Japan date for U-23s

Japan date for U-23s
Faris Ramli (far left) and Sahil Suhaimi (left).

The national Under-23 football team have a hot date on Valentine's Day.

But Aide Iskandar's charges should put away the bouquet of roses and bring their 'A' game along, instead.

Awaiting them on Feb 14 will be the challenge of their counterparts from Japan, the nation that has ruled Asian football for the last few years.

The match will be part of the U-23 team's preparations for June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil, and will likely be played at either the Jalan Besar Stadium or Yishun Stadium.

Aide told The New Paper last night: "We all know Japan is one of the best in Asia, so it'll be a tough match.

"But it's a great opportunity for our boys to see where they're at and I think it'll be a great experience for everyone.

"We need to play quality teams as part of our build up for the SEA Games to test ourselves against stronger teams so we can improve.

"Even though we've already lined up games against some top European clubs in our training camp in Turkey, we also need games like this, against the region's best, to get better.

"It's a rare chance to play a top team like Japan."

Aide and his charges will jet off for a two-week training camp at the Calista Luxury Resort in Antalya, Turkey, from Jan 18 to Feb 4.

The U-23 side had a similar stint there in January last year, playing matches against the U-21 teams of Denmark and Azerbaijan, the Austrian U-18 team, and clubs sides like SV Horn (Austria) and Antalyaspor (Turkey).

The hotel the team will be staying in is part of a huge "football resort" of sorts that provides teams with everything they need during a training camp, including 12 quality football pitches just minutes away.

TNP understands that Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli, key players for the U-23s who are part of the LionsXII squad playing in this season's Malaysian Super League (MSL), will be in Aide's squad for the Japan friendly.

Even though the U-23 international falls on the same date the LionsXII play Kelantan in Kota Baru, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad had previously told TNP there is "an agreement to release the eligible players for SEA Games preparations".

The Feb 14 friendly match will help the Japan team get acquainted with the region's heat and humidity before they play a series of Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship qualifiers in Malaysia from March 27 to 31.

The Japanese U-23s reached the quarter-finals of the Asian Games last November, where they were knocked out by eventual champions and hosts South Korea thanks to an 88th-minute penalty.

They were drawn with Vietnam, Macau and hosts Malaysia in Group I of the U-23 qualifiers while Singapore are in Group J with Laos, Mongolia and hosts China.

Group winners proceed to the tournament finals in Jan 2016, along with the five best second-placed performers. Qatar qualify as hosts.

The U-23 Championship also acts as qualification to the 2016 Olympics, with the top three teams representing Asia.

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 03, 2015.
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