S. Kumaahran fights to make SEA Games squad for weary Malaysia

With some of his squad having played 11 matches in the last 36 days, Malaysia under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is focusing more on recovery than intense preparation ahead of next week's Southeast Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The football competition begins on Monday when Malaysia face Brunei at Shah Alam Stadium.

The 27-man squad will be trimmed to 20 players on Saturday, as Ong sweats on the fitness of the Penang pair of Syamer Kutty Abba and S. Kumaahran, and Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) defender Dominic Tan

"The players were tired when they reported for training on Sunday. So, our training was focused more on recovery," Ong told The Star.

"I have no plans to call up new players should there be any injuries in training because we have enough options in the team."

Some of the key players are tired due to matches in the Malaysia Super League and Malaysia Cup taking place every four days after the Ramadan break ended on July 1.

"Kumaahran's hamstring injury looks serious, so we are keeping a close eye on him," Ong said.

But despite being diagnosed with a hamstring tear, the 21-year-old surprised coaching staff by sprinting at full pace on Thursday in a bid to make the cut.

The development squad will have closed door training sessions until Saturday, with Ong not wanting any outside distractions as he settles on his squad.

Whatever the circumstances, the target of delivering gold on home soil remains firmly in sight for Malaysia.

After winning the tournament under Ong in 2011, they could only finish fourth in 2013 after being annihilated 6-0 by hosts Myanmar in the bronze medal decider.

Worse was to follow at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore when Malaysia did not even make it out their group after finishing third behind winners Thailand and Vietnam.

Hopes are high this time around, especially after Malaysia defied all odds to qualify for the AFC U23 Championship in China next January.

At the SEA Games, Malaysia will play Singapore (Aug. 16), Myanmar (Aug. 21) and Laos (Aug. 23) after Monday's opener against Brunei, with all their matches at Shah Alam.