PETALING JAYA: It is time for the newbies and reserves to strut their stuff in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-23 Championship in Cambodia.
And those who impress coach Brad Maloney (pic) will get a spot in the AFC Under-23 Asian Cup squad in Uzbekistan in June.
Maloney has called up about 30 players for the centralised camp ahead of the Phnom Penh trip and only 28 will be selected for the meet from Feb 15-26.
“The aim is to test our new players and strengthen our depth before we go to Uzbekistan,” said Maloney.
“We will play some friendly matches before Cambodia. The first one will be against Sabah in Kota Kinabalu on Feb 5. We may play with Singapore and Brunei but if that doesn’t happen, we will play against Malaysia-League sides.
Only nine players from the AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers last year have been kept for this camp, namely Umar Hakeem Suhar Rezwan, Azhad Harraz Arman, Mohd Nur Azfar Fikri Azhar, T. Saravanan and Mohd Aiman Afif Md Afizul.
The rest are new players, including American-based midfielder Wan Ahmad Kuzri Wan Ahmad Kamal.
For this camp, the likes of captain Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi, playmaker Nik Akif Syahiran, Luqman Hakim Shamsuddin, Harith Haiqal Adam Afkar, Hakimi Abdullah and Quentin Cheng were not selected.
“The nine we kept for the qualifiers will have more opportunities to prove their worth together with the new boys.”
The squad will leave for Phnom Penh on Feb 12 and will open their campaign against Myanmar in Group B at the Prince Stadium on Feb 15. They face Laos on Feb 18 at the same venue and Indonesia on Feb 21 at the Morodok Techo National Stadium.
Champions of Groups A to C, as well as the runners-up from the best group, will advance to the semi-finals on Feb 24, while the final is scheduled to take place on Feb 26.