By SHAMSHUL FITRI – PETALING JAYA: National coach Datuk K. Rajagopal will not let the absence of nine trainees from Selangor and Kelantan disrupt the national football team’s preparation for the Asian Cup Group D qualifying match against Yemen on March 22.
Selangor and Kelantan are preparing for their AFC Cup group matches tomorrow. Selangor face Singapore side Tampines Rovers at the Shah Alam Stadium while Kelantan travel to Yangon, Myanmar to play Ayeywady United.
The nine players are Mahali Jasuli, Norazlan Razali, Amri Yahyah, Asrarudin Putra Omar, Abdu Shukor Jusoh from Selangor and Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Nik Mohd Shahrul Azim, Shakir Shaari and Mohd Badhri Radzi from Kelantan. They will only report to camp on Thursday.
“This is something I don’t want to think too much about. We will have to make do and train with the players we have at the moment. The team will be selected based on their performance against Saudi Arabia on Sunday at the Shah Alam Stadium,” said Rajagopal during the team’s first training session yesterday.
Malaysia lost 2-0 to Qatar in their opening Asian Cup Group D match last month. Malaysia will face Bahrain, the other team in the group, in October.
“I want to see the best combination on the field. The nine players will get playing time – maybe 30 or 45 minutes – depending on their fitness because the Saudis are strong and they play at a much higher level,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rajagopal said Badhri was included in the team to gauge whether he can fit into the national set-up.
The last time the Kelantan midfielder played for the national team was in the friendly against Chelsea during the English Premier League club’s pre-season tour in 2011.
“He will be given a chance to prove himself on the field. Every player will be given a chance because I see every player as important to the team,” said Rajagopal.
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