Matthew Davies signals out Leicester's Faiq Bolkiah as SEA Games threat
Malaysia defender Matthew Davies has singled out Leicester City winger Faiq Bolkiah as Brunei's major threat in their opening match of the Southeast (SEA) Asian Games at Shah Alam Stadium on Monday night.
Davies faced Faiq in the group stage of the 2015 edition, and did his part to keep teenage sensation quiet in a 2-0 victory in Singapore.
But the 19-year-old flyer has grown in stature since joining the 2016 English Premier League champions, and the Pahang full-back warns he could be a thorn in the side of the Malaysians.
"Faiq is the focal point of all their attacking outlets," Davies told ESPN FC. "He is fast, comfortable with the ball, and is given the freedom to roam, so we must be cautious of his movements. But we are in good spirits and are ready for this opening match."
In their first action in Group A, Malaysia are expected to deliver a victory against the ASEAN minnows, whose highest finish in the competition is fourth.
But like all of his U22 teammates, Davies will take nothing for granted as he tries to bury the demons of 2015 when Malaysia crashed out of the group stages.
The 22-year-old made his international debut at those SEA Games, but could not do much to help Malaysia who were dumped out, despite three wins in a competitive group.
"I think I have matured a lot since then. Playing in a big tournament can be an eye opener and I see the bigger picture now. We have prepared well, and are in good spirits to have a successful tournament," Davies said.
"Playing on our home ground is also a massive boost, and it'll be great to get that first three points in front of our home support."
Malaysia are coming into this tournament on the back of their triumphant AFC U23 Championship qualifiers, which saw them finish as group champions to book a place in January's tournament in China.
Datuk Ong Kim Swee also does not have any major injury concerns ahead of their opening match, apart from Felcra FC forward N. Thanabalan who underwent light training on Sunday.
Brunei coach Kwon Oh-son, meanwhile, declared his players ready to assume the underdog tag and get a result against their hosts.
"The players are hungry to win, and we'll do our best to get a result. The team has been training since January in overseas tournaments, and they are physically and mentally prepared for this test," Kwon said.
Brunei will be aspiring for some good fortune in Malaysia after faring poorly at the 2018 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers, losing all three games to finish bottom of their group.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.