OKS ready to start next U23 cycle

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The Malaysia U23 head coach will only need to fill half of the squad with new players ahead of more tournaments for the under-age national team.

It has been barely a day since Malaysia were knocked out of the Asian Games but for U23 head coach Ong Kim Swee, he's already looking forward to reinventing the team ahead of newer challenges.

After taking this particular squad through the cycle of the 2017 SEA Games, 2018 AFC U23 Championship and now the 2018 Asian Games; the squad as a unit has come to its natural end.

With players surpassing the age limit required for the 2020 AFC U23 Championship which requires the players to be born on or after January 1 2007, Ong will be losing about half the squad that he has at the moment.

"We need to start planning early, plan well and have more friendlies especially outside of Malaysia. This year alone, we played eight high quality matches including the AFC U23 Championship in China.

"I have about 10 players like Syamer Kutty Abba and Daniel Amier who are still available. But the majority will be players who will give something different and make the team stronger.

"I'm always confident of the players to make a good go in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers next year. At the same time, I believe we can challenge for a place in the 2020 Olympic Games," said Ong upon arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday afternoon. 

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From the squad that was in Indonesia, nine players are still available to continue in the squad - Haziq Nadzli, Dominic Tan, Safawi Rasid, Akhyar Rashid, Hadi Fayyadh, Faisal Halim, R. Kogileswaran, Nik Akif Syahiran and Syahmi Safari.

Adding to the two mentioned by Ong and Jafri Firdaus Chew who was previously a fixture in the squad - that is at least half the squad remaining intact, players with plenty of experience and understanding of each other.

All of which augurs well for the AFC qualifiers that will also double up as the 2020 Olympics qualifiers. The host of the 2020 AFC U23 Championship will only be revealed later in October and there are strong rumours that Malaysia are open to host the competition.

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