Ong Kim Swee identifies Malaysia U22 trio ahead of SEA Games quest
Malaysia Under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has identified the trio of Daniel Amier, Syamer Kitty and Jafri Firdaus Chew as potential stars of August's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football competition in Kuala Lumpur.
The 46-year-old returned home from the three-match China tour with a tinge of contentment after his players put on a decent showing in three tough games, with the SEA Games just two months away.
Ong's men started their friendly tour with a 1-0 loss to China U22 on June 10, but recovered swiftly to draw 2-2 against the reserves of Guangzhou R&F on June 13.
They ended the tour with a 3-0 thrashing of Guangzhou Evergrande's back-up side on June 15.
"We weren't looking at the results on this tour, we were looking at the performances," Ong told ESPN FC after touching down at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Friday evening.
"There are still things to be improved on, and there is a lot of things we can improve in terms of attacking and defending."
Ong said that the Chinese tour provided a stern physical test, but was satisfied with how Amier, Syamer and Jafri came through.
"Daniel Amier from Felda, as well as Syamer Kutty from Penang did well. Jafri [Firdaus Chew, from Penang] also did well in the last game with good finishing. I believe these boys will improve further," Ong said.
Former Frenz United captain and Felda midfielder Amier has been used sparingly by coach B. Satiananthan at Felda United this season.
Syamer Kutty and Jafri, meanwhile, are mainstays in Penang's fight for survival under Zainal Abidin Hassan.
The Malaysia U22 will have another friendly against Melaka United on June 22, before heading for the 2018 AFC U23 qualifying tournament in Bangkok in July.
They will begin their Group H campaign against Indonesia on July 19 before facing hosts Thailand (July 21) and Mongolia (July 23).
Those July qualifiers will set the tone for Ong and his men to prepare for the SEA Games where expectations will be high with Malaysia hosting.
"These will be my fourth SEA Games, and we are playing at home this time with the crowd support. I hope we can achieve something good," Ong said.
"Winning gold would be tremendous, and it is a good opportunity for us to do so too."
Ong helped Malaysia win the football gold medal with the now defunct Harimau Muda squad that contained the likes of Baddrol Bakhtiar, Mahali Jasuli and Khairul Fahmi Che Mat.
The former national boss has a point to prove after being reassigned to the U22 side to make way for Nelo Vingada as senior coach.
With some of the previously retired Johor Darul Ta'zim players back on deck, Vingada began his tenure with a 2-1 home defeat to Lebanon in AFC Asian Cup qualifying at Larkin Stadium last Tuesday.
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