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Pressure is off for Malaysia


29-Nov-2010
JAKARTA: His side may have ended their long gold medal drought at the South-east Asia Games last year but Malaysia team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal has insisted that his players will be under no pressure to emulate that feat in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

Malaysia have not reached the final of the Asean region's premier international football tournament since finishing runners-up to Thailand in the inaugural tournament in Singapore in 1996.

But while Subahan is keen to see the Tigers capture the elusive title, he admits that it may be too soon for his young side to end their long run of futility in the competition.

"We are in the process of building a strong and consistent team for the future so I do not want to put any pressure on the team for this year's AFF Suzuki Cup," said Subahan, a vice-president of the Football Association of Malaysia, to www.affsuzukicup.com.

"We are taking things one step at a time. Most of our players here are around 19 or 20 years old and they need to gain experience through playing at the Asian Games and AFF Suzuki Cup. Our target is to retain our SEA Games gold next year and to win the AFF Suzuki Cup in two years' time.

"Of course we would like to do well this year but we must be practical. It is not going to be easy as we are in a tough group with Indonesia and Thailand although we will give it a good go."

The focus on youth is apparent in coach K. Rajagopal's squad with six players plucked from the Harimau Muda (Young Tigers) national youth side. Two-thirds of his final 22-man squad were also in the side that competed at the recent Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Rajagopal though has had to contend with a rash of injuries that have sidelined a number of players including three – defender Norhafiz Zamani Misbah and strikers S. Chanturu and Ahmad Fakri Saarani – we played at the Asiad.

To help plug the gaps, defender Razman Roslan and veteran striker Amri Yahyah have been given late recalls for the AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, which begins tomorrow when Malaysia face hosts Indonesia in their Group A opener at the Gelora Bungkarno Stadium.

"We've got quite a lot of injuries and we've lost about eight of our regular players," Subahan explained.

"But we still have quite a decent side with a number of young players from our Harimau Muda squad as well as senior players like Amri Yahyah and Razman Roslan. It's a good mixture of juniors and seniors.

"The main thing for the team here is for the youngsters to try to get the experience that they need. Of course the players will give it a go and will try to win their games and reach the semi-finals, but that would be a bonus.

"But at the end of the day, the players will be under no pressure to get results here. We have set no targets for them but we expect them to play well and to show improvement. We would like for them to do well here but we'll have to see how it goes."

Malaysia squad
Goalkeepers: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan), Sharbinee Allawee (Terengganu)

Defenders: Sabre Abu (Kedah), Faizal Muhamad (Harimau Muda), Asraruddin Putra (Selangor), Razman Roslan (Selangor), Kharil Helmi (Kedah), Mahalli Jasuli (Harimau Muda), Muslim Ahmad (Harimau Muda), Mohd Fadhli Shas (Harimau Muda)

Midfielders: Safiq Raman (Selangor), Amar Rohidan (Perlis), Khyril Muhymen (Kedah), K. Gurusamy (Harimau Muda), S. Kunanlan (Negri Sembilan), Amri Yahyah (Selangor), Faizal Abu Bakar (Kedah), Mohd Amirulhadi Zainal (Selangor)

Forwards: Norshahrul Idlan (Kelantan), Safee Sali (Selangor), Mohd Ashari Samsuddin (Terengganu), Izzaq Faris Ramlan (Harimau Muda)