JDT recruit Adam Nor Azlin primed for AFC U23 challenge

Despite being drawn in a tough Group C along with Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Adam Nor Azlin believes Malaysia will be able to give a good account of themselves at this week's 2018 AFC Under-23 Championship in China.

The Malaysians will face 2013 champions Iraq in their opening match in Changshu on Wednesday.

Making their tournament debut, the Young Tigers surprisingly topped their qualification group, featuring hosts and fellow qualifiers Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia last July.

"It's not impossible for Malaysia to get good results," the 23-year-old told ESPN FC. "We know we're going to play with difficult teams, but there's nothing we cannot do if all players give 100 percent. We're coming into this tournament with good momentum and I hope we can play with discipline."

Having played as a midfielder and forward in his younger days, Adam is now growing into an accomplished centre-back. He was frequently featured in a back three for the Malaysia Under-23s, as well as at club level for Selangor in 2017.

"If I must play in midfield or up front, I will do it. But I'm most comfortable playing as a defender now," shared the youngster, who made his senior debut for Malaysia in a 4-1 loss to North Korea in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers last November.

"I can see the whole pitch which is an advantage for me and it's more efficient defending in a back three. We all know that coach Ong Kim Swee has a good plan for us in this formation."

Apart from the AFC U23, Adam is also looking forward to the 2018 Malaysia Super League (MSL) season, having made the big move to join reigning champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT).

He is looking forward to the challenge, despite facing tough competition for a starting spot. Portuguese coach Ulisses Morais has other defensive options like Marcos Antonio, Aidil Zafuan, Fadhli Shah, Junior Eldstal and Dominic Tan, and even Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun can fill in at the back.

"I'm very excited to play with JDT, where there are good facilities and a good environment to grow as a player," he said. "I hope I can contribute something for the team in this coming season and I'm going to give 100 percent to achieve my goals with them."

After the game against Iraq, Malaysia will face Jordan in Changshu (Jan. 13) and Saudi Arabia in Kunshan (Jan. 16).

After claiming the Southeast (SEA) Games silver medal in men's football last August, the success of Ong's U23s is in stark contrast to the senior team, who failed to win a game in 2017.