BRUNEI began the 39th Under-18 Asia Schools Football Championship in style after dismantling Pakistan 13-0 yesterday.
The first day of the tournament in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand, saw seven names get on the scoresheet for Brunei with Muhammad Nurikhwan Othman paving the way with a goal in the first minute, the first of three he would net in the Group C tie.
Muhd Fakhrul Tamimi Hj Sahari bagged five while Ak Mohammad Amiruddin Pg Jamaludin, Md Fakhrullah Hj Md Azanie, Mohamad Nur Azees Ali, Mohammad Shafie Hj Mohd Efenddy and Mohd Aminuddin Zakwan Mohd Tahir each added one.
Despite the scoreline Liew Chuan Fue didn't seem impressed.
"I'm not surprised we won by such a big margin," said the team's coach in a telephone interview yesterday.
"Our midfield played well and I knew we would get a comfortable win because Pakistan just didn't have enough quality to match us.
"Physically we could match up ... But technically, we were better," added Liew, the former national player who captained Brunei to victory during the 1999 Malaysia Cup.
Except for Md Fakhrullah and his brother Mohammad Nazrullah, who are from Belait, the 20-man list is made up completely of Brunei Youth Team (BYT) players the side made up of Under-19 players which used to play in the second tier of the national football league.
Many of them also featured for the country in last year's edition of the tournament in Mokpo, South Korea.
Though Brunei was in Mokpo last year, they were unable to take to the field because of Fifa's ban on the country, which was only lifted on May 30.
They were able to slot in some friendly matches against national sides and high school teams though, returning with a five-two win-loss record.
Yesterday's other game saw Singapore and Macau play to a 1-1 draw in Group B.
Putting today's morale-boosting result behind them, Brunei now have bigger fish to fry facing Indonesia tomorrow and Iran on Wednesday.
A 12-team competition, the countries are divided into three groups of four. The winner and runner-up in each group will join the two best third-placed teams in the second round.
A win against the heavily-fancied Indonesians will virtually ensure their spot in the next round and Liew knows the stakes are high.
"We hope we can win ... We must win," he vowed.
"If we win we will qualify for the second round.
"Indonesia will be a stronger fight though. Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea these teams always do well in this tournament. Indonesia reach the semi-finals every year," he added.
Group A has hosts Thailand pooled with the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam while Group B has Asian powerhouses South Korea going up against Malaysia, Singapore and Macau. Thailand are the tournament's defending champions, winning last year's title after shocking hosts South Korea 2-1.
This week's competition in Ubon Ratchathani will also see the national Under-15 team in action.
The side is competing in the 6th Asian Schools Football Championships and will begin their campaign on Wednesday against the hosts.
The six-team tournament has Brunei pooled in Group A with Thailand and Sri Lanka while Group B will see Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam face off.
The Under-15 team is coached by Hon Ah Yan and assisted by Andiran Dato Gadong, with Ajamain Hj Othman serving as the manager. Assisting Liew is Tajul Arrifin Sumpong and goalkeeping coach Mohd Salihin Abdullah, as well as Hj Narudin Hj Puteh acting as the team's manager and chef de mission.
The country also has two referees, Ali Faisal Rosli and Pg Hj Md Saiful Redzuan Pg Hj Ahmad, lacing up in Thailand this week.
The Brunei Times