‘Sweet for me, sweet for the country’ – Rajagobal

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Datuk K. Rajagobal still remembers when he helmed Malaysia to their first ever AFF Suzuki Cup title in 2010 – a year after guiding Malaysia to the gold medal at the 2009 SEA Games after a 20-year absence.
The back to back victories made Rajagobal a household name not only in Malaysia but also in the region and he was in great demand.
“Winning the two titles was not easy, it came through hard work, commitment and dedication by all involved in the team Most importantly it was the attitude of the players that made things easier,” recollects Rajagobal whose assistant was Tan Cheng Hoe, the current national coach.
“We won the titles against the favorites. Vietnam was the defending champion (for the AFF Suzuki Cup) and we also had Thailand and Indonesia as the other title aspirants.”
The former international hailed AFF Suzuki Cup win as “sweet for me, sweet for the country.”
In the semi-finals, Malaysia stunned Vietnam 2-0 at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil with a brace by Safee Sali and then held out for a scoreless draw in the return-leg played at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.
In the two-leg final, Malaysia hammered Indonesia 3-0 in the first-leg at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil with Safee scoring another brace while Ashaari Shamsuddin scored one.
The return leg was played at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on Dec 29.
Indonesia carved out a 2-1 win with late goals by Mohammad Nasuha and Muhammad Ridwan after Safee had given Malaysia the lead but it did not stop Malaysia from laying their hands on the silverware.
Indonesia was touted as the hot favorite after crushing Malaysia 5-1 in a Group A match in their opening tie and went on to beat Thailand and Laos for maximum points. Malaysia recovered from the big defeat to Indonesia to beat Laos 5-1 and held Thailand to a scoreless draw to finish runners-up in the group with four points.
The rest is history as Rajagobal cherishes the Suzuki Cup success as a highlight of his coaching career with the national team.     
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