Former national player Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak (L) talking to the Under-18 players who will be taking part at next week.s 41st Asian Schools Football Championships. BT/Ubaidillah Masli
Head coach Tajul Ariffin Sumpong (L) watching training at the Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) College field yesterday. BT/Ubaidillah Masli
Brunei has prepared to be on the defensive against a strong China and South Korea at the 41st Asian Schools Football (Under-18) Championships in Thailand next week.
The country will also meet Macau and Vietnam in their group stage play, though it is the two Asian giants who are sure to prove the toughest tests for Tajul Ariffin Sumpong.s boys at the Mae Fah Luang University.
The Sultanate has been tabled to face China in its first match of the Nov 6-16 tournament on Nov 8, Macau the next day and South Korea on Nov 10.
Their last match in the group with Vietnam will take place the following day before the semi-finals on November 13.
Speaking to The Brunei Times during a training session yesterday at the Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) College field, the team.s head coach said that the team of 20 were "ready" for a defensive battle against the East Asians.
"For Korea and China, we will be more on the defensive, with only one striker up front. Macau and Vietnam, they are on a similar level with our players," said Tajul.
"If we can just get past the group and into the second round, then we.ll be happy because our group is strong," he added.
He noted that the absence of the tournament.s previous host Iran would also boost Brunei.s chances of getting to the semi-finals.
Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand make up the other group in the tournament.
The national team has been training for this tournament since January, starting off with an initial 35 players.
The head coach noted that while some players were cut, others were not able to participate since they had O-Level exams going on.
"If the tournament was in November or December, it would.ve been okay," he shared.
The team included two players who participated in the previous edition of the tournament last year in Iran, where cold weather and high altitude presented problems to the Bruneians.
However, the head coach said that the team has taken learning lessons from the Iran tournament.
"The experience there taught us that we needed to improve on our finishing and passing. And there has been improvement since then," said Tajul.
With the team due to depart on Tuesday and the tournament nearing, Tajul said the team was now focused on set pieces and "light" training to avoid risking injury.
They also played friendlies with DPMM FC and the Royal Brunei Police Force, as well as other local clubs.
Former national player Hj Md Rosanan Abdullah Samak coached the players on set pieces - defending against corners and free kicks during yesterday.s training.
Last year.s event in Iran saw the team lose all four of their games in Tehran.
They went down 4-0 to Malaysia during their first match and fell to Thailand by the same scoreline the next day.
They then lost 2-0 to Hong Kong and 4-0 to China in the tournament played at Shahid Bahoner Camp, an altitude of almost 3000m above sea level.
Iran, who scored 53 goals and didn.t let in a single one, were crowned champions after a 2-0 triumph over Thailand.
Iran also beat Indonesia 4-0, Sri Lanka 17-0, South Korea 1-0, Pakistan 28-0 and China 1-0.