THE tour of Europe has so far been an excellent learning curve for the national Under-23 squad preparing for the Myanmar Sea Games in December.Despite not notching a win in eight matches, coach Ong Kim Swee believes his players are gaining valuable experience ahead of defending their Sea Games gold medal.
Malaysia drew 1-1 with Slovakia's Under-19 side in their opening match in March, followed by defeats to Georgia's Under-21 team (7-1), Slovakia's MSK Zilina (4-1, 3-2) and FC Nitra (2-0); Hungary's Kaposvari Rakocz (3-0) and FGSZ Siofok (4-0). They drew 0-0 with Norway's Under-19 side in Budapest.
Kim Swee is using the training-cum-friendly match tour to try out players and strategies.
The team, however, have been struggling with injuries. National midfielder Gary Steven Robbat is in serious condition and could miss the Sea Games due to a back injury.
Among the other notable absentees are Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor, Nazirul Naim, K. Rueben and Nazmi Faiz Mansor, who were excused by Kim Swee due to club commitments.
The team will move their base to the Czech Republic next week for friendly matches against Bohemians Prag and Slavia Prag.
Instead of giving excuses, national youth coach Ong Kim Swee has put on a brave front and said the defeats exposed his team's weaknesses and level of play.
"We have so far learned a lot, playing against quality opponents. My players play without fear but make individual mistakes. I need to work on their weaknesses," said Kim Swee on his Twitter account.
"We may have not won but every defeat has been a good lesson. We are gradually improving and continuous exposure will make us stronger for the Sea Games."
The squad will return to Kuala Lumpur after the World University Games on July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia before competing in the Merdeka Tournament in August.
Kim Swee's squad for the World University Games will comprise 15 Young Tigers A members and five university players currently playing in the Super League and the Premier League.
Malaysia, who finished 12th out of 16 teams in the Shenzhen edition in 2011, will play Britain, Algeria and Italy in the group stage.
Read more: Euro tour puts Kim Swee's boys on golden trail - Soccer - New Straits Times