009 Southeast Asian Games[edit]

In July 2009, K. Rajagopal was named as the new coach of Malaysia U-23 team. Under his management, Malaysia qualified to the semi-finals of 2009 SEA Games after becoming the runners-up of Group A with only one point behind the group champion, Vietnam. Malaysia then defeated Laos 3–1 in the semi-finals, before meet Vietnam again and defeat them 1–0 in the final with an own goal scored by Mai Xuân Hợp in 85th minute.[4] This would be their fifth SEA Games gold medal and also the first great achievement for the U-23 team on 20's under Rajagopal that also led Malaysia to qualify for the second round of the 2010 Asian Games as one of the best four third-placed teams after a lapse of 32 years.[5]

2011 Southeast Asian Games[edit]

In 2011, the team then had been taken over by Ong Kim Swee. The new coach later arranged two friendly matches against Thailand and Singapore in a preparation for the 2012 Olympics qualifiers. Malaysia later lost narrowly 1–2 to Thailand[7] but won 2–0 against Singapore.[8]

Malaysia then advanced to the semi-finals of the 2011 SEA Games at the top of Group A after defeating the host, Indonesia by 1–0. Then, Malaysia also beat Myanmar 1–0 in the semi-finals to advance to the final. In the final, they met Indonesia again and held them to a 1–1 draw until the end, resulting in a penalty shoot-out which Malaysia won 4–3. This was also the sixth SEA Games gold medal led by Ong Kim Swee after the successful achievement in 2009.[9]

Summer Olympics Qualification[edit]

2012 Summer Olympics Qualification[edit]

The team then continues their success by qualifying to the third round of 2012 Olympic Asian Qualifiers after defeating Pakistan on the first round and Lebanon on the second round with they become the sole team from Southeast Asia that able to qualify for the third round. However, in the third round, Malaysia lost all of their first three third round at the 2012 Olympic Asian qualifying matches, both lose 0–2 to Japan and Syria and 2–3 to Bahrain. Malaysia also lose on their second three third round and subsequently eliminated.

AFC U-23 Championship[edit]

2018 AFC U-23 Championship[edit]

Several years after the recent revival, the team made another debut to passed the AFC U-23 qualification in 2018. Positioned in Group H, the team managed to defeat Indonesia by a score of 3–0 while although suffers a similar score defeat to Thailand in the second match, the team subsequently bounce back and defeat Mongolia by 2–0. By leading the group results, Malaysia was able to qualify for the AFC U-23 Championship. The team then placed in Group C, though losing to Iraq in the first match by 1–4 before bouncing back to hold Jordan 1–1 and defeating Saudi Arabia by 1–0, the team became the group runners-up and subsequently became the first Southeast Asian representatives alongside Vietnam who able to qualify the quarter final for the first time in the tournament as well for both team history.[10] At the quarter final, Malaysia however loss to South Korea by 1–2.[11]

Asian Games[edit]

2018 Asian Games[edit]

The team then made another surprising results after being drawn in Group E in the 2018 Asian Games together with Kyrgyzstan, defending champion South Korea and Bahrain. Malaysia opened their group match with a 3–1 victory against Kyrgyzstan before managed to defeating the tournament favourites team of South Korea that was led by their 2018 FIFA World Cup players such as pair strikers Son Heung-min, Hwang Hee-chan and their goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo by 2–1 despite the latter goalkeeper did not playing in the match since he was rested.[12] The victory against South Korea is also considered as the first winning against the country in the Asian Games tournament after 16 years.[13] With high expectations from the fans began to arising, the team however failed to continue their success after losing to Bahrain by 2–3 despite already qualified to the second round and leading the group results.[14][15] The team then meet Japan and was eliminated from the tournament after their players wasting their attacking opportunities by playing cautiously in addition to their defender mistakes in the late 90th minute that subsequently giving advantage to their opponent by awarding a penalty kick which was successfully converted by Japanese striker Ayase Ueda resulting to a 0–1 score until the end of the time.[16][17]

International scene[edit]

In 2009, the Malaysian team uses the same squad for their under-23 team and senior team under the new management of coach K. Rajagopal. The senior team uses players below the age of 23, together with their senior players like Safee Sali and Norhafiz Zamani Misbah. This was set for the national team to prepare the challenges ahead of them. Since then, Malaysia also used some of their under-23 players for the tournament such as the Ho Chi Minh City Cup, 2010 Asian Games and 2010 AFF Championship. Malaysia used this way since the Football Association of Malaysia chairman, HRH Sultan Ahmad Shah, planned this and set the plan mainly for Rajagopal.[citation needed] This is as a result after the humiliation lost of the senior team by 0–5 to the United Arab Emirates at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification.

Tournament records[edit]

Olympic Games[edit]