National team manager Hj Feisal Hj Eussof announces Brunei's decision to be in Group B during the draw ceremony for the 5th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy yesterday at the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam House in Berakas. Picture: BT/ Ridhwan Kamarulzaman
Brunei have chosen to be in Group B at next month's 5th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship.
The Sultanate, as the hosts of the competition, were given the option of choosing which group to be drawn in and the defending champions chose to be grouped alongside Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Timor Leste and two-time champions Thailand will be pooled in Group A. Last year's finalist, Indonesia, are the only ASEAN country missing at the August 8-23 regional Under-21 tournament.
Present as the guest of honour during the draw ceremony at the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam House in Berakas yesterday was National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (NFABD) President His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah and his son YAM Pg Muda 'Abdul 'Aleem.
HRH believed that Brunei will have a good chance at doing well at the biennial competition. "I hope Brunei can do well as we have chances to win. I feel that we are in the easier group and the toughest team should be Vietnam," said HRH.
"It depends on the players as they have to work hard and be committed. "There are no excuses such as fasting in Ramadhan. The important thing is the mental side when they are ready to play. There is no choice," added the NFABD President.
Also present at the ceremony was the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah. The tournament will kick-off with two Group A matches on August 8.
Philippines will play Laos at the Berakas Sports Complex while the Balapan Track and Field of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex will see Myanmar go up against Thailand. Both matches will start at 8.15pm. Brunei will kick-off their campaign against Cambodia at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas on August 9 before playing Singapore four days later on August 13.
They will face their biggest test in the group when they play Vietnam on August 16 before ending their group stage matches against Malaysia two days later. Brunei beat Indonesia 2-0 to win the last edition of the tournament in 2012.
The HBT is the brainchild of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who desired that an Under-21 football tournament be organised with the aim of improving friendship and understanding between Southeast Asian youth through sports.
The tournament aims at attracting the best football teams in Southeast Asia, and at the same time, to expose ASEAN to the world in sports. Only three countries: Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei, have won the tournament since its introduction in 2002. Thailand, who sat out of the competition two years ago, won the tournament back in 2007 after beating Myanmar 5-4 on penalties.
Thailand beat Myanmar to win the 2005 edition while Indonesia won the inaugural competition in 2002.
Coach Kwon happy with Brunei's grouping
National football head coach Kwon Oh-son (L) gestures during the draw ceremony for the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy yesterday at the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam House. Picture: BT/ Ridhwan Kamarulzaman
Head coach Kwon Oh-son is happy to be in Group B following the draw ceremony for the 5th Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship yesterday. Brunei, as the hosts, chose to be in Group B alongside Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam at the August 9-23 regional Under-21 tournament.
Group A comprise Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Timor Leste and two times champions Thailand. "Both groups are very tough but I think it is a very good draw for Brunei," said coach Kwon in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
"Vietnam and Singapore are strong and we have not heard much from Cambodia, but they can be a surprise too," he said. "I see Thailand and Myanmar as the top contenders in this tournament and it is good that they are in the other group."
Team Manager Hj Feisal Hj Eusoff echoed Kwon's sentiments but insisted that either group is just as tough as the other. "It is still not going to be easy as we will be facing Vietnam, who is one of the strongest in the region and we also have received information that Vietnam have just got back from a two-month training stint in Japan," said the manager.
"Malaysia and Singapore also have been very active with their own local leagues and tournaments and I don't think that this is an easy group to be in," he added. The national team have been training continuously since January and there are currently 26 players in the squad.
"When we first started, we hadmore than 300 players, but now we have only 26 players remaining. At the end of the day we will only need 18 players," said assistant coach Hj Mohd Rosanan Abdullah Samak. "There is still no date for the final selection of players and, for now, we are just going to focus on our training,"
"Most players came from clubs from the national leagues (DST Super League and Premier League), mainly from Indera Sports Club (SC), Najip FC and some from IKLS," he said. The organisers announced on Wednesday that each team will be able to bring in five overage players, and DPMM FC have agreed to lend striker Adi Said, midfielders Mohd Hendra Azam Mohd Idris and Mohd Najib Hj Tarif to assist the national team.
It was revealed by coach Kwon yesterday that the two other overage players are centreback Reduan Hj Petara and goalkeeper Md Fakhrul Zulhazmi Yussof. "I am very thankful to DPMM FC for allowing their players to help us in the tournament. They are the best team in the country and they got the best players," said Kwon.
"We have prepared for the tournament, we will try our best," said Kwon.