02 February 2012

Brunei shortlists 22-man HBT squad

Jason Thomas

Thursday, February 2, 2012

THERE is still time for a group of four players to force their way into the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) team.

Though the 18-man team for the Feb 25-March 9 biennial tournament, which Brunei will host was officially unveiled yesterday, coaches will still be training with 22 players.

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 are by no means seen as surplus to requirement.

"We have been training since last August and it is only now that we have come up with the list of 18 players," said team manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff yesterday.

"It is not impossible that these four players can make it into the squad in case of injuries, dip in form, discipline and other unforeseen circumstances.

"So I would like to remind the four that they still have a chance (at making the team)," he stressed during the unveiling at the Lecture Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.

It is understood that the final 18-man list will be submitted during the manager's meeting just before the HBT.

With all Asean countries plus guests Timor Leste having confirmed their participation, the fourth edition of the HBT is shaping up to be the biggest yet.

For the first time ever, tournament rules 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 Hj Tarif and defenders Md Azri Zahari and Reduan Hj Petara have been chosen as the five players.

All of them saw action for the Sultanate at last November's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Jakarta, where three of them got on the scoresheet.

Proving his rising worth to Brunei on the football pitch, Adi bagged three of the country's five goals at the Games. He was the team's saviour in their 2-2 draw with Laos, scoring both goals in a match they were forced to play with 10-men for 75 minutes after Reduan was sent to an early shower.

The former Majra FC hitman netted the first goal in the 2-1 win against the Philippines, which was Brunei's only victory at the Games.

Reduan scored the winner against the Philippines while Mohd Najib scored the only goal in Brunei's 2-1 loss to Timor Leste in the opener.

Sixteen of the players in the 22-man list represented the country at last December's Borneo Games, where the team returned with silver.

The national team have prepared for the HBT with friendlies against DPMM FC, Thai Premier League side Chiangrai United FC, Sabah and a host of local sides, but Hj Feisal believes Brunei have not enjoyed the same lengthy preparation as other countries.

"In terms of preparation and training, the players and team are not at the same level as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar," pointed out the manager.

"From what I have been informed, those countries have been training for years and have had many friendlies both local and international," he added.

Despite this being the fourth time Brunei hosting the event, the Sultanate has yet to progress past the group stage into the semi-final. And with the tournament draw set for tomorrow, the manager was coy when asked what teams he wanted to avoid or what target he has set.

"Of course, who doesn't want to win? ... Especially playing at home," asked Hj Feisal.

"We will do all that we can to go as far as possible. I can't promise anything but from what I've seen, they (the team) can play.

"Whatever teams we are with, I am sure we can face it," he insisted.

National coach Kwon Oh-son's was just as eager to side-step any tricky questions.

"Key players? Our midfielders are our key players - all of them," he grinned.

"We have learnt three things from our friendlies; the importance of physical play, set pieces and organisation in both defence and attack," added the South Korean.

He will have the next three weeks to learn more about the side, by which time the country will expect a team capable of earning a spot in the semi-finals of their own tournament.The Brunei Times Search

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