BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Speaking in the Group D pre-tournament press conference of the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship, Malaysia head coach Bojan Hodak has sought to downplay expectations placed on his charges.
The Young Tigers, who qualified to the finals last year as one of the five-best second-placed teams, have been drawn along side Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and China in the group. The group will play their first matches on Saturday, October 20, with both matches played at the Patriot Candrabhaga Stadium, Bekasi, Indonesia.
"All the teams here will be tough to defeat, not just in our group, but in the other groups as well," said the Croatian in the presser that was held on Friday at the stadium.
However, he also believes that his squad has what it takes to be competitive in the tournament, due to the inclusion of midfielder Nik Akif Nik Mat and forward Akhyar Rashid, both of whom have also been playing for the senior national team.
"A few months ago we won the AFF U-19 Championship here, and I can assure you that we have a good squad. Malaysia have been working on youth development for sometime, and we're getting the maximum out of it.
"Two of our players are already playing for the senior team. We hadn't done well in terms of development previously, but I hope that this is slowly changing," remarked the former Kelantan and Johor Darul Ta'zim head coach.
Goal also took the chance to follow up on a particular concern he had raised on the day the squad departed for Indonesia; keeping prying eyes away from the team training sessions.
To this he responded somewhat cheekily:
"There has been no problem so far. Yesterday there were two other men during our training, but I think they were making sure that the pitch minders."
The match between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia will kick off at 5.00 pm Malaysian time.
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