PETALING JAYA: National Under-19 coach Brad Maloney has no choice but to stick to the same set of players for the AFC Under-19 championship in Uzbekistan on Oct 14-31.

The team topped Group G in their qualifying campaign last year to be among the top 16 teams in Asia and Maloney was looking to strengthen his side by adding some new talent this year.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Youth Cup (Under-19) and President’s Cup (Under-21) competitions to be halted on March 12 after only four rounds of matches.

Maloney said the coaching team had identified some new faces to be included in the team, based on the four matches, but the movement control order squashed his plans to further evaluate the fresh faces in a centralised training camp.

“The plan was to take part in two invitational competitions to test the players. We wanted to see if the newbies could adapt to the team and the playing philosophy,” said the Australian coach.

“However, we now have to plan for something else. We actually have a few plans but we have to wait for the government to lift the MCO first,” he said.

“We do have a strong foundation for the team from the players who did well in the qualifying campaign last year. We were looking to add more options but now there’s nothing much that can be done.”

The 48-year-old Maloney said that once the football was allowed to resume, a lot of catching up would be needed with new standard operating procedures (SOP) and safety precautions as well.

“I have to admit that the situation is not ideal with preparations but we need to keep thinking about solutions and adjusting to the situation,” he added.

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