Kuantan (6 September, 2013): After a five-year hiatus, the 41st Merdeka Tournament unfolds tomorrow with a highly tensed opening match against Singapore at the Darul Makmur Stadium which National Youth coach Ong Kim Swee describes as a ‘Moment of Truth’.
Singapore, said Kim Swee, is a cohesive side riding on the success of their Malaysian Super League triumph this year, and experience is their forte.
“Matches against Singapore have always been intense for both players and fans as we are traditional rivals. We hope to absorb this kind of pressure and put on a credible performance in the Merdeka Tournament,” said Kim Swee, adding that he expects only the best from his players.
“It is going to be an interesting and tense game. I believe Singapore would still be strong, regardless of who plays for them. They have been training together and playing in the Super League and now Malaysia Cup,” he added.
He expects Singapore to be at the top of their game despite the Lions XII’s poor Malaysia Cup campaign. The squad in Kuantan is largely made up of Super League players.
Kim Swee also unveiled the final list of 22 players selected for the Merdeka Tournament. Dropped are third-choice goalkeeper Mohamad Ramadhan Abdul Rahman, midfielder Ridzuan Abdunloh Pula and centreback Wan Ahmad Amir Zafran while throwing a lifeline to young striker Mohamad Ariff Farhan for a first team action.
“Ariff is only 17 but a very versatile player who can play in several positions. I have more options with him in the squad,” added Kim Swee.
Sarawak midfielder Junior Eldstal may likely to sit out for the opening match against Singapore unless the 19-year-old of mixed parentage recovers from a foot injury.
“His injury is not serious. It’s just a blister but we will know within the next 48 hours if he is ready to play. Otherwise all is well in the team.”
Meanwhile Singapore head coach V. Sundramoorthy, who was accompanied by team captain Izzdin Shafiq at a press conference today, believes there is no psychological advantage for his side over the Malaysians. On the contrary, he feels Malaysia, with home ground advantage and with a horde of fans behind them, hold the advantage.
“We will be without six players who are with the senior national team but that will not disrupt our plans to have a good match. Although we are playing under the sun, it is a just matter of just how fast the players adjust to the situation. Nevertheless, it will be a good match,’’ added Sundramoorthy.
The Singaporean coach, who featured in several Merdeka Tournaments during his hey days in the 1980s and 90s, however, singled out midfielder Wan Zack Haikal as the ‘most dangerous’ of players in the Malaysian squad.
“He has been playing extremely well and I would worry about him most. He
is capable of causing damage if not checked,” said Sundramoorthy, dubbed
the ‘Dazzler’ by fans for his outwitting runs as a senior national team player
until his retirement from professional football.
Sept 7 (Saturday): Malaysia v Singapore (5.30pm); Thailand v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 9 (Monday): Thailand v Singapore (5.30pm); Malaysia v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 11 (Wednesday): Malaysia v Thailand (Stadium Darul Makmur, 8.45pm); Singapore v Myanmar (Stadium Temerloh, 8.45pm)
Sept 14 (Saturday): Third-fourth placing playoff (5.30pm); Final (8.45pm). Both matches will be played at Stadium Darul Makmur.
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