Coach be­lieves ju­niors are ca­pa­ble of match­ing se­niors


NA­TIONAL coach Tan Cheng Hoe will give as many youth play­ers a chance to stake a claim in his squad as he builds up to the AFF Cup at the end of the year. Nine play­ers from the na­tional Un­der23 squad were se­lected for Malaysia’s friendly match against Mon­go­lia in Bukit Jalil on March 22 and an Asian Cup qual­i­fier against Le­banon in Beirut five days later.

With a to­tal of nine un­capped play­ers in his squad in­clud­ing nat­u­ralised duo Natxo Insa and La’Vere Corbin-Ong, Cheng Hoe also wants to give the new play­ers time to gain ex­pe­ri­ence and forge an un­der­stand­ing with each other.

“This team are an in­di­ca­tion of the squad that could play at the AFF Cup but there will be some changes be­tween now and then,” said Cheng Hoe, who an­nounced his first na­tional squad of 29 play­ers on Tues­day.

“Al­though there a num­ber of young play­ers, some of them have in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence al­ready. The oth­ers have played at Un­der-23 level so I don’t think a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence in in­ter­na­tional foot­ball is a prob­lem.”

Play­ers from the AFC Un­der-23 Cham­pi­onship side that reached the quar­ter­fi­nals in Jan­uary have been re­warded for their per­for­mances in China.

Matthew Davies (14 caps), Safawi Rashid (six), Nor Azam Azih (two) and Adam Nor Azlin (one) are the Un­der-23 play­ers who have turned out for the se­nior squad be­fore while Akhyar Rashid, Ir­fan Zakaria, Syazwan Andik Ishak, Syahmi Sa­fari and Haziq Nad­zli are new.

“If you look at Europe, Un­der-23 play­ers are knock­ing on the door of the se­nior teams and I be­lieve our youth play­ers are ca­pa­ble of match­ing their se­niors,” said Cheng Hoe, who suc­ceeded Nelo Vin­gada in De­cem­ber af­ter the Por­tuguese quit on the back of a seven-match win­less run.

When Malaysia meet Mon­go­lia, Cheng Hoe is hop­ing to end the na­tional team’s run of 10 matches with­out a win since Novem­ber 2016 which has seen the coun­try’s Fifa rank­ing slide to an all­time low of 175th.

Vic­tory over Mon­go­lia would give the side a con­fi­dence boost ahead of meet­ing Asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing Group B lead­ers Le­banon.

“We can­not qual­ify for the Asian Cup but as a coach I don’t want to lose when we go to Le­banon,” said Cheng Hoe.

“It’s im­por­tant, es­pe­cially for the new play­ers, to put in a pos­i­tive per­for­mance.”

Tan Cheng Hoe

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