INCHEON: Midfielder Junior Eldstal wants a birthday present from his national Under-23 team-mates – a win over Saudi Arabia in their final Group A football match at the Goyang Stadium on Sunday to qualify for the last 16.
The 23-year-old, born on Sept 16, was given a belated birthday treat by his team-mates and chef de mission Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah at a restaurant yesterday.
And Eldstal hopes his birthday wish will bring him good luck again.
The lanky player scored for the national Under-23 side in the 2-0 win over Myanmar in the Merdeka Tournament final last year – just two days shy of his 22nd birthday.
“I wished for a good birthday present then ... and I was given one, scoring the goal and winning the Merdeka Tournament. This time, my wish is to help the team beat Saudi Arabia on Sunday,” said Eldstal after cutting his birthday cake.
“We have to go out and beat the Saudis ... we need to prove our capabilities and we need not fear them.
“The Saudis might be physically bigger but I believe we can match them with our own strengths. We have a good team here and I’m confident that we can get a positive result.”
Group leaders South Korea have confirmed their berth in the last 16 with two wins. Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, who have three points each, will fight for the final slot from the group.
Eldstal, the M-League’s Most Promising Player award winner last year, was rested in Malaysia’s 4-0 win over Laos on Wednesday after picking up a knock during the 3-0 defeat by South Korea last week.
Eldstal now has to vie for a spot in the starting line-up with the tenacious Gary Steven Robbat, who has just shrugged off his shoulder injury, and pass-master Mohd Nazmi Faiz Mansor.