BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
With seven days to go before Malaysia U23 open their 2018 AFC U-23 Championship campaign in Jiangsu, China, head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee wants his boys to focus on improving their weaknesses, instead of on their Group C opponents.
“We don’t have to think about our opponents, we just have to go into these games thinking about ourselves and our performances.
“Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have all done well in this competition before so we know it’s going to be a challenge. The most important thing is to focus on our strengths and expose ourselves to playing against good opponents in match conditions. That’s important.
“Of course, results are always important in football and although I can talk about exposure and performances, it is important to win. We have a mission to qualify for the next round but we also have to be realistic,” said Ong as quoted by the AFC website.
He also looks forward to guiding the side in the finals, the first time Malaysia has done so since the competition began, and thinks that the future of Malaysia national teams set-up.
Malaysia have qualified for the continental finals at all three junior levels this year; U23, U19 and U16.
“It’s good to qualify for the first time and for us in some ways it is a matter of gaining exposure and experience. Whatever we do in China, we can look at the weaknesses in our game and we can learn from them.
“But this is not only about the Under-23 team, but all of the youth teams in Malaysia. The youth group tournaments are always important and all of our teams have qualified for the AFC tournaments recently, so that shows we are making good progress.
“But we have to make sure we build up from here. If we develop our teams in this way, we can go forward," noted the former Malaysia senior team boss.
Malaysia will take on Iraq on January 10, Jordan on January 13, and finally Saudi Arabia January 16. They will play Syria U23 in their final preparatory friendly match this Friday.