While the highest point of Malaysia's campaign in the recent 2019 AFF U-18 Championship was surely their 3-0 group stage win over tournament favourites Australia, its lowest point perhaps took place immediately in the following match.
In the 69th minute of their Group B match against Thailand last Thursday, Malaysia goalkeeper Firdaus Iman botched his audacious attempt to dribble past an onrushing Sitthinan Rungrueang at the edge of his own box, allowing Rungrueang to score the only goal of the match. Thankfully, the defeat did not dent the Young Tigers' chances of qualifying, after hosts Vietnam fell to a shock 3-1 defeat against Cambodia on the same day.
However, Firdaus was then benched in their following matches, only returning to the pitch in their final match against Australia after Sikh Izhan Sikh Azman was injured in the second half. Even then, misfortune still dogged him, and Firdaus would concede what would be the only goal of the match just minutes after coming on, although this time he was not to be blamed.
When met by the press at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Tuesday upon the team's arrival from Vietnam, the custodian remarked that the tournament has provided him with an important personal lesson.
"We're sorry for failing to defend the title, but we remain just as determined as we were. We will continue to train until we win.
"This tournament has provided me with personal trials, following the big mistake that I committed against Thailand. My teammates and the staff have been very supportive towards me, and I already felt better the day after the match.
"I haven't paid much attention to social media comments. After the incident took place, I told myself 'Whatever happens, let it be'. And the response was indeed severe, but I take it as a personal trial, something that will motivate me further," explained Firdaus
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