THE national football team have been boosted with the addition of defender Helmi Zambin and midfielder Azwan Ali Rahman in their 23-man squad for the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Solidarity Cup 2016 in Kuching.
The Wasps will kick off their Group A campaign with a meeting against Timor Leste in the curtain raiser at the Sarawak Stadium tomorrow before facing Nepal six days later. Sri Lanka. Macau, Mongolia and Laos make up Group B.
The arrival of DPMM FC right-back Helmi will help ease the defensive dilemma for coach Kwon Oh-son with the duo of centre-backs Ak Yura Indera Putera Pg Yunos and Muhammad Hanif Hamir out injured.
The South Korean is deploying skipper Rosmin Hj Md Kamis, who is set to retire from international football after the competition, as an emergency defender together with the centre-back pairing of Afi Aminuddin and Khairil Shahme Suhaimi.
Despite a nagging left ankle injury, 2015 Singapore League (S-League) Young Player of the Year winner Azwan Ali is expected to feature in the Nov 2-15 tournament and will add to the creativity going up front.
“For now Azwan Ali cannot play the first game because he has not fully recovered from his ankle injury and he will probably only play from the second game,” said Kwon (pic) in an interview as translated by his son Kwon Hyuk-soo with The Brunei Times yesterday.
“Helmi plays at the right-back position and will help improve our side defence a lot,” he added.
Left-back Najib Hj Tarif picked up an injury just before half-time against Timor Leste in the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup 2016 qualifiers in Cambodia on Oct 15.
He hasn’t played since and didn’t leave with the team yesterday despite being listed.
Kwon, though, is hopeful he will join them in the Sarawak capital.
“His conditional recovery is not 100 per cent but his mentality and his spirit is there,” said the 57-year-old before the team’s departure at the NFABD (National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam) House in Berakas.
“He is not giving up and is trying to give his best... That is a good thing ahead of the match against Timor Leste.
“He wants to play for Brunei, but maybe he cannot play the full 90 minutes,” he added.
Kwon, who helped the national Under-21 football team win the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, has not set a target for this week’s competition.
“For now we need to take it one game at a time,” said Kwon.
“There are only two matches in our group, and to qualify, we need one win and one draw — for safety reasons.
“We need to take every game as serious as a final to improve our chances of qualification (to the semi-finals) and beyond that.
“We have to put 110 to 120 per cent for every game.
There is plenty of recovery time after the Timor Leste game and it is important for the players to give it their all in every match,” added Kwon.