# Injuries were deciding factors in deciding the final squad
# Dropped trio put on standby
National Under-23 head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee had a tough time in picking his final 23-man squad for the AFC Under-23 Championships in China next month.
Malaysia are grouped in Group C together with Middle East giants Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the Asian meet. This is the second time Kim Swe is handling the Under-23 team in the AFC meet. His first was in 2013 where Malaysia failed to qualify.
The former international took injuries into consideration when he had a “tough time” deciding on the three to be dropped. In the end the former national coach dropped Raphi Azizan Mariappen (defender) and two midfielders – Ahmad Khairil Anuar Zamri and K. Thivandran. Raphi plays for PJ Rangers while Ahmad Khairil plays for Perak and Thivandran for Penang.
The trio will return to Kuala Lumpur from Korea on Saturday. On the same day the Malaysian team leaves for China for their final friendly match which is against the Syrian Under-23 team in Jiangsu on Jan 5.
“It was tough and I took all into consideration in naming the final squad. The three, although nursing injuries, gave their best in training,” said Kim Swee in a statement released on Friday.
Kim Swee, however, called on the dropped three to remain on standby in case serious injuries occur to his squad before the Malaysia play their first match in the AFC Cup which is against Iraq on Jan 10 in Changsu.
Malaysia’s second match, which is also in Changsu, is against Jordan on Jan 13 and play Saudi Arabia in Kunshan on Jan 16.
While on a two-week playing cum training tour in Mokpo, Korea the Malaysians played three friendly matches against local teams and came off unbeaten. In the first match against Mokpo City FC on Dec 20 the Malaysians drew 1-1. This was followed by a 1-0 win over Honam University on Dec 22 and in their final match which was against Jeonju Citizen FC on Dec 28 it was another 1-1 stalemate.
Kim Swee, however, said that there are still many shortcomings that needed to be tightened up. He sees the match against Syria as a “test of character” for the team and Kim Swee hopes that the players will improve on their performance.
The Malaysian squad
Haziq Nadzli (JDT)
Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim (Kedah)
Ahmad Syihan Hazmi (N. Sembilan)
Adam Nor Azlin (JDT)
Dominic Tan (JDT)
Shivan Pillay Asokan (PKNS FC)
Adib Zainuddin (Felcra FC)
Irfan Zakaria (K. Lumpur)
Matthew Davies (Pahang)
Syazwan Zaipol Bahari (Perak)
Syameer Kutty Abba (JDT)
Nor Azam Abdul Azih (Pahang)
Daniel Amier Norhisam (Felda United)
Nik Akif Syahiran Nik Mat (K. Lumpur)
Syahmi Safari (Selangor)
Syazwan Andik Ishak (JDT)
Tommy Mawat Bada (PJ Rangers)
Jafri Firdaus Chew (PKNS FC)
N. Thanabalan (N. Sembilan)
Akhyar Rashid (Kedah)
R. Kogileswaran (Pahang)
Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak (JDT II)
Safawi Rasid (JDT)