Malaysian players celebrate after defeating Australia 3-0 in the AFF Under-18 championship yesterday.

NO one has said this for a long time but we can finally believe and say: There are good signs that Malaysian football is on the way to a great future.

Malaysia’s youth football is indeed making great progress, judging from the national teams’ rousing results in two international youth tournaments in the past two weeks.

A week ago, Malaysia saw off several fancied teams, including Australia, in Chonburi, Thailand, to win the Asean Football
Federation (AFF) Under-15 title.

And yesterday, the young Harimau Malaya socked it to the young Socceroos again in the AFF Under-18 championship at the Thanh Long Stadium, Vietnam.

The flattering 3-0 scoreline was probably an unexpected result for Malaysia’s Australian coach Brad Maloney who had earlier claimed that Australia were the favourites.

On the eve of the match, Maloney had said he would base his strategy on the Malaysian Way — which is attacking football.

The 47-year-old former Socceroo said so in response to claims that he was “copying” national Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee’s tactics.

And yesterday, the Malaysian Way was a pure joy to behold, as the incisive Malaysian players made their way past the bemused Aussies.

Maloney said: “We stuck to our game plan that we worked in the training. The players executed it beautifully.”

The win over Australia put Malaysia well on course for the semi-finals.

Maloney’s boys started the competition on the wrong note in Group B, losing 1-0 to Vietnam but recovered to defeat Singapore 3-1 and Cambodia 3-0.

So, for the second time in two weeks, Malaysia have bloodied the nose of Australia, a nation who have qualified for the World Cup final five times.

Malaysia’s Luqman Hakim Shamsudin was the star of the match, plundering two goals.

The diminutive Kelantanese showed he has what it takes to be a great striker as he danced his way past the bigger Australian defenders.

The Malaysians gave a sublime first half performance which clearly showed their punchy and precise game was way above the team from Down Under.

And the Aussies, who had beaten five-time champions Thailand 3-1 in an earlier match, just couldn’t mount a fightback against their smaller opponents in the second half.

Australia were left staring
unbelievably at their own goal in the 17th minute when Luqman chipped the ball in after outpacing the backline.

Ten minutes later, Muhammad Azam Azmi Murad doubled Malaysia’s lead, finishing off a move that started with a corner before Luqman produced another moment of magic to make it 3-0 in the 39th minute.