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Young wasps aim to be surprise package in AFF U-19 championship

James Kon

Thanks to solid preparations since February, Brunei Darussalam’s Under-19 football team are hoping to be Group A’s surprise package in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Under-19 Boys Championship 2022, taking place from July 2 to 15 in Indonesia.

The young wasps are placed in Group A alongside five-time winners Thailand, two-time champion Myanmar, Vietnam, the Philippines and hosts Indonesia.

Brunei Darussalam U-19 Team Manager Nazib Ali in a press conference yesterday shared that “the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam’s (FABD) management, coach and players see the regional competition as an important platform to raise the U-19 national team’s standards”.

“This squad possess the talent. If they play to their fullest potential, I believe they can cause an upset,” he added. “I also want them to play with patriotism and belief and not be anxious against the teams in the tournament.”

From left: Brunei Darussalam’s Under-19 Assistant Team Manager Bujang Haji Japar, Team Manager Nazib Ali, Head Coach Faisalani Ghani and Team Captain Eddy Shahrol Izzat Haji Omar. PHOTO: JAMES KON

Brunei Darussalam U-19 Team Captain Eddy Shahrol Izzat Haji Omar echoed the sentiment.

“Although we are in the so-called group of death, with some of the strongest teams in the region, we believe we can put up a good fight. Insya Allah, we will be able to get points from these matches,” he said.

In terms of player selection and preparations, Brunei Darussalam U-19 Head Coach Faisalani Ghani explained that FABD selected players from clubs who have competed in U-19 tournaments, “allowing us to nurture their talents when they are called up to join the national U-19 squad”.

Preparations, the head coach said, started in February and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team could only conduct training and not have any friendly matches.

Meanwhile, U-19 Team Manager Nazib explained that “the team followed the directives established by the Ministry of Health. The training was done in groups with each coach handling their set of players”.

U-19 Head Coach Faisalani Ghani highlighted that the squad only had several friendly warm-up games in June.

“We had six friendly games against Kasuka FC, U16 FABD, TDAFA U20, Indera FC, Kota Ranger FC and Wijaya FC. The team displayed great performance. We managed to win five of the matches and with the only defeat to Kasuka FC,” he said.

In terms of strategy, the U-19 team “deploys a counterattack tactic. Attacking with pace when the opponents lose the ball”, he added.

Thanks to the FABD’s support, the young wasps will be leaving for Indonesia earlier on June 24 instead of the supposed date of June 29, allowing the team to gain “much needed exposure by having more days to train and organise more friendly matches in Indonesia”, Faisalani said. “But this may be a challenge since we have to adhere to the bubble set up by the AFF.”

Speaking on the other competing teams and the target for Brunei’s U-19 team, he said “They are always well prepared. Meanwhile, I hope that we will be able to compete and cause some upsets in the group stages.”

The regional meet also includes Malaysia, Laos, Timor-Leste, Cambodia and Singapore in Group B.