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Friday September 6, 2013 MYT 8:39:00 PM
Friday September 6, 2013 MYT 8:41:13 PM
K. Reuben leading the rest of the squad during the training session at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan.
KUANTAN: The time has come for the National Under-23 team to stand up and deliver.
And their first real test begins Saturday – when they face the Singapore Under-23 side in their opening Merdeka Tournament match at the Darul Makmur Stadium.
Coach Ong Kim Swee’s men underwent eight months of training-cum-playing tour of Europe as a part of the team’s build-up for the SEA Games in Myanmar in December.
And the Merdeka Tournament, which is making a comeback after a five year-hiatus, is the ideal stage for the team to prove that they're on the right track to land Malaysia’s third consecutive gold at the SEA Games.
Kim Swee had even bolstered the team by calling up eight players from the M-League and FC Ryukyu to assemble a formidable side for the tournament, which they are expected to win.
The eight boys are Mohd Nasir Basharuddin (Perak), S. Sivanesan (Negri Sembilan), Nik Shahrul Azim (Kelantan), Mohd Zubir Azmi (Terengganu), Putera Nadher Amarhan Maderner (Sarawak), K. Reuben (Armed Forces), Mohd Nazmi Faiz Mansor (PKNS) and Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor (FC Ryukyu).
The Singapore Under-23 squad, coached by V. Sundramoorthy, prepared for the SEA Games by playing in the Super League to get competitive matches.
Sundram has 15 players from the Super League-winning side Lions XII and Friday’s match will be a perfect indicator of how the teams will fare in Myanmar.
Kim Swee expects his team to win the tournament and cautioned them against complacency against Singapore.
“We definitely want to finish as champions here,” said Kim Swee at a press conference Friday.
“It’s never easy against Singapore ... there is intense rivalry between us and this brings added pressure to the team. Our players must keep their emotions in check.
“I expect all the players to blend in. They may have only played one match together but they are gelling well. I believe that after a couple of games they will be able to combine even better.”
Sundram, meanwhile, had singled out Malaysian winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor as their biggest threat.
“We have to make sure we settle in early in the match ... it’s going to be a tough match, especially playing in front a big crowd and in the 5.30pm heat,” said Sundram.
“The Malaysian team have the advantage here and our players will have to lift their game if they want to get something from the match.”
Malaysia's probable line-up:
Goalkeeper: Mohd Izham Tarmizi.
Defence: Mohd Zubir Azmi, Nik Shahrul Azim Abdul Halim, Mohd Fadhli Mohd Shas, K. Reuben.
Midfield: Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, Irfan Fazail, Junior Eldstal, Nazmi Faiz Mansor, D. Saarvindran.
Striker: A. Thamil Arasu.
Tags / Keywords:
football, Merdeka Tournament, Malaysia, Ong Kim Swee, M-League, FC Ryukyu, Under-23, V. Sundramoorthy
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