Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin
22/02/2024 03:37 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- The national Under-23 (U-23) football team might play as many as six friendly matches to be in best shape to face the Paris 2024 Olympics Qualifiers from April 15 to May 3 in Qatar. 

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said, the Harimau Muda side under the tutelage of Juan Torres Garrido will start their 2024 U-23 Asian Cup (qualifiers) preparations with three friendly fixtures during the March 18-26 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) calendar at home, likely against India and two other teams.

They will then head to Qatar in early April to play warm-up matches against the hosts, and most probably Japan among others. 

“We will send the team early to Qatar because they must acclimatise to the weather and five-hour of time difference there before the kick-off. We try to avoid playing against clubs, might play against teams that arrive early,” Hamidin, who is also the Paris 2024 Chef-de-Mission (CDM), told reporters. 

He said the full details of the preparations would be announced soon, with some of the players might be called-up by the national team head coach Kim Pan Gon to face Oman in Muscat and Bukit Jalil National Stadium here on March 21 and 26 for the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup qualifiers. 

Meanwhile, Hamidin admitted that, the chances for the national team to qualify for the Olympics after 44 years, looks challenging because only the top three teams in the U-23 Asian Cup will qualify for the Paris Games, while the fourth placed team has to fight in the playoff match against the fourth place team of the 2023 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Guinea. 

Malaysia have been drawn in Group D against Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Kuwait. Only the top two from group will advance to the quarter-finals.

"Realistically, as President of FAM, if can qualify for the Olympics, I think it will be a big success, it would like the senior squad qualifying for the World Cup. We must realise that Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have about seven to 10 players who played in the 2022 World Cup and the recent Asian Cup.

“Even in our group, Uzbekistan have seven players who featured in the first eleven of the Asian Cup, while Vietnam had around nine players in the Asian Cup squad. 

“So, definitely we must give our best and it is important for us to qualify for quarter-finals first. That means must have a good results against Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Kuwait,” he said. 

Malaysia only qualified for Olympics twice - in the 1972 Munich and 1980 Moscow editions - but didn’t participate in the Moscow Games due to US-led boycott against the then Soviet Union. 

Earlier, Hamidin and deputy CDM Datuk Nicol David visited the training sessions of diver Bertrand Rhodict Lises and pistol shooter Johnathan Wong Guanjie ahead of the Paris Games to be held from July 26 to Aug 11.