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Qualification to be an eye-opener for youths in Malaysia

Goal.com logo Goal.com 25-07-2017

Having endured a testing time in preparing the squad prior to the start of the AFC U23 Championship qualifier in Bangkok, Datuk Ong Kim Swee was both relieved and vindicated after leading his team to China 2018.

Yet, Ong sees the significance of the qualification as one that transcends beyond him or his team. He's is hopeful that the story would be an inspiration to the youths and the next generation of football in Malaysia.

"It's a very important thing not only for me but for the boys and especially for the nation. We've never been this far but by qualifying and being there for the first time, it will open more eyes about Malaysian football, especially Malaysian youths," said Ong upon arriving back in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

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With still five months to go before the finals, Ong is keeping his options open with regards to the squad and is not adverse to tinkering with it as he looks for the best solution and combination to bring to China.

The core of Ifwat Akmal, Adib Zainudin, Adam Nor Azlin, Amirul Hisyam and Syafiq Ahmad are likely to keep their place in the squad but it is an open battle in most of the other positions. Ong was also complimentary of Akhyar Rashid's performance and is ready to give chances to lesser names.

"Doesn't mean the players that are in Bangkok will be retained. There's more scouting for me to do, not only in the league but also in the President Cup, where's there are a few position I believe we need to improve," he added.

For Ong, the prospect of playing in the finals is one which he hope that the players will cherish. It is not everyday that they get to watch up close and play against the top teams in Asia. The 47-year-old coach is already anticipating his plans ahead of the finals with the weather being one particular aspect which worries him.

"This is the best time for the boys to play against Asian giants where you look at the 16 teams that qualified, there's no easy team. In January, China will be very cold. Most likely we would plan to go China 10 days before our first game. In December when we start training, its pre-season here and I don't think we'll face any problems with the team's to release their players," Ong explained.

Ong and his coaching staffs will now have a sit-down with Football Association of Malaysia and Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership on how to plan for the upcoming tournament to ensure that the team gets the best support it can get.

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