Bernhardt to name Sea Games squad after warm-up tournaments
THE Under-23 Dubai Cup (March 20-28) and AFC Under-23 qualifiers (July 15-23) will give national youth coach Frank Bernhardt an indication of his team’s chances in the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games.
Both tournaments will be used as warm-ups before Bernhardt, who was appointed on Dec 9, 2015, selects his team for the Sea Games, where the target is to regain the title last won in 2011 in Jakarta.
Since his appointment, the German has not been able to gather his trainees regularly due to the hectic domestic schedule.
His proposal to have his regulars full-time from May onwards will only be decided after the FA of Malaysia (FAM) election on March 25.
Yesterday, his trainees gathered for the first time since early last month to prepare for the Dubai Cup.
“The Dubai Cup is very important to the team’s preparation for the Sea Games. In order to get better, players need to get used to the intensity of playing in tournaments,” said Bernhardt after conducting training in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
“We will be playing against really strong teams from the Middle East and China and these matches will be a good test for my players.
“It is an opportunity for me to gauge the strength of the players and the team. I want to see how my players deal with pressure situations against top teams,”
Malaysia are in Group B, where they will open against China on March 20, followed by Saudi Arabia (March 23) and Jordan (March 26) with the classification matches scheduled on March 28.
“We want to win some matches in Dubai. In football, we play to win and if we head for an event with no goals then it is better not to go.
“As for the Sea Games, we will see how the team fare in the Dubai Cup and the AFC Qualifiers before I make an assessment,” said Bernhardt.
Bernhardt disclosed that Kedah’s Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik, Penang’s S. Kumaahran and Kelantan’s Shahrul Hakim Rahim are doubtful for the Dubai Cup.
“Amirul reported injured and he is definitely not going. Kumaahran and Shahrul are not 100 per cent. With injuries at the moment, we will see how it goes before we leave for Dubai on March 18,” Bernhardt added.
Selangor’s President Cup goalkeeper Damien Lim has also been called up to replace the injured Ameirul Hakimi Awang of Terengganu.
The coach will drop seven players from his 30-member squad for the Dubai Cup.
National players train at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.