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Malaysia U16

Tenacious Malaysia U-15's insistence on training despite haze floored Maniam

10:31 PM GMT+8 13/09/2019
Malaysia U-15, 13092019
The recent AFF U-15 Championship winners depart for Laos raring to take on the best of Asia in Group J of the AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

Malaysia U-15 head coach Maniam Pachaiappan has been floored by his charges' persistence in training, ahead of the 2020 AFC U-16 Championship qualifiers.

On Friday morning, the Young Tigers departed for Vientiane, Laos, where they will go up against Southeast Asian sides Cambodia and hosts Laos, as well as continental favourites Japan in Group J. They will first take on Cambodia on September 18, before facing Laos two days later, and will finally go up against Japan on 22 September. The 12 group winners will qualify for the finals automatically, accompanied by the best four second-placed teams.

As much of Malaysia is enveloped by the annual haze for the past week, it was tricky for the team to undergo training outside, but Maniam revealed that his charges were determined to practice.

"The haze made it hard for us to train in the last few days, but the players came up to me saying 'it's okay coach, we still want to train even if it's just for 45 minutes or one hour'.

"I'm very proud of their determination. We'll continue training after arriving in Vientiane, before slowing things down two days before the first match," said the former Selangor head coach when met by the press at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Friday.

The match fixtures also work in their favour according to him, as their match against group favourites Japan will be their last group encounter.

"I've selected a few extra midfielders for the final 23-player squad and I can say that I have 14 or 15 players who are of first eleven quality. My boys must defeat Laos and Cambodia with huge goal margins in order to boost their confidence ahead of the Japan clash. The match against Laos too will be tough as they are the hosts and will play a defensive and counter-attacking game.

"And against Japan we have to play our usual attacking game, after all this year we've beaten [Asian favourites] Iran, North Korea and Australia. We won't play defensively against Japan; we will not stay in our defensive third and we will press them and stop their game. If we can do this, I think we can defeat Japan," he explained.

But when asked about their target for the qualification, Maniam insisted that the players have not been set any by the coaching staff and the Malaysian FA, in order to avoid putting undue pressure on the young players.

"I don't want to make them stressed, we have our own strategy, but we're not telling them to win by seven or eight goals.

"They already know what they're supposed to do, how to play, and that the important aspect is in the attacking third, " he remarked.

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