AFTER a disastrous outing at the Myanmar Sea Games in December, national coach Jamaluddin Hassan has, as expected, played down his team's chances at the International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) Super Series Finals in Kuala Lumpur on March 5-9.Malaysia have been placed with France, given a wild card for the tournament, and Singapore in what should be an easy group to progress from.
Malaysia are seeded second, going into the competition having finished runners-up to Thailand in all three legs -- New Delhi, Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu -- of the series this season.
Jamaluddin, however, stressed that there are no easy sides in the modern game and is expecting the pressure of expectations to be against his charges playing in front of a demanding home crowd at the Titiwangsa Stadium.
"Obviously, we want to win it but I am hoping we can at least make the final," said Jamaluddin when met at the tournament draw in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
"You can never take any team for granted these days. Even the Europeans are much stronger now as they have worked hard to develop their players through training and competition.
"Thailand are always strong, regardless of who they send but South Korea had beaten Thailand earlier this season and if they (Korea) field the same players, they will be quite a handful for anyone.
Jamaluddin said he has shortlisted nine players for the tournament and will name a final five-man squad on Monday.
Killer Norshahruddin Mad Ghani, the Sepak Takraw Association of Malaysia 2011 player of the year, however, will not be part of the team as he is out with an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury.
Top seeds Thailand, who have Germany and India for company in Group B, tried out new combinations earlier in the season but are expected to field their strongest regu of Siriwat Sakha (tekong) and Pornchai Kawkaew (killer), who were part of Thailand's World Cup-winning squad two years ago, as well as feeder P. Yupadee in Kuala Lumpur.
Groupings -- Men's Group A: Thailand, Germany, India; Group B: Malaysia, France, Singapore; Group C: Indonesia, United States, South Korea; Group D: Japan, China, Brunei, Iran.
Women's Group A: Thailand, Indonesia, China; Group B: Vietnam, Myanmar, South Korea; Group C: Malaysia, Japan, India.
Read more: SEPAK TAKRAW: Malaysia set modest target - Other - New Straits Times