After convincingly ending defending champions Chonburi FC’s reign, Harimau Muda U-16 go into tomorrow’s first-leg final of the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy Under-16 2014 against PVF Vietnam looking to seize the opportunity at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City.
Although PVF Vietnam has not been defeated at home in the competition, Harimau Muda Coach S. Balachandran strongly believes his players have the pedigree, character and discipline to overcome the pressure and leave with a positive result.
“First of all I would like to thank Frenz United for organising this big competition for the Under-16 boys which has been a good platform to gain experience and improve their skills,” said Balachandran at a pre-match press conference which was also attended by PVF Vietnam head coach Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Chuong, captain Tran Van Hoa and his Harimau Muda Under-16 compatriot, Mohd Shahrul Akmal in Ho Chi Minh City.
“It is a good opportunity for my boys as well for them (PVF Vietnam) for the exposure and also prepare for the forthcoming AFC Under-16 Championships in Bangkok."
He added that the players have been together for 18 months and played in total 35 international matches this year. In the last 18 months, they have shown tremendous improvements with more attacking games and high scoring results.
For the record, Harimau Muda U-16 suffered a 2-1 defeat against PVF Vietnam in the first round of their group stage match played at the same venue. However, in an astonishing reversal of fortunes, the Malaysians cruised through 3-0 at Janda Baik in their second round encounter.
"We lost 2-1 to PVF Vietnam in group stage because it was played during the Fasting month. Most of my players were fasting and it was really a hot season in Ho Chi Minh City. My game tempo was slow and the players got tired very fast,” said Balachandran.
“I can honestly say the boys are all fired up for the final and we will adopt the same game-style in our victory over Chonburi FC (6-1 aggregate) when we play PVF Vietnam tomorrow. We have come to win and want to return home with the pressure on them instead,” he added.
Striker Kogisleswaran Raj, who took the brunt of the knocks and kicks against Chonburi FC in a highly-tensed second-leg semi-finals tie last week, is back on his feet to lead the charge together with Muhammad Najmuddin Samat, Muhammad Zulkahiri Mohd and skipper Mohd Shahrul Akmal who were all instrumental in Harimau Muda’s 6-1 aggregate win over Chonburi FC.
Young tiger’s skipper, Shahrul Akmal, quipped: "We will play our best with the aim to score more goals and return home with a win. We will definitely go all out.”
Meanwhile, PVF Vietnam head coach Nguyen Phuc Nguyen Chuong said the mood in the Vietnamese camp is equally vibrant with high expectations following their superb run.
“It's big competition for my Under-16 boys. We have seen a big improvement from the players compared to last year. The experience has been great,” added Nguyen Phuc.
“We are very excited to play Harimau Muda once again but this time we meet in the final. It is a very different situation now compared to the last time we met but I believe the pressure is on both teams to win here,” said Nguyen, through an interpreter.
The Vietnamese, firing on all-cylinders, will place much hopes on their top scorer Nguyen Vu Tin who scored a hat-trick against Frenz United Malaysia in the first-leg semi-finals in Ho Chi Minh City to get the goals against the young tigers.
However, Nguyen Phuc dismissed this by saying: “Every player in our team is capable of scoring so it’s not all about just Vu Tin. We have a good team and are looking forward to this tie which should be very exciting.”