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Tuesday November 20, 2012

Project 2013 squad want time to prepare for Junior World Cup next year

JOHOR BARU: The Project 2013 team management will insist that they be given at least 45 days of uninterrupted preparation prior to the Junior World Cup in New Delhi from Dec 5-16 next year.

Project coach K. Dharmaraj said the players would not be allowed to take part in any domestic competitions during this period.

This comes hard on the heels of the team’s poor showing at the Sultan of Johor Cup where they ended up rock bottom, just a year after being crowned champions. Six months ago, the team had also won the Junior Asia Cup.

The drastic fall is certainly cause for concern but Dharmaraj chose to gloss over the fiasco in Johor Baru.

“We have ample time to sort out the team and find the answers. We have more than 13 months before the Junior World Cup,” he said.

“We are certainly concerned about the team’s inability to score and win matches despite ample opportunities to do so. But the players were involved in a lot of tournaments coming into the Sultan of Johor Cup.

“The problem could have been their mental state. They may have been mentally tired.

“How else can we explain players of their experience not being able to even get a simple push right or score open goals. You face such situations when players are not mentally fit.”

Malaysia played a total of six matches in Johor Baru, winning just once in the opening tie against Germany (3-2). They drew 3-3 with India but lost all the other four matches.

Of the 18 players in the squad, five will be too old for the Junior World Cup next year. They are Mohamed Noor Faeez Ibrahim, Mohamed Ramadhan Rosli, Amir Farid, Mohamed Firhan Azhaari and Dedi Aryadi Jumaidi.

Dharmaraj had hoped to find suitable replacements but was disappointed that none of the others stood out in the tournament.

“One of the objectives was to find the players who would form the core of the team for the Junior World Cup. Sadly, none of them impressed,” said Dharmaraj.

“But we now know exactly what needs to be done and will work on it.”

The team will go on a playing tour to India next month and Dharmaraj will look at other stints abroad as part of the preparations.

Next year’s Sultan of Johor Cup is slated for October and that is when the actual strength of the team will be known ahead of the Junior World Cup.

Dharmaraj and his team will have no more excuses if they fail again.

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