PUTRAJAYA: The stakes are high for Malaysia's AFF Suzuki Cup final against Vietnam next week, with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad personally telling his team: “Don’t let me and the country down,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said to the national football team ahead of their AFF Suzuki Cup final first-leg tie against Vietnam at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil next Tuesday (Dec 11).
The Harimau Malaya squad will be playing against Vietnam after kicking out defending champions Thailand on Wednesday in a tense match.
The match ended in a 2-2 draw, but the Malaysian team advanced to the final on away goal rule, reported The Star.
Vietnam also made it to the final on Thursday after a 2-1 second leg victory over the Philippines gave them a 4-2 aggregate win in their semi-final.
READ: Football: Vietnam to face Malaysia in Suzuki Cup final
Dr Mahathir, who will watch the final at the stadium, met the squad at Perdana Putra on Friday in a bid to spur them on.
“We must win so that we can be proud of the country’s ability. As Malaysians, we are responsible for defending the dignity and honour of the country,” he said, adding that he hoped the team would do their best to win.
Dr Mahathir also advised the players to be disciplined, especially in making sure they had enough rest and to train diligently and passionately in order to achieve success.
“I hope you will work hard and practice a lot. Live, sleep and think only of football and winning for Malaysia,” he said.
Dr Mahathir added that he hoped Malaysia would one day qualify for the World Cup.
“Football used to be one of the sports where Malaysia used to be strong at and won consistently, now the country is being left behind,” he said.
He said Japan had achieved great success quickly and were a very good team although they used to trail Malaysia last time.
“Because they trained diligently, Japan have improved so much that they have even qualified for the World Cup. So, I want to see Malaysia compete in the World Cup one day,” he said.
Malaysia will travel to Hanoi for the second leg of the final on Dec 15.