Three friendlies at home before U-23 team go for Asian Cup

PETALING JAYA: Big plans are in store for the national Under-23 squad before they head to Qatar for the 2024 U-23 Asian Cup from April 15-May 3.

The Harimau Muda will play at least six friendly fixtures before their campaign in Doha, with three matches taking place during the FIFA calendar period at home.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the team would likely play India and two other teams on home ground.

“We will then send the team early to Qatar to get acclimatised. The weather and time zone are different. They’ll probably play another two or three games there.

“It could be against Qatar and maybe Japan, we are still in the midst of finalising the teams,” he said when met at the Bukit Jalil Sports Complex yesterday.

Under-23 head coach Juan Torres Garrido will have to wait before finalising his squad as several players could be called up for national duty by head coach Kim Pan-gon to face Oman for the World Cup 2026-Asian Cup 2027 qualifiers in Muscat (Mar 21) and Bukit Jalil National Stadium (Mar 26).

The Under-23 side are drawn in Group D with Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Kuwait for their Asian Cup campaign. The top two teams will make it through to the quarter-finals.

The top three semi-finalists will earn their ticket to the Paris Olympics, while the fourth placed team will enter a playoff match with the fourth place team from the 2023 Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations.

Malaysia have only qualified for the Olympics twice, once at the 1972 Munich edition and 1980 in Moscow.

“Countries like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia have around seven to 10 players who have played in the 2022 World Cup and recent Asian Cup.

“Uzbekistan have seven players in their first 11 who have played in the Asian Cup, while Vietnam have about nine players.

“It is important for us to make it into the quarter-finals,” he said.

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