Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) General-Secretary Dato’ Hamidin Mohd Amin paid glowing tribute to Frenz United Football Club for organising this second edition of the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy (ACT) U-16 2014 which has been a perfect springboard for Harimau Muda 'D' who emerged champions on Sunday.
“You have to give full credit to Frenz United Football Club for their vision and mission. They certainly deserve all the accolades. Participation in the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy has been a fantastic platform for all the teams from 12 nations, especially Harimau Muda ‘D’ and Frenz United Malaysia,” said Dato’ Hamidin.
He added that this is just the beginning of better things to come and hopes ACT 2015 will be further expanded to include more teams from the Asian region.
“Honestly, without the ACT 2014, I don’t think Harimau Muda ‘D’ would have played enough good quality matches in preparation for this week’s Asian Football Confederation Under-16 Championships. The team has gained so much exposure and confidence and must continue to build on this momentum heading to Bangkok for the AFC Under-16 tournament,” he added.
Harimau Muda ‘D’ squad which was assembled in January 2013 after a nationwide selection a year earlier and most of the other competing nations and clubs had benefitted tremendously from the ACT 2014 which augurs well in the development of youth football in the region.
Dato’ Hamidin also heralded the determination of Harimau Muda ‘D’ in staging a late fight back against PVF Vietnam to lift the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy U-16 2014 at Frenz Stadium in Janda Baik, Pahang on Sunday night.
“I am extremely excited and happy for the team. They showed great character, fighting spirit, mental strength and true grit to overcome a very determined Vietnamese side that was bent on playing their best game in the final,” said Dato’ Hamidin who was among top FAM and Frenz United FC officials to witness the final in front of an estimated 3,000 fans.
Harimau Muda ‘D’ defeated PVF Vietnam 2-1 in the first-leg final in Ho Chi Minh City last week but the Malaysians won 5-4 on aggregate over the Vietnamese following a 3-3 draw in the second leg of the final in Janda Baik. Harimau Muda ‘D’ received US$50,000 (RM165,000) for their effort and PVF Vietnam took home US$25,000 (RM82,500).
Frenz United Malaysia finished third following a 3-1 win over defending champions Chonburi FC in the third-fourth playoff match. The Black Dragons pocketed US$15,000 (RM49,500) and Chonburi FC US$7,500 (RM24,750).
Dato’ Hamidin added that winning the ACT 2014 will provide the ideal morale booster platform for coach S. Balachandran’s Harimau Muda ‘D’ squad who will travel to Bangkok on Thursday for the AFC Under-16 Championship Final round.
The Malaysians are drawn in Group A of the tournament held from September 6-20 with the company of Thailand, Korea and Oman. They open their campaign against the hosts on Saturday. The top four teams will qualify for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile.
The ACT 2014 has also unveiled a number of players who are of senior national team material in the future. Chonburi FC’s Sittichok Paso scored a total of 16 goals to win the Top Scorer award for the second consecutive year and will certainly lead the Thai firepower up front in the AFC Under-16 championships while more will be heard of PVF Vietnam’s Nguyen Vu Tin in the coming years.
On the home front, the ACT 2014 has developed the skills and confidence level of Harimau Muda ‘D’ strikers Kogisleswaran Raj (15 goals) and Najmuddin Samat, midfielder and skipper Shahrul Akmal Adnan who won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, defender Dinesh Rajasingam and Amirul Ashraf to name a few while Frenz United Malaysia players have also benefited tremendously from this experience.
Meanwhile, an ecstatic Harimau Muda ‘D’ coach Balachandran said his players are on Cloud Nine after Sunday’s come-from-behind-victory and is confident they are ready for the tough battle ahead in the AFC Under-16 Championships.
“It was clearly a fantastic performance from my players. The team could have scored early in the first half but we improved as the match progressed,” said Balachandran. “They will take a two-day rest before heading for Bangkok for the AFC Under-16 Championships on Thursday.”
“Our recipe for success is in the players’ determination to win. They are a much disciplined side and we must continue this form in the AFC Under-16 championships. All the teams are very strong and we are also of equal strength. We have to play to our strength to stay in the front,” added the head coach.
Balachandran has set a semi-finals target for Harimau Muda ‘D’ in the AFC U-16 championships which would qualify the team for the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile. Should the team meet his expectations, it will be the first time that a Malaysian youth team would have qualified for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup based on merit.
Malaysia gained automatic qualification as host of the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship held in six venues around the country.
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