Harimau Muda eye S.League top five

A top five position is the aim for Ong Kim Swee and his Harimau Muda side as they prepare for their debut season in the 2012 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.

Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee at S-League PC

The Malaysian outfit, who lifted back-to-back SEA Games titles in 2009 and 2011, are one of the star attractions in the 13-team S.League which is scheduled to start on February 9.

Although adamant that the move to Singapore's top-flight has been made with Harimau Muda's future international qualifiers and tournaments in mind, Kim Swee revealed that he nevertheless retains hopes of his talented charges finishing in a lofty position.

"There are no targets from the Football Association of Malaysia management as such, but I am challenging my boys to finish in the top five," the one-time Malacca coach told reporters at a press conference in Singapore on Thursday.

"Of course, if we can finish as champions that would be great, but I am putting this challenge to them to make sure that when they play, they know exactly what they have to do.

"We are definitely looking forward to the start of the league, but we also see this as ideal preparation for our Under-22 qualifiers, the 2013 SEA Games and the 2014 Asian Games. If we tackle the S.League in a positive way, I believe the boys can do well and achieve our near future targets.

"The team is also looking forward to a new adventure and a different kind of challenge. The S.League will definitely benefit us, especially as we will be playing against plenty of foreign players who play for the S.League teams.

As reigning SEA Games champions, and with the intense rivalry generated by any Malaysian team playing a Singaporean rival, many observers are claiming that the pressure will well and truly be on Kim Swee's side this season.

"For me there is no extra pressure as pressure comes all the time," Kim Swee retorted, while admitting that the time has come for his side to well and truly be stand up and be counted.

"However, even after winning two SEA Games, we believe we cannot stop trying to improve in every aspect.

"Over the past few years we have spent a lot of time in Slovakia and that has paid off as we have been able to test the younger players in competitive games against European opponents.

"However, for me, my team are not kids anymore. "The mentality of the players has to change. We must do way with the notion that there is no such thing as exposure is key and results do not matter," Kim Swee concluded.

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