NATIONAL under-19 coach Mohd Romli Saad believes his charges will have work to do if they are to get past a formidable Taiwan side in their opening match of the Asian Under-19 15s Division Two tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka next month.
Mohd Romli said the heavy-set Taiwan squad will pose a threat to Malaysia's chances of earning promotion to the First Division and must be treated with caution.
The match will be a replay of Malaysia's opening game in the Division Two tournament in the Philippines last year where a tight travelling schedule had Malaysia playing less than 24 hours after arriving and lost 12-9 to Taiwan.
"We know from their sevens team that Taiwan have physically very large players and that will be a challenge for us," said Mohd Romli.
"Defending against their forwards will be a priority for us as we need to focus on beating them before we can think about winning the final game.
"This (defending) is something we will look to implement in our remaining friendly matches when we regroup for the final centralised training camp in a few weeks.
"However, if we are able to prepare well and perform to our best on the day, I am confident we will be able to beat them."
Mohd Romli added that his players had impressed during their first phase of centralised training at the Cobra club in Petaling Jaya recently.
The squad, who for the first time this year will be managed by Cobra with financial assistance from the CIMB Foundation, have been placed in the same group as Taiwan, Singapore and hosts Sri Lanka.
"We have been able to obtain the release (from clubs and universities) of most of the players we have shortlisted for the tournament and that has been a great boost," said Mohd Romli.
"The squad is a good mix of boys who have already represented the country as well as those who will be donning the national jersey for the first time this year.
"They have shown great determination and hunger during training and friendly games with a number of local teams which is important if we are to make an impact next month.
"Despite it being the fasting month, they are also in good shape in terms of fitness and I am confident we will be in peak form next month."
The players are being released for Hari Raya celebrations and will reassemble for the final training camp on Sept 1. They leave for Colombo on Sept 10.
The present 30-player squad will be trimmed to a final 24 the week before the tournament.