Friday, 3 February 2012

Olympic squad coach worried over match fitness of players

The lack of match fitness is the main worry of coach Ong Kim Swee ahead of Sunday's Olympic qualifier against Bahrain in Manama with the majority of the squad not having kicked a competitive ball for over a month.

Since the Olympic squad's return from a three-match playing tour of Australia in mid-December, 13 players with the Young Tigers A squad preparing for their S-League debut have had little competition.

Players such as Gary Steven Robbat (four months) and Irfan Fazail (two months) have been out of action much longer due to injury which was why the 0-0 draw with Selangor in a friendly in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday was crucial for the players to build up match fitness.

Luckily for Kim Swee, the other eight in the 21-member side named for the Asian zone third round Group C qualifier have been playing for a month in the Super League and Premier League.

"My main concern right now is the match fitness of the players, especially those from Young Tigers A. Most of them have not played much football since December. That is one reason why I gave the Young Tigers players more playing time in this friendly match," said Kim Swee after the game.

Following the match, the coach dropped four players -- injured forward Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, third goalkeeper Sharil Sa'ari, defender Syazwan Tajuddin who picked up a knock against Selangor and striker Izuan Salahuddin.

Defender Fadhli Shas and forward A. Thamil Arasu are suspended after accumulating two yellow cards while striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan is out with a long-term knee injury.

Interestingly, Nazmi Faiz Mansor played in a more attacking role against Selangor in the hole behind the lone forward despite having excelled during the victorious 2011 Sea Games campaign in a defensive midfield role.

Ahmad Fakri Saarani dropped deeper into midfield alongside K. Gurusamy, as Ahmad Shakir Ali, recently recalled after an impressive start to the season with Negri Sembilan, leading the line.

"This team is not about Nazmi. I wish I had 15 other Nazmis so we can be a bit more consistent. Everyone must contribute," said Kim Swee, who has not given up hope of qualifying for the Olympics despite suffering three defeats already.

SQUAD -- Goalkeepers: Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Izham Tarmizi Roslan; Defenders: Mahali Jasuli, Affizie Faisal Mamat, Muslim Ahmad, Wan Ahmad Amizafran Wan Nadris, Amer Saidin, Zubir Azmi, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim; Midfielders: Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul, Gary Steven Robbart, Irfan Fazail, K. Gurusamy, Azizan Nordin, Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria, Fandi Othman; Forwards: Ahmad Fakri Saarani, Ahmad Shakir Md Ali, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Nazmi Faiz Mansor.

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