Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tired Malaysia need to beat Bahrain in Olympic qualifier

Bruised, battered and fatigued, the national Olympic team face just one more battle against Bahrain in Bukit Jalil tomorrow before earning a well-deserved break.

Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Syria in the Asian Olympic zone third round Group C match laid  bare the price paid for winning the gold at the Sea Games in Jakarta just two days before.

Muslim Ahmad, the only outfield player to have played every minute of every game in Jakarta and Bukit Jalil, is the perfect example of a player having run himself to the ground.

The centre-back hurt his hamstring in the second half on Wednesday and his intercepted pass, with tiredness being an obvious factor, led to Syria's late second goal.

"We've played four back-to-back matches with just one day in between so everyone here is tired. To make matters worse, I injured my hamstring in the second half and I played on with the pain.

"I don't know how serious it is and I'm hoping with some physiotherapy,  I can play against Bahrain on Sunday," said Muslim, who sat out yesterday's training session in Bukit Jalil.

Lack of cover on the bench meant Muslim had to soldier on against Syria after Fadhli Shas took ill but the latter's recovery means coach Ong Kim Swee has the option of playing Fadhli with Amer Saidin in defence.

Kim Swee also has Irfan Fazail as an injury doubt but Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim's ankle has healed and he will provide a much-needed attacking threat.

"Muslim and Irfan are my biggest concerns at the moment. I can only decide whether to play them on the day of the match.

"For now, the issue is match fitness. The players are tired after the Sea Games and if they are able to recover fully, I'm confident the team can perform well.

"We need a win against Bahrain because if Syria lose to Japan (away), we still have a chance (of finishing second in the group)," said Kim Swee.

Japan and Syria have six points each while Malaysia and Bahrain have none.

The three group winners qualify automatically for the 2012 London Olympics while the second-placed teams enter a mini league in Kuala Lumpur.

The winners here advance to a playoff against the fourth-ranked African team for a place in London.

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