Proud Hariss ready to take JDT to new frontier

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Describing the Kashima Antlers game as a big challenge, Hariss Harun wants his team mates and JDT to get used to playing football at this level.

In terms of Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia will not be the first to the AFC Champions League party and previously had to sit idly by watching teams from Vietnam, Thailand and even Singapore match up against the best in the continent but better late than never.

The 2019 competition will start for Johor Darul Ta'zim FC on Tuesday where they will take to the field for the daunting task of facing reigning champions Kashima Antlers in the opening match of Group E, a moment that will forever live in the history book as the first ever Malaysian team in a group stage match.

This is the stage that club owner HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) had in mind when he took over the reins back in 2013 and completely transformed the club inside out. Six years on and five Super League titles later, JDT look set to take their step to the next level.

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It will be a whole new experience for most of the players that is selected to play at the Kashima Soccer Stadium but one which club captain Hariss Harun wants his team mates to not only cherish but to do what it takes to get that feeling that they belong at this level.

"It's a big honour for me personally and also the team to be involved in the biggest stage of Asian football for the first time. I think this is a really good experience for us and the club. To grow, we have to play these kind of high level games. It's going to be a big challenge but it's exciting and we're looking forward to it."

"It can't get any tougher to start by going away to the home ground of the defending champions but it's something we can learn from. It's something to look forward to, to pit ourselves against these big boys and see where we stand. Then we can see where we can improve and how much better we can go. It's going to be different but it's something we have to get used to," Hariss told Goal.

The experience will be a big factor in these type of matches what with Kashima having a large group of players who not only know what to expect in this competition but have gone all the way last season in lifting the coveted trophy. Another big figure head was added to the team for the new season with former Shalke 04 Atsuto Uchida returned to Japan after a long spell in Germany.

Go Oiwa who is the manager has a big contigent of Brazilian at his disposal with four imports in Bueno, Leo Silva, Leandro and Serginho all part his squad. It was Serginho's brace in the playoff that got Kashima back into the group stage after they disposed off Newcastle Jets. 

On the JDT side, new signing Mauricio has had UEFA Champions League experience with Lazio and Sporting Lisbon while another newbie in Diogo Luis Santo have appeared in this competition before for his previous club, Buriram United. 

Mauricio, <a class=Terengganu v Johor Darul Ta'zim, Super League, 15 Feb 2019" perform:prop="uuid:1nut65184kqj012ke07y5leln4;width:1920;height:1080" src="https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/74/76/mauricio-terengganu-v-johor-darul-tazim-super-league-15-feb-2019_1f3y61363xwsz1wmj0gf1c69cv.jpg?t=1232286913" width="100%

Hariss knows that not only will those two players be relied heavily upon on the pitch in their own abilities but also to help guide the others in the team. For a side that is utterly dominant in Malaysian football, to go from having most of the ball to not when playing in the Champions League, can be a disconcerting thing. 

"Within the camp, the boys are talking a little bit about these games. Only Diogo and Mauricio in Europe have played these games, so their experience will be crucial and they have to help to keep the nerves down in the others. Then again it's normal to have nerves, we are excited and we'll do everything in our capacity to do our best. 

"Every game is a stepping stone to improve to perfection. There's always to learn from in each game. For us, we know that this game we have to be more organised, tight and compact. We cannot give room to opponents of this calibre. That (being more without the ball) is something that we have to be prepared to adapt ourselves to.

"Whenever possible we want to play as close to our playing style as possible but of course for this level of football, we'll have to alter accordingly to each game," added Hariss.

With last season's most valuable player in the ACL in Yuma Suzuki out nursing an injury and Kashima's poor start to the 2019 J-League season after finding themselves being handed an home defeat to newly promoted Oita Trinita, there's at least some positive news for JDT.

Luciano Figueroa and Benjamin Mora will no doubt have looked at the strength of the opponent and will need to set JDT up with the right strategy to ensure that there will not be an embarrassing debut for them in the competition. 

Not for the first time, all footballing eyes in Malaysia will be watching JDT with great intent, to see how a Malaysian side far against the best in Asia.

 

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Is anyone giving JDT a chance against mighty Kashima Antlers? #JDT #Kashima #ACL2019

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