KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — A lack of match fitness is the main factor behind the national Under-23 squad’s failure to give their best in the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup in Qatar, said Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) technical director Scott O’Donell.

He attributed that to the Harimau Muda players’ lack of playing time and the long transition time of the Malaysia League (M-League).

Malaysia returned home without any points after losing all their three Group D matches — 2-0 to Uzbekistan, 2-0 to Vietnam and 2-1 to Kuwait.

“If we look at the statistics, not many players in this squad had any playing time with their clubs in last season’s Super League campaign...only four of them did.


“Goalkeeper Sikh Izhan Nazrel played for 2,250 minutes with Negeri Sembilan FC; Mukhairi Ajmal had 1,684 minutes with Selangor FC; T. Saravanan 1,252 minutes with Kuala Lumpur City; and Safwan Mazlan 1,063 minutes with Terengganu FC,” he said in a statement shared by FAM today.

As for the long transition time of the (M-League), he said the players had to wait a long time for the 2024/25 season to start on May 10, thus affecting their fitness levels ahead of the Under-23 Asian Cup.

As such, O’Donell stressed that FAM should look at restructuring age-group tournaments in the country so that the young players would get to play in more competitive matches.


He also hoped that the national Under-23 squad would make better use of the Fifa international window by holding more international friendlies.

“We need to give them more international exposure to play as a team and not just prepare our teams in an ad hoc manner just before the Under-23 tournaments like the AFC (Asian Cup) and SEA Games.

“If we cannot arrange an international friendly for the Under-23 team, we should at least have a training camp to give the coaches a chance to get to know the players during every Fifa international window period,” he said.

O’Donell said he and the Harimau Muda head coach, Juan Torres Garrido will prepare a full report on the Under-23 Asian Cup failure to be presented to the FAM National Team Management Committee. — Bernama