Malaysia ready for AFC Under-19 qualification campaign: Hodak

Coach Bojan Hodak has the ability to turn everything into gold when it comes to guiding Malaysian teams to success and he will hope to do so at the AFC Under-19 Championship qualifiers this month...

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The Croat led Kelantan to a Malaysia Super League (MSL), FA Cup and Malaysia Cup treble in 2012.

He followed that up with another FA Cup crown and runners-up position in the Malaysia Cup in the following season. Hodak made the jump to Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in 2014, winning the MSL and finishing second in the Malaysia Cup.

Hodak's 23-team squad will play in the AFC Under-19 Qualifiers in Paju, South Korea on Oct 31-Nov 8

But in spite of all his success, critics have said Hodak was lucky when his national youth side reached the final of the AFF Under-18 Championships in Yangon in September - just one month after his appointment, before going down 2-0 to Thailand.

Hodak's 23-member squad will play in the AFC Under-19 Qualifiers in Paju, South Korea on October 31-November 8 and he will now have a chance to silence the naysayers and prove his credentials as one of the top coaches in Southeast Asia.

Hodak had previously managed Phnom Penh Crown FC in 2011 and led them to the Cambodian League title and also qualification to the AFC President’s Cup final round for the first time.

Malaysia are drawn in Group F with Korea, Indonesia, Timor Leste and Brunei. The champions of each of the 10 groups, as well as the five best runner-up teams will qualify for the tournament proper in Indonesia next year together

Malaysia's young side impressed last month in Myanmar. Photo:

The 46-year-old, who started his coaching career with the now-defunct UPB-MyTeam in 2006 in the Malaysia League, believes his side are ready for the mission in Paju, but fears inconsistency and the cold weather could derail their chances.

“Temperatures will be between five and 15 degrees Celsius in Paju. Last week, 10 players, who have never played in cold weather, were sent to I-City in Shah Alam to spend 90 minutes inside SnoWalk, where they jogged, walked and played catch football, in temperatures under five degrees Celsius," said Hodak.

Hodak retained 20 players from the AFF Under-18 squad and added three new faces

“The players told me that they had breathing problems. I wanted them to get the feel of things in cold weather."

Hodak retained 20 players from the AFF Under-18 squad and added three new faces in Zhafir Yusoff of Kedah's President's Cup team, Penang’s President's Cup midfielder K. Thivandaran and Al Imran Abdul Halim of Universiti Teknologi Mara.

Hodak believes that Zhafir, who is a winger, and defensive midfielder Thivandaran will both offer "quality and depth".

Hodak believes his side now have more confidence. Photo:

“When I took over the team in late-August, most players could not understand basic tactics. However, they now know what I want from them and they are responding well in training. The fine performance in the AFF Under-18 event has given them the confidence," said Hodak.

“The good thing about young footballers is that they learn fast when they are motivated. They are improving, but they still got a lot to learn. The problem with youngsters is that they are inconsistent.

“They can play like champions in one match and then fail miserably in the next game. This is something I need to work on."