New Malaysia coach hoping for fresh start

September 7, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Malaysia's new national coach B. Sathianathan is confident his new-look team can rise from the ashes of a woeful Asian Cup because they 'can't go any lower'.

Sathianathan, who led the country's under-23 team to success at the recent Merdeka Cup, has replaced Norizan Bakar as national coach after Malaysia suffered three heavy defeats at July's Asian Cup.

The new coach said he was putting his faith in several of his under-23 players to revive Malaysia's fortunes at senior level.

'After the Asian Cup, we can't go any lower than that,' Sathianathan told Reuters.

'We have a bunch of under-23 boys and I trust them not to go lower than this. I'm confident they can perform.

'There will be a lot of changes. There are some senior players who will stay, who I have worked with before and I know I can count on them, along with many of the under-23 players.

'With proper planning and the right attitude, the national team can bounce back.'

Malaysia, which co-hosted July's Asian Cup with Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, lost all their three Group C matches.

Sathianathan's first games in charge are the World Cup qualifiers against Bahrain on Oct 21 and 28, with the loser over two legs eliminated.

Bahrain were ranked 92nd in the world at the end of July compared to Malaysia's 156th.

'It's a tough task but we have to go and give it a try,' he said. 'If the players play with lot of commitment, I think we could give Bahrain a run for their money.'

Malaysia will prepare for the Bahrain clashes by playing four matches in Perth, Australia during September.

Sathianathan's main target, though, is to help Malaysia win next year's Asean Football Federation Championship.