Mission completed, U-18 players now ready to step up their game - Maloney

Last update: 11/11/2019

SEPANG, Nov 11  -- After helping Malaysia secure its spot in the final round of the 2020 Asia Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 (U-19), some of the players are now ready to step up their game at the biggest stage.

Interim national Under-18 head coach, Brad Maloney believes his boys could play an important role in the national Under-22 (U-22) squad at the 2019 SEA Games after having worked tirelessly in the last few months.

Although those players would be facing intense competition against older players to be listed in the final squad, Maloney said the players’ inner desire could help them through the selection process.

“It’s a big ask for a 17-year old to play against those aged 22 but these players are very talented and they have a lot of desire to succeed and I believe these players can play at that level.

“Definitely they will have their chance to see if they can step up into that level and be in the final 20 squad for the SEA Games,” he told reporters when met at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here, today.

Malaysia qualified for the 2020 AFC U-19 Championship final in Uzbekistan after emerging as Group G winners in the qualifiers in Cambodia.

The national U-18 side topped the group with maximum 12 points courtesy of their 100 per cent win record, after notching a 1-0 win over Thailand at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, yesterday.

“The players worked tirelessly in the last few months and particularly the last five to six weeks. They made a lot of sacrifices, worked very hard and yesterday (win and qualification) was something that they really deserved,” Maloney added.

From the 48 teams competing in the qualifiers, only 16 teams including the hosts and 11 group champions and four best runners-up (five if Uzbekistan win Group F) will qualify for the final round in Uzbekistan next year.

Malaysia has qualified for the tournament (formerly known as AFC Youth Championship) 23 times since it was introduced in 1959. In the last edition held in Indonesia last year, Malaysia were knocked out in the group stage.