Maloney does not require defence line-up overhaul at 2020 AFC

Malaysia’s inconsistent backline has been a let-down in the last 2 campaigns, letting 10 goals to concede in 11 games

NATIONAL Under-18 (U-18) squad’s defence line-up must be well-prepared to form a defensive bedrock as Brad Maloney’s boys are expected to deal with Asia’s best-attacking forces at the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-19 Championships in October.

Malaysia’s inconsistent backline has been a let-down in the last two campaigns — the 2019 Asean Football Federation U-19 Championship and 2020 AFC U-19 Championship qualification.

That has resulted in Maloney’s side conceding 10 goals in 11 games, including four goals they handed to Cambodia in their slim 5-4 win during the opening game of the qualifying campaign.

Though the poor backline may affect the team as they set to take on former champions Qatar, which scored 10 goals in the qualifying campaign, Tajikistan (11) and Yemen (6) in the Group D of the AFC U-19 Championship, Maloney feels there is no need for a “defence” overhaul.

“I think you got to be strong all over the field, but some people might say defence is your foundation. Of course we want to be strong and stable in defence,” he told reporters prior to the squad’s training session at Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya, Selangor yesterday.

“We want to be confident when we have the ball and also to be able to be defensive without it. So, it’s a full package that we are looking for,” the 48-year-old Australian- born coach added.

Despite the shortcoming in defence, Malaysia emerged as the team with the most goals (29 goals) in the qualifying campaign in November last year, mainly after thrashing Brunei and Northern Mariana Island 11-0 and 10-0 respectively, and subsequently Japan (19) and South Korea (18).

However, the final round of the championship in Uzbekistan scheduled from Oct 14 to 31 is another level of stiff competition as semi-finalists get an automatic place to the U-20 World Cup 2021 in Indonesia.

“Obviously very strong teams, Qatar for example, have their Aspire Academy and things like that and a very good youth development pathway. You can’t underestimate any of these teams, (they are) always very competitive.

Tajikistan and Yemen are very physical, so we have to be up to that level to compete with them,” Maloney said.

Meanwhile, Maloney confirmed that there would be no friendly matches for his side before the centralised training camp ends tomorrow.

“After discussion with the coaching staff, it is decided that we are probably not quite ready for a full match yet, so we want to take our time. We (want to) continue training among ourselves, perhaps during next call up we will look for a friendly match,” he said. — Bernama