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OKS puts Iraq down as favourites for Group C

OKS puts Iraq down as favourites for Group C


The draw is out and Malaysia will go up against Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in Group C of the 2018 AFC Under-23 Championships in China next year.

Malaysia's group will be based in Changshu, an area that is located within the Suzhou province on the western side of China.

Put in Pot 4 at the start of the draw, Malaysia avoided the big guns in China, South Korea and Japan.

Datuk Ong Kim Swee is expected to start training with the players in December where they will need some time to acclimatise to the weather in Changshu that is expected to fall between the range of 4 - 12 degress Celcius.

"You can see from the group that we have that 3 of them are from Middle East. That will be an advantage for 3 of them because they have been playing against each other most of the times in their region. At the same time, I'm not saying it's going to be an advantage for us but it's going to be a similar style to prepare against."

"I believe Iraq is always favourite because they are always good at youth level. In the age group tournaments, the gap between each countries, even though we are from a Southeast Asian country, the difference isn't big," said Ong after the completion of the draw on Tuesday.

This being Malaysia's first participation in the tournament, it's bound to be an eye-opener for most of the players. While happy to have been able to guide the players to this stage, Ong is adamant that the focus now is to ensure that the team have a positive outing.

"Before the draw, whichever group we are going to be in, it's going to be tough. There's no such thing as an easy group. That is why it was important for us to qualify. The experience that the players can gain from playing in this tournament. Now we want to go as far as we can," added Ong.

Malaysia reached the finals after finishing top of the qualifying group that comprised of Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia.