Under-16 football coach aiming for better results in AFC Finals

PETALING JAYA: Coach P. Somasundram is aiming to better Malaysia’s achievement in the AFC Under-16 Championship Finals in India from Sept 15-Oct 2 next year.

Malaysia booked a berth in the 16-team Finals after holding hosts Laos to a 1-1 draw in their final Group G qualifying match at the National Sports Complex Stadium in Vientiane on Sunday.

Malaysia topped the group with 10 points to qualify. The 11 group winners and four best second-placed teams will join hosts India in the Finals.

Malaysia’s best performance in the Finals came last September under coach S. Balachandran. They reached the quarter-finals but lost 2-1 to Australia at the Muangthong Stadium in Bangkok.

“We definitely need to strengthen the team because we will be facing stronger opponents in the Finals. We will try to qualify for the Under-17 World Cup Finals,” said the coach.

The top five teams will earn tickets to the 2017 showpiece event, also to be hosted by India.

On Sunday’s match against Laos, Somasundram said he was confident of getting a positive result.

Boualapha Chaleunsouk gave Laos the lead in the dying seconds of the first half but substitute striker Azrin Azahari saved Malaysia by scoring the equaliser in the 48th minute.

“We were down in the first half but I told the players to keep fighting and play for national pride… work harder and be more attack minded,” said Somasundram.

The Malaysian team had failed to get out of the group stage at the Asean Football Federation Under-16 Championship, also in Laos, last month.