PETALING JAYA – Malaysia is hoping to have United States-based player Wan Ahmad Kuzri Wan Ahmad Kamal in the squad for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Under-23 (U-23) Championship 2022 in Cambodia, this month.
However, national U-23 head coach Brad Maloney said the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) was still trying to resolve the matter with Wan Kuzri, as the player was facing some issues back in the US.
“I chatted with him yesterday and he was very keen to come, but time is running short now, so hopefully he can join the team as soon as possible.
“If he does come back to Kuala Lumpur, he has to quarantine for a certain period, so once he settled his matters in the States then we’ll make a final decision on him,” he told reporters when met on the seventh day of the centralised training camp here, today.
The last time the 20-year-old player participated in the national team’s central training camp was with the national Under-19 (U-19) squad in August 2020.
Despite hailing Wan Kuzri as a ‘very good player’, the Australian-born coach however said that he could not guarantee him a spot in the final squad for the competition, as the midfielder still needed to fight for his place with other players in the training camp.
“Everyone has an equal chance…like I said, the door is always open either way, so there’s a lot of players that are still eligible to join the team, and we will always keep an open mind on that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Maloney pointed out that the tournament in Cambodia would serve as an experiment for the players to adapt to his philosophy before they go on to compete in the 2022 U-23 Asian Cup scheduled for June 1-19 in Uzbekistan, as well as the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, from Sept 10-25.
Asked why his squad decided to play friendlies against local teams rather than international teams before they departed for Cambodia on Feb 12, Maloney cited COVID-19 related issues as the main reason they opted to arrange the matches here.
The 50-year-old coach informed that his team will fly to Sabah on Friday (Feb 4) to play against Sabah FC on Feb 5, before they return here for the match against Kuala Lumpur City FC on Feb 10.
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya City FC midfielder A.Shivan Pillay said his teammates were ‘mature’ enough to understand Maloney’s tactical plays and what the coaching team required on the pitch.
Shivan was also hopeful to make the cut in the final squad, however, he would first need to prove his mettle against two other players, namely Ahmad Tasnim Fitri Mohd Nasir (Sarawak United FC) and K. Thivandaran (Penang FC).
The national Under-23 squad, who have been drawn in Group B, will kick off their campaign against Myanmar at the Prince Stadium on Feb 15.
Maloney’s boys will then face Laos on Feb 18 at the same venue, before completing their group fixtures against Indonesia at the Morodok Techo National Stadium on Feb 21.
The three group winners and best-placed runners-up will advance to the semi-finals on Feb 24, with the final set for Feb 26.