KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 -- The national football Under-18 squad are all fired up to qualify for the U-20 World Cup, said team manager Datuk Kamarul Ariffin Mohd Shahar.
He said they were waiting for the standard operating procedures (SOP) for football matches which are expected to be released by the National Security Council (MKN) next month before pursuing plans for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-19 Championship 2020 in Uzbekistan in October.
"We are committed to qualifying for the 2021 U-20 World Cup to become Malaysia's (U-20) first team to do so on merit. It is not an impossible mission as we have won against Asian powers such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Australia. The gap is not big anymore.
"But we will have to wait for the SOPs to be issued by MKN before we can proceed with our plans. The team's coaching staff have also come up with alternatives to prepare for any eventuality, "he told Bernama today.
He said the AFC 2020 U-19 Championship group qualifying process for the 2021 U-20 World Cup was set for June 21, while the final round of the championship would go ahead on the set dates.
Kamarul Ariffin also acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was a bit of a hindrance to the team's meticulous planning and could have a negative impact on players performance.
"The players are still training and maintaining their fitness level in accordance with the instructions of their respective clubs and teams but at the moment what can be done is minimal," he said.
However, he emphasised that the players' motivation was at their best after making several visits to the home of several players including Luqman Hakim Shamsudin and Muhammad Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi.
"I visited some players at their homes to look at their training sessions and to meet them in person. When speaking to Luqman and Mukhairi Ajmal, I found that they were very passionate about the target there (Uzbekistan) and remained motivated to qualify for the World Cup," he said.
The U-18 national team stole the limelight in the 2019 ASEAN Confederation (AFF) Championship after defeating Australia 3-0 in Group B, but lost 0-1 when both teams clashed in the final.
Brad Maloney's side then dismissed Thailand's first-choice team to emerge champions in Group G of the AFC 2020 B-19 Championship qualifier, confirming the slot to Uzbekistan.
Malaysia National News Agency
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