Youth can counter lack of quality, says Hong Kong coach
Hong Kong national coach Arie van der Zouwen admits he is missing 'top quality players' in his squad, but the team he has taken under his wing will have to do for tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against Palestine.
Players like South China striker Au Wai-lun, Instant-Dict attacking midfielder Ricky Cheng Siu-chung and Yugoslav forward Anto Grabo have been left out of the side because they lack fitness.
Van der Zouwen would not comment on the Au controversy after it was revealed that the talented 28-year-old striker had recently walked out on the team after just one training session. Rumours are rife that Au left because he wouldn't be guaranteed a place in the final squad of 18.
Without Cheng and Au, Hong Kong will be lacking their most experienced centre-forwards when they take on Palestine in tomorrow's Asian zone, Group Three match at the Hong Kong Stadium. 'Ricky [Cheng] is not 100 per cent fit, which is a pity considering that he is one of the best players in Hong Kong,' said Van der Zouwen.
'Anto Grabo is also a useful and experienced player but I couldn't take him because he is not fit either.'
The Dutchman also has injury worries in attacking midfielders Chan Wai-ho of Rangers and the experienced Lo Kai-wah of Happy Valley. Both are suffering from left ankle problems and are doubtful for tomorrow's big match.
Van der Zouwen said Hong Kong needed to have younger players in the team. He explained: 'We have a group of 22 or 23 players. We need four, five or six young players to push the older players. We need these young players for team-building and for atmosphere. I can't complain with what I got.'
He added: 'I'm confident we can do the job. We don't have many top quality players but we have to play a few young ones. We need them.'
English forward John Moore said he felt a great sense of responsibility being the oldest member of the team at 34 and he was 'quietly confident' Hong Kong would do well against Palestine.
'We're going into the dark against Palestine. We just have to see how it unfolds. We have home advantage. If we get a good result against them, then things might swing for us,' said Moore.
'We played very well as a unit against Qingdao [in a training match that Hong Kong lost 2-1 after leading 1-0]. I played in the English First Division when I was 18 and, yes, I have a bit of experience. I am just trying to give something back to Hong Kong,' said Moore, who played for Sunderland.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Football Association has appointed a police officer to accompany their World Cup squad to prevent any match-fixing.
Bahwandi Hiralal, who is the deputy superintendent of the Malaysian police force, will also prevent players being harassed by bookmakers.