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BANGKOK – National Under-22 squad coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s boys are ready for action in Group H despite facing a major hurdle in the run up to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC Under-23) qualifier which starts here tomorrow.

Malaysia, aiming to qualify for the AFC Cup Under-23 final in China, had less than a week of training before coming to Bangkok.

“Though we faced difficulties in getting the players together for training, I believe the players are ready for action. Our aim is to qualify for the final next year,” he told reporters here today.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Indonesia at 4pm local time (5pm Malaysia) at the Supachasalasai National Stadium in Bangkok, tomorrow.

Kim Swee said all the teams participating in the qualifier had prepared well, especially Indonesia and Thailand.

Indonesia and Thailand who had started preparations early are early favourites while Mongolia are the dark-horse in the tournament said the 46-year-old coach from Melaka.

Kim Swee faced a mammoth task to prepare the team for the tournament when players who were representing their respective teams in the M-League, refused to release them since the league is at the crucial stage.

The coach managed to gather the squad just five days before leaving to Bangkok. – BERNAMA

SEPANG –  Malaysia’s Under-22 (U-22) squad are wary of the threat posed by regional rivals Thailand and Indonesia in the AFC Cup (U-23)  qualifying round in Bangkok, Thailand from July 19 to 23.

Head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said the two neighbouring countries and Mongolia who are the opponents in Group H, are not easy to beat, but still hope his players can spring a surprise in the tournament.

“We will focus on one match at a time. Malaysia’s chances of advancing depend on the results against Thailand and Indonesia.

“Thailand are strong but at this stage, the contest will be very close,” he said when met by reporters before leaving for Bangkok at KL International Airport (KLIA), here today.

Malaysia will open their AFC Cup campaign against Indonesia on July 19 followed  by Thailand on July 21 and Mongolia on July 23.

Kim Swee was confident that the squad would  put up a commendable display despite missing six key players who were not released by their employers (teams).

The six are Matthew Davies and Mohd Nor Azam Azih (Pahang); S. Kumaahran and Syamer Kutty Abba (Penang), Haziq Nadzli and Safawi Rasid (Johor Darul Ta’zim).

Malaysia have to become group champions or the fifth second best teams in the eight groups to qualify for the tournament’s final round in China in 2018. – BERNAMA

 

SHAH ALAM – National under-22 squad head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee did not hide his disappointment with the team’s performance despite a 2-0 victory against Myanmar’s U-22 squad in an international friendly at the Shah Alam Stadium, last night.

He said weaknesses could be seen in midfield and defence where players could not deliver the right pass, giving opponents opportunities for quick counter attacks.

“In this match, I felt the midfielders and defenders were not so well organised, they were slow in getting the ball to the other side of the pitch. The passes were also not accurate and they often lost the ball,” he told a press conference after the match.

In the match last night, N. Thanabalan put the young squad ahead in the 26th minute before substitute Muhammad Danial Ashraf Abdullah added the second in the 86th minute.

Kim Swee acknowledged that a short training period as well as fatigue due to a packed M-League schedule were among reasons for the team’s poor performance.

The Melaka-born coach hopes his players would use the remaining four days to improve their weaknesses before leaving to Bangkok, Thailand for the qualifying round of the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Cup which begins on July 19.

Malaysia has been drawn in Group H with Indonesia, Mongolia and host Thailand. – BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA – National Under-22 squad head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee will be hoping to register a morale boosting win against the Myanmar Under-23 squad during an international friendly at the Shah Alam Stadium tomorrow before heading to Thailand for the 2018 AFC Cup Under-23 Qualifier which starts next week.

Kim Swee said a win would lift the spirit of the team before opening their campaign in the AFC Cup Under-23 Qualifier in Bangkok, Thailand against Indonesia on July 19.

“No team will aim for a loss, even if it is a friendly and the fact that we have only managed to train for a day. However, I am confident the players will put up a formidable performance to win,” he told reporters at Wisma FAM, Kelana Jaya, here today.

Kim Swee said all 23 players called up for National duty had reported for training.

Meanwhile, Myanmar head coach, Gerd Zeise on the other hand said, the friendly match was part of his team’s preparation for the Bangkok meet, adding that all 23 players he brought were fit for tomorrow’s match.

The 64-year-old German said, prior to coming here, his side had taken part in the four nations KBZ Bank Cup and played against their senior squad in a friendly match.

“The players had assembled for centralised training three weeks ago and this friendly match is a good test for our players before heading to Bangkok. Although we have already made early preparations, the players must not take Malaysia lightly and we must be ready for the important game, tomorrow,” Zeise said. – BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA – National Under-22 squad head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee hopes to add a tinge of Chinese flavour to his SEA Games Project squad to help capture the gold medal at the 29th Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.

Kim Swee who led Malaysia to a heroic SEA Games gold medal in the 2011 SEA Games against host Indonesia in a thrilling final, would also be hoping to steer his boys to qualify for the Under-23 2018 Asian Football Confederation Cup in Bangkok.

The 46-year-old coach who will lead the country’s campaign in the SEA Games for the fourth time, since 2011, (Myanmar SEA Games 2013) and (Singapore SEA Games 2015) took over the Project squad from German coach Frank Bernhardt in March would soon lead his charges to China for a series of friendly matches next month.

KUALA LUMPUR – National football chief coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is targeting to improve Malaysia’s ranking with win against the Philippines in an international friendly match at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on March 22.

After having draws in the last four encounters since 2012 against the 124th ranked Philippines, Kim Swee hopes a win would help the national squad to leap several ranks from its 161st spot in the world now.

The match is also a warm-up for Malaysia before facing North Korea (121st) in their 2019 Asian Cup final qualifying round on March 28.

The 47-year-old coach from Melaka said the match against The Azkals is very important as Harimau Malaysia have not been in action after being knocked out of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup group competition in Myanmar in November.

“Our games with Philippines have been ending in draws. So obviously we want to win but it would not be easy as the Philippines are a strong team and they are ranked much higher than us,” Kim Swee was quoted as saying in the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) website, www.fam.org.my, today.

On the list of 23 players called for centralised training starting Monday, he said the majority of the players have been retained to maintain the teamwork established among players.

“I did not make many changes with players as we will not have sufficient time to rebuild the new combination. It will be easier to regroup as most of the players are already familiar with each other.

“The new faces called up are based on their good performance in league matches such as Farizal Harun, Akram Mahinan and Afif Amiruddin,” he said.

Kim Swee is expected to join centralised training one day later on Tuesday, as he has to attend to family matters after his father passed away on Tuesday this week.

The first day of centralised camp training for Harimau Malaysia at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya will be conducted by national assistant coach, Brad Maloney.  – BERNAMA

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

YANGON – The Harimau Malaysia (national football squad) will “roar” for victory when facing joint hosts Myanmar in the final Group B match of the AFF Suzuki Cup at Thuwunna Stadium, here, tomorrow.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference today, National team head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said a victory against the ‘White Angels’ will certainly send them through to the semi-finals of the biennial football championship.

He, however, did not underestimate the strength of the home side who have showcased fast attacking display besides receiving rapturous support from the local crowds.

“Our players have played in packed stadiums back home in Malaysia but I believe that they can handle the situation nicely…Most importantly, we keep focused on what we need to do (during the match) beside thinking about what is going to happen outside the field,” he said.

The Melaka-born coach revealed that his side is still trying to adapt playing in the evening for the first time after having played the two previous matches in the afternoon under scorching heat.

For the record, Malaysia beat Cambodia 3-2 in the opening group match on Nov 20 before losing 0-1 to Group B winners Vietnam in the second group match, three days later.

“Our boys are not fully recovered after playing two matches at 3pm under the blazing heat within the space of six days but we have our own recovery process and a lot things we do during the process to stay fit,” Kim Swee added.

Sharing his sentiments was national vice-captain, Baddrol Bakhtiar who urged his teammates to give a commendable performance against Myanmar who only need a draw to advance to the semi-finals.

“We will be going all out when facing Myanmar despite high pressure playing before thousands of home fans and hopefully, our team will achieve a positive result,” said the Kedah midfielder.

Myanmar head coach Gerd Zeise, on the other hand, is wary of the major improvement shown by the national side after both sides shared the spoils in a scoreless draw in an international friendly match on May 28 at the same venue.

“I was also impressed to see Malaysia showcase a good performance against Vietnam in the second match on Wednesday and I expect it will be a tough game considering Malaysia desperately need a win to secure a place in the semi-finals,” the German said.

Echoeinf Zeise’s views was team captain Yan Aung Kyaw who is seeking another victory after defeating Cambodia 3-1 in the second group match on Wednesday.

“Certainly we want to claim a victory before thousands of our supporters though we only need a draw to advance to the semi-finals,” said the Yangon United FC midfielder.

Both teams share three points after playing two matches but Myanmar have the upper hand in the table standings based on a better goal advantage and therefore,  Malaysia do not have any other way than winning tomorrow’s match to secure a place in the semi-finals.

Another Group B encounter tomorrow sees group winners Vietnam, who have already claimed a place in the semi-finals, meet Cambodia at Wunna Theikdi Stadium in Naypyitaw. – BERNAMA

SINGAPORE – Malaysian coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee hopes the national team can play ‘much better’ in the Causeway Challenge tomorrow.

“The players know their responsibility. Hope they would play as how they played against Timor Leste,” he said at a pre-match press conference held here today.

In June, Malaysia defeated Timor Leste to seal a place in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup qualifying group stage next year.

The 65th clash between Malaysia and Singapore will take place at the National Stadium from 8.30pm.

“Definitely it is going to be an interesting game. Both teams are preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup. Hope both teams will benefit from this game. We are looking at good result. The objective is to prepare for the Suzuki Cup,” Kim Swee said.

The Causeway Challenge is held six weeks ahead of Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup which kicks off on Nov 19.

Kim Swee said the national squad which comprised a blend of ‘young boys’ and ‘new faces’ are eager to impress him.

“Hope tomorrow they will prove something. With a lot of changes.. it will require a little time to blend together,” he said.

The Tigers and the Lions had begun their training for the game, yesterday.

The Malaysian team will have the final opportunity to ‘test the grass’ of the National Stadium for an hour from 6pm today.

Meanwhile, Malaysian captain Amri Yahyah hoped his teammates would give their full commitment in the game.

“I urge them to be calm. All the players are young..eager to play. I hope they will contribute something to the team tomorrow. Maybe a win. Singapore did not lose against Japan and we should give them due respect,” he said.

Statistics show that from 64 previous meetings, Malaysia has won 22 times and Singapore 19 times while 23 other editions ended up in a draw.

The last time Singapore faced Malaysia was at the AFF Suzuki Cup in November 2014 when Malaysia triumphed 3-1 at the National Stadium. – BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR: National football team head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has expressed satisfaction with the performance of his team despite their 0-2 defeat to West Asian giant Saudi Arabia early today.

Their loss was in the final Group A match of the 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup Qualifier at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.

The Melaka-born coach noted that he only assembled all 23 players as a team on Monday, saying that the players underwent a recovery session over the past three days to regain their fitness after playing many matches in the Malaysian League.

“As you could see, Saudi Arabia dominated the game but our boys showcased a good performance in terms of defending and we gave a tough time to the Saudis (to score the goals) and, at the end of the day, I could not ask for more from my players.

“I also hope we can learn from this defeat, especially playing against a few Middle and West Asian countries such as United Arab Emirates, Palestine and also Saudi Arabia,” Kim Swee told a press conference after the match.

The audio of the press conference was made available by the Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) Media Department.

The hosts got their goals through Mohammed Al Sahlawi in the 50th minute and Taiseer Al Jassam in the 73rd minute.

Kim Swee said the decision to include injury-prone defender Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak was made after the player himself confirmed that he was fit for the match.

“I was not taking a risk when I decided to field him as I had consulted the team doctor first. If the player is not fit, I will not field him. For me, Aidil is an important player for us, but unfortunately he got back to his injury (during the match) but I think it was not so serious,” he said.

With the defeat, Harimau Malaysia will now play in the play-off match to the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup Qualifier.

The squad is expected to arrive home later today before heading to Melaka for a friendly match against Macau at the Hang Jebat Stadium on March 29.

Saudi Arabia, which have confirmed their spot in the final round of the 2019 Asian Cup, will face second-placed team, United Arab Emirates (UAE) at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on March 29 in the final match of Group A.

Team players:

MALAYSIA: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak (Muhammad Shahrom Abdul Kalam), Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul Hisham, Brendan Gan, Safiq Rahim (captain), S. Kunanlan, Mohd Nazrin Nawi (Shahrul Mohd Saad), Baddrol Bakhtiar, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor (Matthew Davies), Amri Yahyah.

SAUDI ARABIA: Osama Hawsawi, Khalid Sharahili, Abdulla Aldossary, Omar Ibrahim Othman (captain), Salman Alfaraj, Yahia Alshehri, Mohammed Al Sahlawi (Mokhtar Falatah), Abdul Malek Al Kahibri, Yasir Al Shahrani, Salman Muwashar (Fahd Al Muwallad), Taiseer Al Jassam (Hussain Al Moqahwi).

Referee: Kim Dong Jin (South Korea)

— BERNAMA