PETALING JAYA: The national football team have undergone a massive overhaul.
National coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has dropped more than 50% of the players who featured in the three-match Tour of Oceania in June.
The former international has only retained 11 players for next month’s “A” international friendly against Indonesia at the Manahan Stadium in Solo.
The Sept 6 friendly is part of Malaysia’s preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.
“A lot of changes have been made (to the national team) due to injuries and players retiring from international football. I have included 13 players with some international experience at the age-group level – Harimau Muda A and SEA Games teams.
“These players were in the National Under-23 squad and this is a challenge for them to fight for places in the senior team. They are the best I’ve seen so far ... they’ll have to prove to me that they can compete at the international level before I decide on the final picks for the Suzuki Cup,” said Kim Swee.
During the three-week tour of Oceania, Malaysia lost 2-0 to Papua New Guinea, beat New Caledonia 2-1 and drew 1-1 with Fiji.
Malaysia’s AFF Suzuki Cup campaign in November suffered a cruel blow when four seasoned campaigners from Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) – centreback Mohd Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, leftback S Kunalan and midfielders Amirulhadi Zainal and Safiq Rahim – decided to quit the national team.
To make matters worse, six regulars are aslo on the crock list. They are Izham Tarmizi Roslan, Junior Eldstal, Fazly Mazlan, Mahalli Jasuli (all from JDT); Shahrom Kalam (Sel); and Christie Jayaseelan (Felda).
Some of the notable players recalled are 2011 Jakarta SEA Games skipper Mohd Irfan Fazail, defender Mohd Ameer Saidin (JDT II) and winger Wan Zack Wan Haikal (Kel).
The other call-ups include Khairulazhan Khalid, S. Veenod, Adam Nor Azlin (Sel); Hafizul Hakim Khairul, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, Shahrul Saad (Prk); Fakrul Aiman Sidid (Police); Ronny Harun (Sarawak); Matthew Davies (Pah); and Safawi Rasid (T’ganu FC II).
The national team have two warm-up matches lined up – against Singapore away on Oct 7 and Afghanistan in Shah Alam on Oct 11.
The 24 players will report for training at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Monday.
THE TRAINING SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Mohd Khairulazhan Khalid (Sel); Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kel); Muhd Hafizul Hakim (Prk).
Defenders: Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq (JDT); Mohd Ameer Saidin (JDT II); Shahrul Mohd Saad, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (Prk); Ronny Harun (Swk); Khair Muhd Jefri Jones (Mal); Matthew Davies (Pah).
Midfielders: S. Veenod, Adam Nor Azlin (Sel); Brendan Gan, Wan Zack Wan Haikal (Kel); Mohd Irfan Fazail (JDT II); Abdul Latiff Suhaimi, Muhd Fakrul Aiman Sidid (Pol); Baddrol Bakhtiar (Ked); Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Felda); Mohd Safawi Rasid (T’ganu FC II).
Strikers: Mohd Amri Yahyah (JDT); Ahmad Hazwan Bakri (Sel); Mohd Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak (JDT II).