It’s great to be back in national squad, says Junior

KUALA LUMPUR: Chonburi FC player Junior Eldstal (pic) is enjoying his recall to the Harimau Malaya side after almost a five-year long hiatus without donning the national kit since 2016.

The Malaysian-Swedish born player admitted he was extremely happy to get the opportunity to play and hopes to treasure the moment in the World Cup 2022-Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“It’s been almost five years since I played for the national team, it’s a very good feeling to come back, ” he said during a virtual press conference yesterday.

“The other day, coach Tan Cheng Hoe made me speak in front of players to give some sort of motivation to them on how I managed to rise after a two-year-long break and being able to play in this qualifying tournament is a special moment for me.”

The last time Junior, who suffered a slip disk injury, played for national team was in June 2016 when Harimau Malaya were held to a 1-1 draw with Fiji in a friendly match.

The former Johor Darul Ta’zim player (JDT) said he also likes to spend time with the young guns such as Luqman Hakim Shamsudin (KV Kortrijk) and Arif Aiman Mohd Hanapi from JDT and shared his tips especially on the leadership skills to help both of them excel in the future.

“I will always sit with Luqman and Arif during lunch and dinner session and tell them about leadership and the proper way to look after their body, ” he said.

On the overall team preparation, Junior added that he found there were a lot of new changes and approaches taken in the current Harimau Malaya side as compared to the time when he played for the country a while back and lauded Cheng Hoe’s man management skills as well as great relationship with players on and off the pitch.

“Before this, he (Cheng Hoe) was just an assistant to the former coach Datuk K. Rajagopal.

“I’ve never experienced his leadership before and I can see that Cheng Hoe likes to play offensive football, ” he said.

The 29-year-old player said Cheng Hoe often reminded players not to be scared of other teams and not just sit back but to try attacking them instead especially in their next friendly match against Bahrain today and the qualifying tournament.

They take on UAE on June 3, Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15) to wrap up their Group G fixtures.

The midfielder who can also play as a defender, said it is up to the coach to feature him in the first eleven in the upcoming matches, after he was tipped to fill the void left by Mohd Shahrul Mohd Saad, who had to be sidelined due to a knee injury and also Brendan Gan, who was suspended in the match against UAE. — Bernama

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