KEY PLAYERS: Eldstal, Robbat, Wan Zack Haikal and Fandi are all carrying injuriesFOUR regulars -- Junior Eldstal, Gary Steven Robbat, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Noor and Fandi Othman -- have all been ruled out of December's Sea Games in Myanmar due to injuries.
The quartet, who have senior caps (including exhibition matches), are key players of the national Under-23 squad.
Eldstal suffered a minor back injury recently and is due to undergo surgery in Kuala Lumpur next week.
A key member of Malaysia's win in last month's Merdeka Tournament, Eldstal, a versatile midfielder, is expected to be out for about six weeks.
As for Wan Zack Haikal, the winger suffered a knee injury during training with his Japan Football League (Division Three) side FC Ryukyu in Okinawa.
The 22-year-old underwent surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) problem and is ruled out for six months.
Robbat has not been training for six months after injuring his back during a training stint in Slovakia while Fandi is out with a knee cartilage problem.
The extent of Robbat's injury was not diagnosed properly while Fandi suffered a recurring knee injury after given the go-ahead to train without regaining full fitness.
National youth coach Ong Kim Swee admitted the quartet's absence will be a setback ahead of the Sea Games but said he has replacements.
"I cannot be negative. We have options but of course it would have been better if they were available for the Sea Games," said Kim Swee yesterday.
"Except for state-based players, the others have been together as a unit with Young Tigers A. They have gone for training stints in Europe and also played in tournaments. I have to make do with what I have but everyone is competitive and can play in big matches."
The availability of striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan and defender Amer Saidin, however, gives Kim Swee more options. The duo reported for training recently after recovering from injuries.
Kim Swee's side, minus senior team members, will play in their final tournament ahead of the Sea Games in the Under-23 BIDC Cup, which starts on Saturday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Malaysia are in Group B with the hosts and Laos while Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam make up Group A.
The team, who leave tomorrow, face Cambodia on Saturday before taking on Laos two days later. The top two teams from each group will square-off in the semi-finals on Nov 8 followed by the final on Nov 10.
"I have picked 22 players. Those dropped are S. Sivanesan (Negri Sembilan), Zubir Azmi (Terengganu), Muhd Safwan Hashim (Armed Forces) and Amer Saidin (Tigers A).
"Sivanesan, Zubir and Safwan reported injured while Amer needs time to regain fitness," Kim Swee added.
Sarawak winger Ashri Chuchu and Perak midfielder Nasir Basharuddin are the only state-based players in the team.