The FA of Malaysia (FAM) have drawn up a master plan to retain the Suzuki Cup Asean Football Federation (AFF) championships this year.
National team manager Datuk Subahan Kamal said they are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to maintain their supremacy in this biennial regional championship.
“It may be a tall order to defend the title but we are optimistic of proving that our success is no flash in the pan,” Subahan said after the national trainees concluded their second phase of centralised training at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.
National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal has identified a big pool of 66 players and will be testing each one of them in the remaining seven phases of centralised training before the AFF championship begin from Nov 14-Dec 22.
Subahan said they have lined up eight international test matches for the national team, including against India in May (away), Singapore in June (home and away), New Zealand in Sept (home and away), UAE and Qatar both in October (away).
He said there will also go on a three-match playing tour of either Australia or China from July 27-Aug 12.
“We are more or less done with the selection process and have chosen a mixture of senior and young players from the Under-21 age-group. By the end of April we will finalise 35 players for the next stage of our preparations,” said Subahan.
He said the national team’s target is to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup Finals in Australia.
“It is a long process but we are getting there. The next stage of our preparations will be to arrange top notch matches for the players. In May, we will get down to serious training. There is bound to be new players because some seniors are struggling to recover from injuries. The good thing is that we have promising talents emerging from the Harimau Muda squads too,” said Subahan.
Two players from the Harimau Muda A squad, currently playing in the S-League, have been offered places in Division Two club sides in Japan.
“This is the beginning and we hope to see more of our boys playing abroad. I will be happy to see more boys play in Korea, China, Thailand or even in Singapore. If we can get at least 10 boys playing overseas – the result of the national team will improve in Asia,” said Subahan, who believes that the national team will gain from the players’ exposure in more challenging leagues.
At present, national striker Mohd Safee Sali is the only one plying his trade in Indonesia with Pelita Jaya FC.