Best Harimau Malaya squad so far

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PETALING JAYA: National team head coach Kim Pan Gon is happy with his players’ selection for the 2023 Asian Cup in Doha, Qatar next month, describing it as the best Harimau Malaya squad so far.

Pan Gon said he managed to gather all the players he wanted as the squad is expected to face an uphill task at the prestigious football tournament scheduled from Jan 12 to Feb 10.

However, the 54-year-old South Korean admitted that he was a little upset as they could not use the services of three defenders – Sharul Nazeem Zulpakar, Azam Azmi Murad and Muhamad Feroz Baharudin.

“I’m very happy because all the options I got, except two players Khairul Nazeem and Azam because of injury, so we can’t select; Feroz also we tried to invite but he has plans to get married.

“It’s the best squad so far; I’m happy with the selection,” he told reporters on the first day of the national team training camp at Wisma FAM, Kelana Jaya, here today.

Pan Gon said the Harimau Malaya team this time around is more balanced with the combination of youngsters, seniors and some experienced players.

He said the decision to list some experienced players including Paulo Josue, 34, Brendan Gan, 35, and Natxo Insa, 37, was to ensure that the team is more balanced in defence and attack and to use them to guide the young players in high-profile matches.

“Hopefully, the experienced players use their experience to teach and guide them (youngsters), make them calm and confident. We learned something from the last tournament (that) we shouldn’t be overconfident,” he said.

Pan Gon said 24 players reported on the first day of the training camp.

He said Dion Cools will join the team in early January due to his commitment to his club Buriram United while Endrick Dos Santos has family matters to attend to and will be with the team soon.

Malaysia, who ended their 42-year wait to qualify for the Asian Cup on merit, will face Jordan in the Group E opener on Jan 15, Bahrain (Jan 20) and favourites as well as two-time champions South Korea in the final group match on Jan 25.

The Harimau Malaya squad is scheduled to fly to Doha on Jan 1 and set to face Syria in a closed-door friendly match on Jan 8. –AFP

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