Ong Kim Swee has faith in Malaysia defence ahead of Philippines friendly
Malaysia coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee says having a backline that have featured consistently this season is a big plus point ahead of his team's friendly against Philippines on March 22.
"Having defenders that have played regularly in the Malaysia Super League will really help us, as we need to be as competitive as possible when we play Philippines," Ong said during the national team training on Thursday.
"They have big, strong players who are capable of making life difficult for us at the back. But we have the likes of Shahrom Kalam and Khairul Helmi who have done well this season, so I am confident we can keep things tight in defence."
Shahrom and Khairul are part of the Perak and Kedah side which have excelled in the MSL so far.
Rizal Ghazali, Fadhli Shas, Pahang duo Afif Amiruddin and Matthew Davies, as well as Khair Jones and Ronny Harun complete the eight man defence selected by Ong for the friendly.
Unlike their Asian counterparts, Malaysia will only play the Philippines friendly before returning home, after the Asian Football Confederation confirmed the postponement of their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against North Korea in Pyongyang on March 28 to June 8.
A source in the Malaysian camp told ESPN FC the move was a blessing in disguise, especially given the travelling logistics involved. There are no direct flights out of Pyongyang until march 31 and the team would have had to wait an extra three days just to leave the country.
Malaysia could still make the trip to the Republic if the strained diplomatic ties between both governments improve.
The DPR Korea have until April 14 to determine if the game is safe to be played in Pyongyang, or they will have to suggest a neutral ground and provide the AFC with supporting documents that guarantees the travelling contingent's safety, which includes the team, fans and media.
If the game does indeed go ahead on a neutral ground, then the reverse fixture on Nov. 14 -- which was initially supposed to take place in Kuala Lumpur-- will also take place on a neutral ground due to "sporting reasons."
The Malaysian and North Korean government are at loggerheads over investigation proceedings following the death of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of Kim Jong-Un at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb. 13.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.