The Malaysian Under-23 team in Slovakia will be bolstered by the return of seven key players from the national team, who were ousted by Singapore in the second round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.
The seven – goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat; defenders Mahalli Jasuli, Muslim Ahmad and Fadhli Shas; midfielder K. Gurusamy; and strikers Ahmad Fakri Saarani and Izzaq Faris Ramlan – are expected to join up with their national Under-23 counterparts in Slovakia on Wednesday.
The first batch of 23 players left for Slovakia on July 23 for a training-cum-playing tour and are scheduled to play six matches against Slovakian Division One clubs and international friendlies against a European Olympic side.
With these seven players now joining the training camp, seven from the initial squad of 23 are expected to return home.
National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee hopes to keep the players together for as long as possible in Slovakia.
“We will have 30 players when the seven players join up with us.
“I want to keep the players here for as long as possible so that they will be exposed to a high level of football,” said Kim Swee in a telephone interview from Vion, Slovakia, yesterday.
“Here, they get quality training and competitive matches. We are also continuously looking for friendly matches with club sides to give the players more playing time.”
The Under-23 team began their Slovakia tour on a positive note, beating Moldova 1-0 on Tuesday with a goal by Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria in the 47th minute.
“I was impressed with the players’ display, especially in the second half.
“Harimau Muda B centreback Muhammad Syazwan Tajuddin has clicked well with the rest of the backline,” said Kim Swee.
“The Harimau Muda A boys were consistent with their display since beating Lebanon on June 23.
“I hope the players can maintain and improve themselves in our next matches.”
The Under-23 squad’s third stint in Slovakia will double up as a tune-up for the final round of the Asian Zone Olympic qualifiers.
The Under-23 squad have been drawn in Group C with Japan, Bahrain and Syria in the final round of the 2012 Olympic qualifiers.
Malaysia will start their campaign against Japan on Sept 21 before two home matches against Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27).