BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
The assistant head coach of the Malaysia U19 national team; Hairuddin Omar has pleaded for time for the coaching team to work with their new charges.
When met by Goal on Saturday just before the team departed for Yangon, Myanmar for the 2017 AFF U-18 Youth Championship, the former Malaysia international reiterated head coach Bojan Hodak's earlier remark that no specific target has been set for the team in the tournament.
According to him, this is because the coaching staff have had limited time to work with the boys.
"I agree with Hodak, because we are not entirely sure of the other teams' strengths. For this tournament, we are simply there to do our best.
"We have had limited time; only two weeks for preparations, and we spent one whole week just to identify the 23 players to be taken to Yangon.
"We had only 10 training sessions to form a team and to work on tactics, and it would be unfair for a lofty target to be set simply on the back of the 10-day preparations.
When asked about the coaching staff's plans to mitigate the lack of exposure received by the players revealed by Hodak one day earlier, Hairuddin asks that the coaching staff be given time by the Malaysian FA (FAM) to work with the boys.
On Friday, Hodak told Berita Harian that he was shocked to find out about the lack of exposure given to youth footballers in the country.
"We the coaching staff admit that more than half of the players have never been exposed to matches at a higher level, they have only played in the Youth Cup, and that is only for a limited number of matches. That is not enough exposure for them to play at the international level. FAM must give us time to work on the team, but Hodak too must be given opportunity to form the team.
"What I mean is in terms of exposure, such as playing in friendlies overseas so that the boys are constantly exposed to competitive matches. From my observation, the boys lack match exposure. They have good speed and technique, but they don't know, for example the right time to attack, when to slow down the tempo.
"These aspects matter in football and the boys need to work on them so they are familiar," explained Hairuddin.
Malaysia have been drawn in Group A alongside 2016 runners up Thailand, Timor Leste, Laos, Cambodia and Singapore. Meanwhile Group B will be contested by Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, hosts Myanmar and invitational team New Zealand.
The top two teams from each group will meet in the single-legged semi-final stage, and the winners in the semis will meet in the final match. In the previous edition, Malaysia's campaign ended in the group stage, finishing third in Group A behind Vietnam and Timor Leste.
Malaysia's campaign will begin against Laos on 4.30pm Malaysian time September 4 at the Aung San Stadium. They will then face Singapore (September 6), Timor Leste (8), Cambodia (10), and Thailand (12).