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Harimau Muda and Young Lions will be the favorites for this year's tournament

Merdeka Tournament Analysis: Harimau Muda A and Young Lions are early favourites

Harimau Muda and Young Lions will be the favorites for this year's tournament


Goal takes a look at all four teams that will be competing in the illustrious Merdeka Tournament

After a six year hiatus, Merdeka Tournament will make its grand return in Pahang this weekend. This year's tournament will feature mostly Under-23 teams preparing for the SEA Games in Myanmar.

Out of the four participating teams, the top two will qualify for the Final to be played out on 14th September at the 40,000 capacity Darul Makmur Stadium.

Harimau Muda A will go into this year's tournament buoyed by the presence of established senior team players; Junior Eldstal, wonderkid Nazmi Faiz, Nik Shahrul and K.Reuben. Barring the injury to lethal striker Hazwan Bakri, coach Ong Kim Swee will be spoilt for choice in all other departments of the field. Skipper Fadhli Shas will lead a solid defensive line alongside the highly rated Nik Shahrul whilst the central midfield pairing of Junior Eldstal and Nazmi Faiz will surely whet the appetite of the Malaysian football fans. Hazwan's abscence infer Sabah born hitman Rozaimi Abdul Rahman will be tasked to spearhead the team's offensive line. Kim Swee's charges look all set and ready to claim the Merdeka Tournament title.

Myanmar come into this tournament with a relatively younger squad than the rest. Heavily based on the U-22 team who qualified for the AFC U-22 Championship, head coach Park Saung Wah doesn't expect much from his charges. Although they have been training together since the middle of August, Park has told his boys that he wants them to gain experience from the Merdeka Tournament. With only the SEA Games at the end of the year in his sights, we may not see a Myanmar side going out for the kill. However, with little pressure to perfom, the boys may pull out an upset or two if the other teams walk into the games feeling complacent according to our Myanmar football correspondent Min Wai Ko

The War Elephants' participation in this year's tournament are without any shortage of controversies as the majority of the players submitted by the Thailand FA hail from Nara United FC instead of their national under 22 team. Star goalkeeper Kawin Thammasatchanan's absence will definitely hurt Khairung Threejagsang's chances in the tournament. The Thais will certainly have a mountain to climb in order to succeed against their more experienced counterparts.

Singapore will enter this year’s Merdeka Tournament with a mountain to climb as goalkeeper Izwan Mahmud and defender Shakir Hamzah will miss out on the first match due to the senior squad’s friendly with China. The Lions will also be without their solid centreback Safuwan Baharudin but the Courts Young Lions’ Afiq Yunos will most likely be a replacement with his pace, strength and set piece prowess. The Singaporeans will be looking to bank on their speedy wingers in Faris Ramli and Fazli Ayob to supplement their attack. To make matters worse for the Lions, their key forward Sahil Suhaimi has recenlty dropped out of the team to an injury. They may face trouble in the opening game but will surely rise to the occasion once Safuwan and Izwan return.