Pan Gon' new kids on the pitch

KUALA LUMPUR: National head coach Kim Pan Gon now has the chance to "diversify" his team following injuries to several players.

This was stated by former national player Hasnizam Uzir after Korean Pan Gon included several new faces in his 26-man national team that were announced yesterday for next month's 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup qualifiers against Kyrgyzstan and Taiwan.

The national team will start centralised training in Kelana Jaya on Monday next week.

Key players like Faisal Halim, Azam Azmi Murad, Arif Aiman Hanapi and Romel Morales have to be left out of the Harimau Malaya squad due to injuries.

However, Hasnizam said this will present an opportunity for Pan Gon to try out new talent.

He said newcomers Engku Nur Shakir Engku Yacob, Adib Abdul Ra'op, Syafiq Ahmad and Feroz Baharudin have the quality to complement stalwarts Akhyar Rashid, Safawi Rasid and the others.

"I believe the squad are still well-balanced despite the absence of Arif and Faisal.

"Syafiq is a good player. He's consistent and sharp in his game."

Hasnizam said Pan Gon's selection of players shows that he is placing emphasis on collective strength ahead of individual ability.

However, he added that it will be crucial for Pan Gon to address the human aspects, including psychological resilience and interpersonal dynamics among the players.

Hasnizam noted that Harimau Malaya's momentum was disrupted by the delayed M-League, but he feels that now with the season underway, the national players should be mentally and physically better prepared.

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