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Saturday September 14, 2013 MYT 7:30:00 AM
Saturday September 14, 2013 MYT 6:57:01 AM
by k. rajan
The Malaysian Under-23 team training on Friday. They face Myanmar in the Merdeka Tournament final on Saturday.
MAKING it to the Merdeka Tournament final proves that the National Under-23 team are on the right track to defend the gold medal in the Myanmar SEA Games.
Local fans watching the Malaysia-Myanmar final at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan tonight will get a sneak preview of the team’s possible medal prospects at the SEA Games.
Ong Kim Swee’s boys have been impressive so far in the four-team invitational tournament by winning all three matches en route to the final. They registered wins over Singapore (1-0), Myanmar (2-1) and Thailand (3-0).
Indications are rife that Myanmar will pose a serious threat for the gold medal judging by their spirited performance, which would serve a real test for Kim Swee’s boys. The cakewalk to the final showed that Kim Swee has the right recipe to win the tournament which Malaysia last won in 2007, with a 3-1 victory over Myanmar.
Malaysia have prepared well with five months of training and playing exposure in Europe and Kim Swee admitted that he’s having a “pleasant headache” to pick the team for the final as all the players are showcasing their A game.
Injury to ace winger Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor and food poisoning to hard-tackling midfielder Junior Eldstal might be a minor hiccup for the team as Kim Swee has still plenty of options.
The former international admitted that his Myanmar counterpart - Park Sung-hwa - could have plans for the final after their defeat on Monday.
The Korean international will be boosted by the return of skipper Kyaw Zayar Win from an ankle injury and playmaker Kyi Lin’s after serving a one-match suspension.
However, Kim Swee conceded that winning the Merdeka Tournament would be the perfect gift for the country which will celebrate Malaysia Day on Monday.
“Wan Zack and Junior are looking doubtful for the final and I have yet to decide on the team,” said the 43-year-old coach.
“Myanmar will be the wounded tigers following their earlier defeat to us and it’s going to be tough to play them again.
“They have their core players – Zayar Win, Kyi Lin, Kyaw Ko Ko and Thein Than Win – available for the final and we must find a way to shackle them in the game.”
Sung-hwa, who has featured in four Merdeka Tournaments himself from 1974-1978, and in the process picked up three winners medals, said that he had told his players to keep their cool during the match.
The 58-year-old coach is still sore after Kyi Lin was sent off deep into injury time, for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 loss to Malaysia.
“Malaysia have an all-round and balanced team. Even the players on the bench can play equally well as the first choice players,” said Sung-hwa.
“I am expecting a very exciting match. I have told the players to keep their cool on the field and stay focused for the full 90 minutes.”
Tags / Keywords:
football, Merdeka Tournament, Malaysia, Myanmar, SEA Games, Ong Kim Swee
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