The creative forward is ready to deliver for Malaysia from the start against Afghanistan, saying the extra hours spent in training will serve him well as he seeks to make an impact.
Having improved Malaysia's attack after coming off the bench against Singapore, Terengganu forward Norshahrul Idlan Talaha is ready to start against Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old was a replacement call-up to the Tigers squad after Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) II refused to allow their players to join up with the camp earlier.
Nevertheless, his fitness was always a concern, even prompting the coaching set-up to draft a special training regime to get him to shape.
Now, Norshahrul says he is already reaping fruits of his extra work and indicated he feels ready for a start.
"To be here, you have to ready to play and it's no different for me despite the need to improve fitness levels," Norshahrul told reporters.
"Yes, I'm not at my optimum yet but I'm getting better thanks to the extra fitness drills. I need to pick up more, the standard here is higher than the domestic league so I will have to continue with these programmes after this call up."
Norshahrul could start alongside Ahmad Hazwan Bakri against Afghanistan, the Malaysians' last match before naming the AFF Suzuki Cup squad later this month.
Ong was pleased to see Norshahrul's contribution to the side after a lacklusture first-half against Singapore but was quick to admit his squad was not settled yet.
The Tigers are still doing some soul searching after the retirement of Safiq Rahim and three other JDT players and Norshahrul has called for patience.
"We need to build our understanding ... there is a lot of work and the coming games are crucial for us," the forward concluded.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo