GENERATION NEXT: Eight young players Vingada could blood in for Malaysia

Malaysia coach Nelo Vingada’s first squad saw six players over the age of 30 called-up, but with the inclusion of eight below 25, it actually appears to be a combination of young and old. Many more youngsters are hoping to make a break and FourFourTwo picks eight who may be ready for national duty …

Vingada barely settled down in Kuala Lumpur when the knives were out following the release of the Harimau Malaya call-up list.

Among the grouses included that the regular personnel were named and that veteran figures such as Amri Yahyah, Safee Sali and Azamuddin Akil were included in the squad instead of youngsters. In defence of the selection, Malaysian included uncapped Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Nazrin Syamsul Bahari and Faisal Rosli.

Truth be told the Portuguese had little input into the squad named to face Lebanon in the Asian Cup qualifiers on June 13 because he only arrived days before the announcement. Some critics are in for a shock when Vingada names future squads as the talent pool in Malaysia – those that look capable of delivering to some extent in International football – is a small one.

There were some big names left-out. For example, Nazmi Faiz Mansor does not feature because of his temperamental nature while the versatile Adam Nor Azlin has yet to show which position he is best suited for.

The likes of Amri and Safee may have past their peak but there is little doubt that the duo are among the best in their positions. Ahmad Hazwan Bakri is their only real contender for a starting place. Similar things can be said of Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Safiq Rahim, who angered football followers when he turned his back by retiring prematurely in 2016, being included once more.

The 29-year-old former captain is well ahead of his peers and can literally stroll into any starting line-up in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), so using his services is a no brainer.

The time for a change in guard will eventually come and FourFourTwo lists eight youngsters that Vingada may want to gradually blend into the senior team during his two years tenure.

There were some big names left-out. For example, Nazmi Faiz Mansor does not feature because of his temperamental nature while the versatile Adam Nor Azlin has yet to show which position he is best suited for.

Afiq Fazail

Position: Central-midfield

Age: 23

Club: JDT

His rise was largely undocumented because a lot attention was on his elder brother Irfan, who may have become a top footballer had he not suffered multiple injuries, but Afiq (in main pic) has made the MSL take notice of him in 2017.

Promoted from JDT II this year, the appointment of Benjamin Mora to the Southern Tigers hotseat worked in his favour as the pair worked together in the Malaysia Premier League (MPL) in 2016.

Afiq has worked his way into the JDT starting line-up and into the hearts of the fans with his calm approach in the engine room. He is a holding midfielder that guards the back-four, gives those ahead of him assurance behind and can distribute the ball well.

Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik

Position: Central-midfield

Age: 22

Club: Kedah

Another name that needs no further introduction. Amirul actually made the national team briefly under former coach Ong Kim Swee.

Current Malaysia assistant Tan Cheng Hoe will know exactly what Amirul can offer, having utilised him as a starter in Kedah’s return to top flight in 2016. The Red Eagles finished an impressive third and won the season ending Malaysia Cup.

He has spent a chunk of the first half of 2017 injured but is back to full fitness and is currently with the Malaysia Under-22 preparing for the AFC Under-22 qualifiers in July and SEA Games in August.

Amirul does not distribute the ball as well as Afiq but he has more experience and tenacity in him. He also had exposure with Harimau Muda in the Queensland National Premier League and the S. League. Amirul also featured in the 2015 SEA Games.

Wan Ahmad Amirzafran Nadris

Position: Centre-back

Age: 22

Club: T-Team

The former Harimau Muda trainee is far from polished for international football but options are not plenty as the likes of Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Shahrom Kalam and Khairul Helmi Johari are not getting any younger.

Amirzafran is among the select few young centre-backs in the MSL and has been popping a few goals for T-Team at the other end too.

The lanky centre-back had at times being accused of being too rash in the past but he is showing more maturity in 2017 and even made FourFourTwo’s MSL team of the month in April.

Amirzafran was among those turning 23 in 2017 that were hoping to make their final SEA Games appearance in Kuala Lumpur, but the regulations were changed to make it an Under-22 competition. If he continues his progress, a call from Vingada could be coming.

Adib Zainuddin

Position: Centre-back

Age: 22

Club: Felcra

The very fact he plays in the third-tier FAM League works against his favour in terms of catching the eyes of the national team coaches, but if Adib makes a lasting impression at the SEA Games, he will be on clubs’ radar and eventually the national team.

Adib was the vice-captain of the Under-22 side when Frank Bernhardt was in charge and wore the armband in a friendly against Felda United under Ong on June 6 as regular skipper Faris Shah Rosli is out on a long-term injury.

Ong, however, has yet to name a permanent captain.

The former Harimau Muda C defender played for UiTM in the second-tier MPL in 2016 and did relatively well, but the club made signings to bolster their top flight ambition that may have forced Adib’s hand. In search of regular senior team football, he joined Felcra’s bid to qualify for the MPL.