Young Tigers need at least three international friendlies, says national U-23 squad head coach

National U-23 squad head coach Brad Maloney, whose contract with the national team has reportedly been extended for two years recently, also hopes that his side could be formed as soon as possible by next month. — Bernama pic
National U-23 squad head coach Brad Maloney, whose contract with the national team has reportedly been extended for two years recently, also hopes that his side could be formed as soon as possible by next month. — Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — Malaysia are targeting to play at least three international friendly matches before throwing their hat into the ring in the 2022 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-23 (U-23) Championship in Cambodia, next February.

National U-23 squad head coach Brad Maloney, whose contract with the national team has reportedly been extended for two years recently, also hopes that his side could be formed as soon as possible by next month.

“I would like to assemble the team sometime in January and arrange three to four international friendly matches in preparation for the tournament to give us every chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and final,” he said via an audio message to the local media, today.

In the 2022 AFF U-23 Championship campaign scheduled from February 14 to 26 at Morodok Techno Stadium and Prince Stadium, the young tigers have been drawn in Group B alongside defending champions Indonesia, Myanmar and Laos.

Last edition runners-up, Thailand were drawn with Vietnam and Singapore in Group C while the hosts are in Group A which includes Timor Leste, the Philippines and Brunei, with only group champions and the best group runners-up advancing into the semifinals.

Commenting further, Maloney expected his side to face a difficult task ahead as the three opposing teams were tough opponents in their last meetings.

“No game is an easy game, no opponent is easy to beat...anybody can beat anybody else from the day but I hope that we can assemble our team early and have a great preparation for this tournament to give us the best chance of topping the group,” he said.

The 49-year-old Australian-born coach has a good record with the national U-23 squad after guiding the team to qualify for the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup finals scheduled to take place in Uzbekistan in June next year.

Malaysia booked their berth to the finals round after emerging Group J champions with 1-0 wins over Laos and the hosts before ending the qualifiers held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in October, against Thailand.

The success came even though Maloney’s squad did not play any international friendlies, but held training matches against three Malaysia League teams instead. — Bernama

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