Thursday, May 17, 2007

Aussie Central Coast meets Malaysia before HK 7s

Australian A-League club Central Coast Mariners will host Malaysia at Pluim Park on 22 May. The Malaysian squad is currently in Australia preparing for its first appearance at the Asian Football Confederation's prestigious Asian Cup tournament since 1980. Last night, Sydney FC defeated the touring Malaysians 2-0 at Edensor Park in Sydney’s west. Malaysia are ranked 156th by FIFA’s World Rankings, lower than any competing nation on show at July’s Asian Cup.

“We’re delighted to be welcoming the Malaysian national team to the Central Coast for what we anticipate to be an exceptional spectacle of international football right on our doorstep,” said Mariners Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman. “Such a fixture provides us with another fantastic opportunity to promote the Central Coast region to an international audience. The enormity of the Asian Cup cannot be understated and millions of Malaysian football enthusiasts will be keenly anticipating the outcome at Pluim Park, all the while recognising the Central Coast Mariners name.”

Among those set to feature for Malaysia are leading marksman and co-captain Hairuddin Omar, who is one of Malaysia’s most prolific goal scorers of all time and an integral member of Pahang, and highly rated 24-year-old defender Veeran Thirumurugan, who plays for Kedah. Three current members of the Mariners’ squad, Andrew Clark, Greg Owens and Tom Pondeljak, have experienced the Malaysian domestic football scene previously; Clark with Kedah in 2003, Pondeljak with Johor in 2004 and Owens with Johor FC, in 2005.

“We’re very much looking forward to the challenge of a nation that is building towards their biggest international appearance for a number of years,” said Mariners Football Manager Lawrie McKinna. “Malaysia will provide us with a great test so early in our pre-season - the first match of a pre-season program that we’re confident will see us prepared in the best possible fashion ahead of our third season.” Following the match, McKinna will lead a squad of ten players to Hong Kong, where the Mariners will contest the Soccer 7s. The Mariners have been placed in Group D with local sides Hong Kong FC and City University of Hong Kong, with the biggest challenge facing McKinna’s charges likely to come from English Premier League side Aston Villa.

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