Be wary of gutsy Pakistan, warns Kim Swee

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia definitely won’t have it easy against Pakistan in the first round of the qualifiers for the 2012 London Olympics.

Coach Ong Kim Swee, who flew to Bangkok to spy on the Pakistani Olympic side’s friendly against their Thai counterparts on Wednesday, said he was impressed by their gutsy performance.

“There are not a bad side and they only lost 1-2. They look to be well-organised and are serious about their campaign. They have two speedy flankers and their strikers are quite dangerous. It won’t be easy for us judging from what I saw of them,” said Kim Swee on arrival at the KLIA in Sepang on Thursday.

They will be playing three more matches against club sides in Bangkok before flying down to Kuala Lumpur. “Their preparations show that every team is serious about wanting to qualify for the Olympics. We have to fully use our home ground advantage because it can be difficult in Lahore,” said Kim Swee.

Malaysia will host the first-leg of the qualifiers at the Shah Alam Stadium on Feb 23, with the return-leg scheduled at the Punjab Football Stadium in Lahore on March 9.

Kim Swee, who is in charge of the national Under-21 Harimau Muda ‘A’ team in the Super League this season, will have his hands full focusing on the domestic league and Olympic qualifiers.

Harimau Muda ‘A’ began their Super League campaign with a defeat by Negri Sembilan (0-1) before bouncing back to beat Pahang (3-1).

They will take on T-Team at the MBPJ Stadium today (8.45pm).

Lanky striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan won’t be available for the first round after suffering a hamstring injury during training with the national team recently. This means A. Thamil Arasu and Syahrul Azwai Ibrahim will start upfront.

Harimau Muda also have a strong set of midfielders in K. Gurusamy, Gary Steven and Wan Zack Haikal.

Their backline is quite steady as well, thanks to the presence of national centrebacks Muslim Ahmad, Mohd Fadhli Shas, Mohd Fandi Othman, Mahali Jasuli and Mohd Faizal Mohd.

Kim Swee is expected to call up goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kel), Ahmad Shakir Ali (Ked) and Ahmad Fakri Saraani (Nse) to join their centralised training next week.