Ak Fauzi Salleh
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Saturday, February 4, 2012
BRUNEI'S Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) players were optimistic upon realisation that the Sultanate has been drawn into Group A of the biennial competition yesterday.
The country is in the same group as Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore while Group B will pit defending champions Thailand against Cambodia, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
"It is a good draw,"midfielder Mohd Najib Hj Tarif told The Brunei Times after the draw yesterday.
"We played Philippines and Laos before, we won against Philippines and drew with Laos but both Indonesia and Myanmar are very good teams," he said.
Twenty-one-year-old Ak Anaqi Sufi Omar Baki, who also laces up for AM Gunners, however said that he would be keeping a keen eye on the Malaysian squad.
"Having won the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in November last year, we expect them to be at least in the semi-final in this tournament" he said.
Right back Md Azri Zahari and goalkeeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof who played together in the team that won silver in last December's Borneo Games in East Kalimantan, Indonesia both agreed that two-time HBT champions Thailand are still the team to beat in the tournament.
"Vietnam play very good football, they are very fast but Thailand is stronger and more experienced," said Azri Zahari whose credentials include representing Brunei in the Asian School Football Championship.
Twenty-two players were shorlisted for the squad on Wednesday but national coach Kwon Oh-son will be looking to trim the team down to just 18 players, in line with HBT rules and regulations.
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 the four extra players but they will have plenty of chances to prove their worth and force their way into the team.
"I still train with the rest of the team. We were told that we will still be given a chance to make it to the last eighteen, so we just going to continue training I guess," said 18-year-old Md Ruddy.This year's edition of the tournament will allow each team to bring five overage players though only three can be fielded each match.
Striker Adi Said, midfielders Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris and Mohd Najib and defenders Md Azri Zahari and Reduan Hj Petara have been chosen as the five players.
"I was surprised, we just got back from Jakarta, Adi, Reduan, Hendra and me were called to come to training with the HBT team," said Mohd Najib, who assured the team is training hard in preparation for the tournament.
"There are only a few weeks left before the tournament and we have been training at 3pm almost everyday now," said the 24-year-old captain.
The Brunei Times