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Malaysia ready to 'fight' in AFC U23 Championship - Ong Kim Swee

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Coach Ong Kim Swee believes his Malaysia side have what it takes to hold their own against Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan at the AFC under-23 Championship in China in January.

Malaysia were drawn against the strong West Asian sides in Group C on Tuesday, with all three nations impressing in the last two editions.

But Ong, who guided his team to top spot in July's qualifiers in Bangkok, is confident that his players can spring a surprise in the tournament from Jan. 9 to 27.

"It would be tough to be drawn in any of the groups. But playing against Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will prove a good experience for the players," Ong said after the draw.

"We have to fight to get to the next round. At age group levels, the gap between the countries is not far. But the other three nations have similar styles, and they are familiar with each other."

In their qualifying campaign, Ong's men beat Indonesia (3-0) and Mongolia (2-0) to top their group, despite a 3-0 loss to Thailand in between those victories.

Malaysia took that form into August's Southeast (SEA) Asian Games, and finished with the men's football silver medal after a 1-0 defeat to Thailand in the final.

But unlike the senior team, the youngsters have strung some impressive performances together, and did not let their heads drop, despite trailing in matches.

Malaysia will gather for an extended centralised training camp in December to prepare for their first participation in the tournament.

Ong's men will play their group matches in the cities of Changshu and Kunshan.

Apart from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam will represent Southeast Asia at the regional showcase.

Thailand were drawn with defending champions Japan, North Korea and Palestine, while Vietnam will face South Korea, Australia and Syria.

Defending U23 champions are Japan, who beat South Korea in the 2016 final in Doha.