PETALING JAYA (March 21): National Under-22 head coach, Datuk Ong Kim Swee is targeting two early wins in Group J of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 qualifying round starting tomorrow at Shah Alam Stadium.
The Melaka-born coach stressed that wins against Philippines tomorrow and Laos on March 23, would boost Malaysia's chances to qualify for the final round of the championship in Thailand.
He however admitted that all teams in the group, including China who would be the last opponents of Malaysia on March 26, should be taken seriously, based on the intense preparations by the three teams.
"We cannot afford to take the challenge lightly, especially Philippines who will be hosting 2019 SEA Games, and they would have put tremendous efforts before this championship,” he told a pre-tournament media conference here today.
In this regard, Kim Swee announced he was forced to drop Pahang's R. Kogileswaran due to injuries and three other players, as their positions had been filled.
The three players are Perak's Nazirul Afif Ibrahim, Ariff Ar-Rasyid Ariffin (PKNS FC) and Ariusdius Jais of Sabah.
In the meantime, Kim Swee is confident local supporters would come out strongly to cheer the national squad starting with the match against Philippines tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Philippines U-22 head coach, Salvador Salvacion said he is aware the tough test they are facing in this tournament, but he still have faith that his players would put up a good show to qualify for the tournament's final round in Bangkok, next year.
“We are happy to be here and we will try our best. We are fielding a few new players and I hoped they will help our team to secure positive results in this tournament,” he said.
List of 23 Malaysian players:
Muhammad Haziq Nadzli, Dominic Tan Jun Jin, Syamer Kutty Abba, Muhammad Akhyar Abdul Rashid, Muhammad Safawi Rasid (kapten), Mohamad Hariz Kamarudin (JDT), Nik Akif Syahiran Nik Mat, Muhammad Danial Haqim Draman, Muhamad Shahrul Nizam Ros Hasni, Nik Azli Nik Alias, Damien Lim Chien Khai (Kelantan).
R. Dinesh, Mohamad Faisal Abdul Halim (Pahang), Muhamad Azri Ab Ghani, Ahmad Tasnim Fitri Mohd Nasir, Muhammad Danial Amier Norhisham (Felda United), Muhammad Jafri Muhammad Firdaus Chew (PKNS FC).
Evan Wensley Wenceslaus (Sabah), Muhammad Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak (Fagiano Okayama) K. Thivandaran (PJ City FC), Muhammad Amirul Ashraf Ariffin (UiTM FC), Muhammad Izzan Syahmi Mustapa (Terengganu FC II) and Muhammad Syahmi Safari (Selangor). — Bernama