Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Time for hockey players to fight for World Cup spot

Malaysia and Australia in their Sultan Azlan Shah match last week. Australia emerged champions, and Malaysia were runners-up.
Malaysia and Australia in their Sultan Azlan Shah match last week. Australia emerged champions, and Malaysia were runners-up.

KUALA LUMPUR: The next 20 days will be crucial to the national hockey players bidding to make the World Cup squad.

Apart from the two injured players – Mohamed Razie Rahim and Ismail Abu – the other 26 players have been training earnestly as preparation for the six friendlies against China (April 13-19) and the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan from April 26-May 4.

The World Cup will be held in The Hauge, Holland from May 31-June 15.
According to coach K. Dharmaraj, those who make the Champions Challenge I squad will most likely make the World Cup as well.

“It’s simple. We want the best players for the Champions Challenge I ... so, they will also be in the forefront to make the World Cup squad. The best players must go to both tournaments,” he said on Monday.

“We tried out the younger players in the Sultan Azan Shah Cup (in Ipoh) and they put up some creditable performances to put the pressure on the seniors.

“I must stress that all the 28 players in our training squad, including the injured Razie and Ismail, have an equal chance of being picked.

“Ismail is expected to start full training this week. We are still waiting for Razie to undergo another test to see how well his recovery has been.”

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup was Dharmaraj’s first assignment as national coach since taking over from Paul Revington in January. The team finished runners-up to Australia.

Dharmaraj said that the good performance by the juniors in the Ipoh meet has now piled pressure on the seniors to step up to the plate and fight for a place in the team.

“No one can take his place for granted. They have to show me, in training and in the friendlies, that they are ready to fight and be part of the World Cup team. We are also working on rectifying the weaknesses identified in Ipoh,” said Dharmaraj.

For the Champions Challenge I in Kuantan, Malaysia are in Group A with New Zealand, Japan, Ireland and Poland while France, South Korea and Canada make up Group B.

Of the teams in Kuantan, South Korea, New Zealand and Malaysia will be headed for the World Cup as well.



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