BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Following their second-place finish in the recent AFF U18 Championship in Yangon, Myanmar, Malaysia U18 stars Akhyar Rashid and Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak have both asked for a longer preparation time for the team's next competition.
The Young Tigers had only 10 training sessions with new head coach Bojan Hodak going into the AFF competition, and the Croatian even set no specific target to in the tournament.
However, they surprised him with their performance in Yangon, winning four matches and drawing one match in the group stage, en route to defeating hosts Myanmar on penalties in the semi-finals, before falling to a 2-0 defeat to Thailand in the final match.
The squad will next compete in the AFC U-19 Championship qualification in South Korea, beginning October 31.
Hadi, who scored three goals in the competition, said he was surprised by how well they played despite the limited preparation, and believes that they can do even better in South Korea if they can train together for longer.
"Although we only trained together for three weeks, we managed to develop our team spirit. I'm very proud of my teammates because we can develop a cohesive unit in such a short time.
"If we can train for longer, I believe the team will play even better. Our group (in the AFC qualification) will be a tough one; there'll be South Korea and Indonesia, but we still have a chance because we are a good side.
"We have to work hard, because I want to qualify (for the finals)," said the JDT II player.
Hadi's view on training time is echoed by another Malaysia forward; rising prospect Akhyar Rashid, who also bagged three goals in Yangon.
"We lacked chemistry somewhat throughout the tournament, because I only trained with them twice and my teammates only trained together for two weeks.
"Ahead of South Korea, I hope we can begin training earlier so we can work on our chemistry. But we'll definitely do our best," said the 18-year old.
The Kedah youngster had joined the Malaysia U18 training camp slightly later, immediately after the conclusion of the SEA Games in August, where hosts Malaysia U22 lost 1-0 in the final, also to the Thais. Akhyar featured for Malaysia U22 in a number of matches in the competition.
He admitted that he is a little disappointed to have lost twice in two separate final matches to the Thais, within the space of one month.
"It stings a little having lost twice to Thailand, but I believe my time will come.
"I've given my all in the competition, but it just wasn't meant to be," he remarked.
Malaysia have been drawn in Group F of the AFC U19 qualifiers alongside hosts South Korea, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Brunei. Malaysia's first match will be against Timor-Leste, on October 31.