PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Under-22 footballers returned home yesterday after a two-match playing tour of Australia with some rare good news. They won both their matches Down Under.
The good showing, however, has put coach Allan Harris in a spot. He is hard-pressed to name the final 18 before they open their pre-Olympic second round campaign against Turkmenistan in the first-leg match at the Shah Alam Stadium on May 3.
The Englishman took 22 boys for the trip Down Under and has said he is quite satisfied with their overall showing during the seven-day stint, which saw victories over the Adelaide youth team (4-2) on Friday and a Southern Australian Selection (3-1) on Monday.
“There were a couple of good performances by the boys and now I have a tough time naming the final team. All of them gave good accounts of themselves. I have said it earlier that the younger players are going to push the seniors for a place in the squad,” said Harris, a former assistant to Terry Venables at Spanish giants Barcelona in the mid-80s.
Among the strong potentials are four players from the national Under-21 squad – striker R. Surenthiran and defenders Mat Saiful Mohamed, Yusri Dermaraju and M. Ravinthiran. They earned the call-up following good performances in the Youth International Tournament last month in which Malaysia lost 0-3 and 0-2 to the national Under-20 sides of Brazil and South Korea respectively.
The Perak-born Surenthiran starred with two goals in the Under-22 squad’s win over the Southern Australian Selection on Monday. Marzuki Yusof scored the other goal.
On Friday, the Malaysians had defeated the Adelaide youth side 4-2 with K. Rajan scoring a brace while striker Akmal Rizal and midfielder Fadzli Shaari added one each.
Harris has 24 players to choose from. Besides the 22 who went to Australia, he can also call on newcomers Zulbadly Ismail from the Sports School in Bukit Jalil and goalkeeper Suazman Ariffin of Police. Both were left out of the trip to Australia.
Johor striker Farid Ideris, who opted out of the squad, will not be considered.
Harris, who is expected to name the final 18 today, also has plans to take his team to Oman and the Czech Republic to prepare them for various tournaments this year.
A 10-day trip to Oman is scheduled for the end of May prior to their return-leg of the pre-Olympics at the Ashqabat Olympic Stadium on June 7.
The playing tour to Prague is scheduled for June 26-July 7 while the Malaysians have also been invited to compete in the LG Tournament in Vietnam in September.
There are four major assignments this year for the national teams. The Under-22 boys will play in the pre-Olympics from May 3-Oct 18 and the Vietnam SEA Games from Dec 1-15, an Under-23 competition. The senior team will feature in the FA Premiership League (FAPL) Asia Cup from July 25-27 and the pre-Asian Cup from Aug 19 to Feb 18 next year.
The national pre-Olympic squad (24 trainees)
Goalkeepers: Mohamed Syamsuri Mustafa (Ter), Mohamed Anis Faron (Per).
Defenders: Irwan Fadli Idrus, Redzuan Radzy (Ked), Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, K. Rajan, Yusri Dermaraju (Nse), Marzuki Yusof (Ter), Abdul Aziz Ismail, Mat Saiful Mohamed (Pen), M. Ravinthiran (Prk).
Midfielders: Saiful Sabtu (Nse), Indra Putra Mahayuddin (Prk), Mohamed Norisham Hassan, Tengku Elias Tengku Ibrahim (Ter), Fadzli Shaari, Juzaili Samion (Pah), Rudie Ramli (Sel), P. Gunalan (Sel).
Forwards: Akmal Rizal Rakhli (Ked), R. Surendran (Prk), Azralan Azmi (Kul).