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KUALA LUMPUR: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have hinted that the national Under-23 squad will be strengthened with the inclusion of two foreign-based young players ahead of the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers in Chonburi, Thailand in September.

This is following the governing body’s confirmation that the two overseas-based players, namely striker Luqman Hakim Shamsudin and Finnish-Malaysian midfielder Nooa Laine can be released by their clubs to join the Harimau Muda outfit under coach E. Elavarasan.

Luqman Hakim, 21, plays for Iceland club Njardvik FC while Nooa, 20, represents Finnish club SJK Seinajoki.

FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin (pix) said the qualifying round is crucial and will be held during FIFA’s international window.

“FAM have contacted Luqman Hakim and Nooa. These two players can be released this time, so FAM hope the Under-23 squad can form a solid outfit for the coming qualifiers,” he told reporters today.

In the qualifying round, Malaysia are in Group H with host Thailand, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

The group winners and the four best second-placed teams advance to next year’s Finals, where the top three teams will qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Elaborating, Hamidin said he had met Elavarasan and asked the 61-year-old coach to improve the team’s performance level.

Meanwhile, Hamidin also feels that the Elavarasan’s men should reach at least the semi-finals of the 2023 Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-23 Championship in Chonburi from Aug 17-26.

“But, we must remember that the AFF Under-23 championship is not in the FIFA calendar. Many players will not be released (by their clubs), so he (Elavarasan) will try out players not involved in the Malaysia League (M-League) competition,“ he said.

The recently-concluded 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia was held outside the FIFA international window and the national Under-23 squad crashed out in the group stage, thus failing to meet the target of reaching the final at the biennial Games.

In March, Elavarasan guided the team to emerge as champions in the Merlion Cup in Singapore. - Bernama