MALAYSIA have placed their backs against the wall after losing 5-4 to India, and today, coach Arul Selvaraj and his boys must beat or hold Japan at all cost in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan.
A win or a draw will see Malaysia finish top-two in Group A, and meet either Bangladesh or Oman in the cross-over quarter-finals. A defeat against Japan will pit Malaysia against South Korea in the last eight.
The tournament offers three tickets to the 2016 Junior World Cup, and Malaysia must play in the semi-finals to take up the offer.
India are favourites to top Group A, provided they beat China today.
"My boys did some silly mistakes against India, but we can't afford the same against Japan. I believe it will be another tough match but we have the capability to come out tops.
"We played Japan in four friendlies in February and lost three and drew one match. But that was a different Malaysia and I did not have 50 per cent of my top players. Even then, I don't believe in history, because I think positive, and have inculcated that habit in my players over the Sea Games (gold) and Sultan of Johor Cup (bronze)," said Arul.
The good news yesterday was that defender Amirol Aideed is ready to play his first match in Kuantan.
"Amirol was rested to recover from hamstring against China and India, but will play against Japan. He has a cool head, and its just what we need to keep a tight lid in defense," said Arul.
Malaysia were guilty of letting in three soft goals against India, and hopefully Amirol, who played a sterling role in the SOJC, will not disappoint.
Japan coach Takahiko Yamabori, whose charges surprised India when they only lost 1-2, believes his boys are ready for Malaysia, as they plan ahead for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"We are building this team for the Tokyo Olympics, and I believe at least 60 per cent of my juniors will play in the Olympics and that is why its very important that we beat Malaysia to have an easier passage into the Junior World Cup.
"We need to play in the Junior World Cup to make these players more confident when they play in the Olympics," said Takahiko.
Japan failed to qualify for the last Junior World Cup where Malaysia finished fourth ahead of South Korea (eighth), Pakistan (ninth) and India (10th).
The battle cry from Japan was chilling, but Arul has his plans: "Inside both the 25-yards, they must play with intelligence, and inside both the semi-circles with passion to 'die' defending and scoring.
"That's what I have trained these players to do, and they displayed these qualities in both the previous matches. Silly mistakes is what made us lose to India, but my charges are ready to make amends against Japan."
Group B is very much wrapped up, as barring upsets, Pakistan should beat Oman to top the group, while South Korea is the better team compared to Bangladesh and should finish second.
Nov 16: REST DAY
Nov 17: Group A: India v China (6pm, Pitch I), Japan v Malaysia (8.15pm, Pitch I).
Group B: Oman v Pakistan (4pm, Pitch I), South Korea v Bangladesh (4.30pm, Pitch II).
Nov 18: REST DAY
Nov 19: Quarter-finals.
P W D L F A Pts
INDIA 2 2 0 0 7 5 6
MALAYSIA 2 1 0 1 8 5 3
JAPAN 2 1 0 1 3 3 3
CHINA 2 0 0 2 1 6 0
P W D L F A Pts
PAKISTAN 2 2 0 0 6 1 6
S KOREA 2 1 0 1 5 5 3
BANGLADESH 2 1 0 1 6 7 3
OMAN 2 0 0 2 6 10 0