PETALING JAYA: The national Under-23 football team left for the Manila SEA Games yesterday morning with the aim of proving the pundits wrong.
National coach Norizan Bakar said that despite the poor pre-Games results, he is optimistic the team can reach the semi-finals in the competition that starts on Monday.
“The players are all fit and raring to go. I know the results during our build-up have not been impressive and the performances far from convincing. But I believe that the team that we have selected can play well and we hope to spring a surprise or two in Manila,” said Norizan.
Norizan has been in charge of the team since September after taking over from Hungarian Bertalan Bicskei.
Skipper Mohd Fadzli Shaari, a member of the bronze medal winning team in the Vietnam Games two year's ago, is also positive that the team will do well.
“I will not say that the previous team is better than this one because both teams have their strengths and weaknesses.
“The current group of players have good attitude and I think that over the last month we have made real progress and should be competitive enough in the Philippines,” said Fadzli.
Malaysia should have no problem reaching the last four from the easier Group A which also comprises defending champions Thailand, Cambodia and hosts the Philippines.
Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Singapore and Laos are in Group B.
Malaysia open their campaign against Cambodia on Monday. They will play their second match against Thailand next Sunday (Nov 27) and complete the group fixtures against the Philippines on Nov 29.
Meanwhile, there were no surprises when the final squad of 20 were named on Thursday. Five players who did take part in the Agribank Cup in Hanoi last month, were left out. They are goalkeeper Mohd Remezey Che Ros, defenders Mohd Aslam Najmuddin, Sumardi Hajalan, midfielders Mohd Zulkifli Yusof and forward Mohd Nor Farhan Mohamad.
GOALKEEPER: Saiful Amar Sudar, Mohd Al-Hafiz Hamzah.
DEFENDERS: V. Thirumurugan, Ahmad Azlan Ismail, Mat Saiful Mohamad, Ronny Harun, Mohd Munir Amran, S. Sathia Kumaran, K. Linggam.
MIDFIELDERS: Mohd Fadzli Saari, Harizul Izuan Abdul Rani, Mohd Badrul Azam Zamri, Tengku Hasbullah Raja Hassan, Zairo Anuar Zalani, R. Surendran, Amir Shahreen Mubin.
STRIKERS: Azi Shahril Azmi, Mohd Nor Ismail, Azlan Ismail, Rudie Ramli.
GROUP A: Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Philippines.
GROUP B: Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.