Saturday, 10 September 2011

Olympic squad improve on defending

Malaysian Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee was deligh­ted with his boys’ spirited per­­for­mance in holding top Iraqi side Arbil SC to a goalless draw in a friendly at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Thursday. The former international was especially pleased with their defensive discipline against the physically stronger opponents.

“It was great defending by the boys as they frustrated their opponents and kept them out of the box.

“If we can maintain this form against Japan in the Asian Zone qualifiers, I am sure we have a good chance of at least holding Asia’s number one team at their home ground,” said Kim Swee yesterday.

Malaysia will open their campaign in the Asian Zone final round Olympic qualifying campaign against Japan in Fukuoka on Sept 21 before playing Syria (Nov 23) and Bahrain (Nov 27) at home.

Kim Swee is also handling the national Under-23 squad for the Indonesia SEA Games from Nov 11-22.

The football competition in Jakarta kicks off on Nov 7.

In the friendly against Arbil SC, Kim Swee started with Mohd Muslim Mohd and Mohd Amer Saidin as centrebacks, Mohd Zubir Azmi at leftback and Mahalli Jasuli at rightback.

The visitors had the physical advantage and superior playing technique but the gritty Malaysians held out stoutly for the draw.

Arbil SC are preparing for the AFC Cup quarter-finals and comprise eight national players who had just returned from an international assignment in Singapore. Iraq defeated Singapore 2-0 in the Asian Zone third round qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.

The Malaysians looked liked midgets compared to the Iraqis. Only striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan could match them in height.

Malaysia will play the visiting Omani Olympic side in their final warm-up match at the Maybank Sports Complex in Bangi (6pm) on Thursday. Kim Swee is expected to have his full team for the friendly following the return of three regulars who are on loan with Slovakian club Vion Zlate Moravce FC.

The three are centreback Mohd Fadhli Shas and midfielders Mohd Irfan Fazail and Wan Zack Wan Haikal.

Malaysia will leave for Fukuoka the following day on Friday.

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