BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Saturday, February 4, 2012
THERE is no doubt Brunei has an easier passage to the semi-finals of the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT).
The Sultanate has not progressed to the semi-finals of its own tournament the past three times it was contested, but looking at yesterday's draw, the signs look promising.
The country will take on Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore during the Feb 25-March 9 regional biennial tournament, with Group B seeing defending champions Thailand going up against Cambodia, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, honorary president of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD), and YAM Pg Muda Abdul 'Aleem graced the draw at the Royal Berkshire Hall, Polo Club in Jerudong.
Representatives from the 11 participating countries were present at the draw in a strong show of support for the event which for the first time, will include all Asean member nations plus guests Timor Leste.
Though Timor Leste did not send an official, they were represented by Kifli Hj Jaafar, the head of the Department of Youth and Sports' Sports Coaching and Development Unit.
In alphabetical order, representatives from each country were invited to stage to select the balls which indicated the group and number.
The top-two countries from each group advance to the second round (semi-finals), a feat which Brunei has yet to achieve despite hosting it in 2002, 2005 and 2007.
Being hosts, Brunei could pick which group they wanted to be drawn in and team manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff chose wisely making the decision when Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Singapore were drawn in Group A.
By this time Group B only had Cambodia and Malaysia so Hj Feisal's timing couldn't have been better.
Speaking to The Brunei Times after the draw, national coach Kwon Oh-son was pleased with the cards handed to him.
"I'm happy with it," said the South Korean.
"And yes, I'm sure we can qualify for the next round," he said emphatically in response to whether 2012 would be Brunei's lucky year.
"Myanmar and Indonesia will be the teams to beat in our group. Group B will probably be Vietnam and Thailand," he added.
Sitting seats away from Hj Feisal during the draw, Kwon didn't play any part in the manager's decision to pick the group.
He said he didn't need to.
"There was no discussion (about which group to pick)," said the coach.
"The coaching staff and management ... We are all of the same mind. We work together in harmony," he added.
For the first time ever, tournament rules allow each team to bring five overage players though only three can be fielded in each match.
Striker Adi Said, midfielders Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris and Mohd Najib Hj Tarif and defenders Md Azri Zahari and Reduan Hj Petara have been chosen as the five players for Brunei.
Brunei have been training with 22 players but only 18 will be in the final squad.
Midfielders Ak Anaqi Sufi Pg Hj Omar Baki, Md Ruddy Hazwan Kamaruddin, striker Abd Al-Wardi Abd Hamid and goalkeeper Ron Junior Philip were named as the four extra players though they still can make it into the squad in case other players suffer injuries, poor form, discipline and other unforseen circumstances.
Thailand are the tournament's defending champions after beating Myanmar 5-4 on penalties the last time the event was contested in 2007. Thailand beat Indonesia to lift the 2005 edition of the trophy to dethrone the previous titleholders.
The Brunei Times