BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
DAYEM Hj Ali (pic) said Brunei has a "fair" draw at this week's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia, which is arguably the country's biggest event in a decade.
Making their return to the Under-23 football competition after a 10-year-absence, the team's head coach was happy to have been drawn in Group B alongside Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines and Timor Leste.
Group A consists of defending champions Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia so the Sultanate can breathe a sigh of relief after being handed an easier task.
"It's also good because we will be able to know how strong we are after not playing for 10 years we last played at the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur," he said on Monday, referring to the fact that potentially poor results against the stronger Group A opponents would not be a true test of the team's standard.
"The games against Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos will be tough ... Vietnam were runners-up in 2009 and Laos were semi-finalists. (But) we want to make sure we play our best and make the country proud," the coach insisted.
Brunei's 20-man squad, which will leave for Jakarta today, face Timor Leste in their opener on Saturday. They take on Laos next Monday, Myanmar next Wednesday and Vietnam next Saturday.
Brunei will meet the Philippines in their final group stage match on Nov 15, with the semi-finals set for Nov 19 and the final two days later. The two best teams from each group advance to the semis.
Brunei's match against Vietnam, which was penned in for a what would have been a historic 8am kick-off next Friday because of the Games' opening ceremony on the same day, has now been rescheduled to 7pm the next day.
Vietnam takes on the Philippines in tomorrow's tournament opener, with the SEA Games proper set for Nov 11-22.
Trials were held in July to select Brunei's footballers for the 26th edition of the biennial tournament. Their training sessions in the fasting month only ran from 9-11pm but the team has been at work twice a day since a four-day break for Hari Raya.
Only four of them are first-timers to an international competition the rest enjoying playing time at the 2007 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (a competition between national Under-21 teams from the Asean region), the 2008 Malaysia Games (Sukma) and Asean Schools Football Tournament.
The team's captain, midfielder Azwan Muhd Salleh, is one of the three from DPMM FC with striker Adi Hj Md Said and midfielder Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris the other two.
Though the team might be physically ready, their lack of quality friendly matches might be their undoing in the Indonesian capital where the other countries have been preparing against some top-level opposition.
The Philippines squad just returned from a week-long stay in Japan while Laos gave Malaysia a run for their money after taking an early lead before falling 4-1 in a friendly in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday.
Malaysia also saw action at last month's Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) Cup, where they lost 3-1 to Uzbekistan, beat Myanmar 2-1 and held hosts Vietnam to a 1-1 draw. Myanmar were on the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline against Vietnam in the same tournament, where they also lost 2-1 to Uzbekistan.
The Indonesians held their senior counterparts 1-1 in a recent game and breezed past the Timor Leste Under-23 squad 5-0.
Brunei, in comparison, have had to settle for DPMM FC.
Though Brunei's only professional club are the 2009 Singapore League Cup champions, DPMM FC are still in the process of getting their players fit and finalising imports for the upcoming season and matches against countries in the region would have been a better test.
"We have had friendly games against some local teams but they weren't really good gauges for us - except for our 2-2 draw against DPMM FC (on Oct 15)," said Dayem.
"Going up against their (DPMM FC's) imports, we were able to learn that we can not play long balls (to the forwards) because the defenders are tall.
"That's why we have been training a lot on our one-two passing ... That's one of our weapons," he added.
Thailand have won the SEA Games a record 13 times, followed by Malaysia and Myanmar with five a statistic that stretches back to 1959 when the event was then known as the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games.
Malaysia won the last edition in Laos when they defeated Vietnam 1-0 in the final, where an own goal by Vietnam's Mai Xuan Hop handed the Asean champions their first SEA Games title in 20 years.
The Brunei Times