Malaysia heads into the 2019 AFF U22 Championship in Cambodia looking a very different team from the one that participated in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in China. With this tournament being outside of the FIFA international calendar, it puts Ong Kim Swee's job in a tough place with some teams preferring to keep their players for domestic fixtures.
On top of that, some of the members from the squad that did so well in China have also progressed beyond the allowed age and as such, a new batch of players need to be introduced to the squad to kickstart the rebuilding phase.
Only six players in the 23-man squad played in the AFC tournament a year ago and these are the players in the team that will have to guide the newer members of the squad. One of them is centre back Dominic Tan who has had a productive start to the season, featuring for Johor Darul Ta'zim II in the Malaysia Premier League.
It's good that we have some new players coming in. All of us have to fight for our place and it's good they are proving that they can also fill up for the old players, it's a healthy competition for the team. If I can guide them, I try to guide them. But mainly the old guys try to lead the team well and our experience rubs off on them.
This competition is the lead up to the AFC which is much more important. So we will want to do our best here in the AFF and see how far we can go. Of course in any tournament or even friendly matches, we go into it trying to win it and get the best result we can get," Dominic told Goal.
Having forget a wonderful partnership Irfan Zakaria and Adam Nor Azlin in the previous iteration of the team, Dominic will have to build up a new partnership with the likes of Hariz Kamarudin and Ariff Ariffin. But the expected captain of the team do have the presence of long time team mate at club and international level in Haziq Nadzli to rely on.
Malaysia squad in full:
Nik Akif Syahiran, Danial Haqim, Shahrul Nizam, Nik Azli Nik Alias, Damien Lim, R. Kogileswaran, Jafri Firdaus Chew, Azri Ghani, Ahmad Tasnim, Evan Wensley, Ariusdius Jais, Haziq Nadzli, Dominic Tan, Hariz Kamarudin, Amirul Ashraf, Nazirul Afif, Nabil Hakim, Izzan Syahmi, Hadi Fayyadh, K. Thivandaran, Danish Haziq
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