I’ve named the best squad available, insists Ong

Questions are plenty after Malaysia omitted several key Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players but coach Ong Kim Swee insists he has called up the best players available for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Ong Kim Swee came out in full defence over his squad selection for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November, but there were still more questions than answers.

Malaysia omitted Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Izham Tarmizi Roslan, Fazly Mazlan and Azrif Nasrulhaq – all of whom were expected to be starters – from their 26-man provisional squad.

None of JDT’s starting players have been called up as only reserves Amri Yahyah, Fadhli Shas and Safee Sali were named on Friday. The trio are joined by JDT II’s Irfan Fazail, Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak and Darren Lok.

“I have called the best available squad,” said Ong, who refused to comment if Izham, Fazly and Azrif were not available.

“After considering all the various aspects – including the three games we played in recent months – these are the best players that I think will make the final squad of 23.”

Ong explained that Nazirul and Ahmad Khuzaimi Piee were picked because they showed signs of improvement against Afghanistan and that he wanted to build on that.

He also said that Hadin Azman and Syazwan Zainon are capable of replacing Azrif on the flanks while Khairul Azhan proved he was ready to be called up in place of Izham. Khairul Fahmi Che Mat is expected to start in goal.

Malaysia are already without retired quartet – Safiq Rahim, S. Kunanlan, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak and Amirul Hadi Zainal – and injured midfield enforcer Brendan Gan and winger Christie Jayaseelan.

There is a general consensus that it is largely a second string side Ong is taking to Yangon but the former Harimau Muda coach was having none on that.

“I can’t say this is my second team … this is obviously my first because I have named the strongest available players. I have confidence in my players,” said Ong.

The first-batch of 18 players report to training on Tuesday with the remaining eight from Selangor and Kedah reporting after the Malaysia Cup final at the end of this month.

Ong expressed hope that all players would report in as scheduled. JDT have previously insisted they will not allow their players to report for national duty longer than the four days stipulated by FIFA.