| Fadhil Yunus |
THE Brunei Darussalam National Under-18 Team will be treating the upcoming Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-18 Youth Championship as a platform to provide players much-needed exposure ahead of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 qualifiers.
The under-18s have been drawn alongside Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and hosts Myanmar in Group ‘B’ with all the games set to be played at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.
Group ‘A’ comprise of Thailand, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Laos, Cambodia and Singapore.
Head Coach Takao Fujiwara, who has only recently been tasked to lead the team, is hoping that the players will be given decent exposure as they get a taste of international football.
“I have only recently taken over the team and while we have managed to get some good players, the team still lack experience,” Fujiwara was quoted as saying by AFF.
“It is important that we get the right exposure from this meet where we also hope that we can help develop the next generation of players,” the Japanese further added.
The young Wasps are fully prepared to play Philippines in their group opener today after a good period in training.
“Though our group is very strong, we have a chance at winning this game against the Philippines,” said team manager Zulkifli Haji Duraman.
“We have been training well and are ready for this game,” he added.
Brunei last met the young Azkals in the group stage where they were beaten 2-1 in the 2015 edition in Vientiane, Laos.
There will be familiar names in the coaching setup for the other teams with Indonesia’s 2014 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy (HBT) head coach Indra Sjafri hoping to fire the country to glory while former Kelantan FA and Johor Darul Ta’zim head coach Bojan Hodak has been installed as head coach for the Malaysia under-19 team.
The competition will also serve as a first real test for newly appointed Thailand under-20 head coach Marc Palacios.
Cambodia’s under-17 head coach Kazunori Inoue boasted coaching experience after guiding the under-16s to a semi-final appearance in the AFF Under-16 Youth Championship last year.
Malaysia and Thailand both enjoyed excellent starts to their championship campaign after respectively humbling Laos 4-1 and Timor Leste 3-0 in Group ‘A’.