KUALA LUMPUR – National football chief coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has shortlisted 23 players for centralised training for the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying match against North Korea on March 28.
The training session at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya which will begin on Monday (March 13) until March 20, will serve as preparations for a friendly match against The Philippines at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on March 22.
Harimau Malaysia will face an uphill battle against North Korea in the opening match of Group B for the 2019 Asian Cup qualification – third round on March 28.
The venue for the game will be announced by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) tomorrow following an application by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) for the match to be held at a neutral venue due to security factors.
For the training call-up, Kim Swee retained 18 players of the squad who turned out for 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup in Yangon, Myanmar in November with only five players dropped, an FAM statement said today.
The five players dropped are goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat of Kelantan, Irfan Fazail (JDT II), Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Kedah), Darren Lok (JDT) and Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Felda United).
They were replaced by Felda United goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Harun, Mohd Afif Amiruddin (Pahang), Khair Muhammad Jefri Jones (Melaka), Mohamad Nasir Basharudin (Perak) and Muhammad Akram Mahinan (Kedah) to complete the squad.
All players are required to report to Kim Swee this Monday except two JDT players (on Wednesday) and two Felda United players (Thursday) as they were involved in the 2017 AFC Cup with their respective clubs.
According to the statement, the average age of the squad this time is 28. Seven players are aged 25 and below, nine players in the 26-29 age group while seven players are aged 30 and above.
The squad members are Hafizul Hakim Khairul Nizam Jothy, Muhammad Shahrom Abdul Kalam, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, Shahrul Mohd Saad, Mohamad Nasir Basharudin, Mohamad Zaquan Adha Abd Radzak (all from Perak), Khairul Helmi Johari, Mohd Rizal Mohd Ghazali, Baddrol Bakhtiar, Muhammad Akram Mahinan and Mohd Syazwan Zainon (Kedah).
Mohamad Fadhli Mohd Shah, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (JDT), Mohd Farizal Harun, Muhammad Hadin Azman (Felda United), Matthew Davies, Mohd Afif Amiruddin (Pahang), Mohd Khairulazhan Mohd Khalid, S. Veenod (Selangor), Khair Muhammad Jefri Jones, Mohd Amri Yahyah (Melaka United), Mohd Safee Mohd Sali (PKNS FC) and Ronny Harun (Sarawak). – BERNAMA