Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee has called up 25 players to his inaugural squad for next month’s friendlies against Philippines and Yemen.
Ong, who was handed the Harimau Malaya reins on an interim basis following the departure of K. Rajagobal, will take charge of the senior squad for the first time on March 1 when they host Philippines in a friendly at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium, before they meet visit Yemen for their final 2015 AFC Asian Cup Group D qualifier.
As expected, the best-represented side are Malaysia Super League giants Johor Darul Ta’zim with nine players called up, including playmaker Safiq Rahim, centre-back Aidil Zafuan and strikers Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safee Sali and Amri Yahyah.
Four Pahang players have been rewarded for their role in their side’s Malaysia Cup triumph last year, as well as their impressive start to the season; goalkeeper Khairul Azhan Khalid, defender Razman Roslan and midfielders Azamuddin Akil and Hafiz Kamal.
Kelantan’s Khairul Fahmi and Selangor keeper Farizal Marlias are expected to vie for the number one jersey, while Ong has also plumped for a host of his former Under-23 charges including Darul Ta’zim defenders Fadhli Shas and Mahalli Jasuli, PKNS FC wonderkid Nazmi Faiz, Terengganu left-back Zubir Azmi and Kedah captain Baddrol Bakhtiar.
It remains to be seen how long Ong will actually be in charge of Harimau Malaya for, given there has been no news on the Football Association of Malaysian (FAM) appointing a new permanent coach despite rumours at the end of last year that they were closing to securing the services of Philippe Trousier.
Malaysia squad for matches against Philippines and Yemen
Goalkeepers: Farizal Marlias (Selangor), Khairul Azhan Khalid (Pahang), Khairul Fahmi (Kelantan)
Defenders: Bunyamin Umar (Selangor), Mahalli Jasuli, Aidil Zafuan, Fadhli Shas (all Johor Darul Ta’zim), Razman Roslan (Pahang), Zubir Azmi (Terengganu), Amirizdwan Taj Tajuddin (ATM)
Midfielders: Baddrol Bakhtiar (Kedah), S. Kunanlan (Selangor), Safiq Rahim, Shakir Shaari, Nazrin Nawi (all Johor Darul Ta’zim), Azamuddin Akil, Hafiz Kamal (both Pahang), Badhri Radzi (Kelantan), Junior Eldstal (Sarawak), Nazmi Faiz (PKNS FC)
Forwards: Safee Sali, Amri Yahyah, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (all Johor Darul Ta’zim), Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Kelantan), Bobby Gonzales (PDRM)