Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dharmaraj taking a big risk


WORLD CUP: Coach fielding newly paired defenders

IT is a big risk but coach K. Dharmaraj will field two defenders, who will be paired for the first time, in the World Cup at the Hague, Netherlands, beginning May 31.

The combination of German-born Kevin Lim and Razie Rahim will be tested for the first time, and that, too, in the World Cup. Kevin earned his first caps for Malaysia in the Champions Challenge 1 (CC1) in Kuantan, where Razie did not play because of injury.

And they will be tested against World No 1 Australia on the first day of the tournament itself, followed by another gruelling test against in-form World No 5 Belgium (June 2). The other teams in Malaysia’s Group A are World No 4 England (June 5), World No 8 India (June 7) and World No 10 Spain (June 9).

Reigning Olympic champions Germany, the Netherlands. New Zealand, South Korea, Argentina and South Africa are drawn in Group B.

Experienced defender Baljit Singh, who was Razie’s right-hand-man in many previous tournaments, as well as the World League Qualifier where Malaysia won the ticket to the Hague — was left out in the cold.

Malaysia last played in the 2002 World Cup, and 12 years later, the only player left standing from that era is goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin while the rest will make their debut.

Dharmaraj made five changes from the bronze winning side in the Champions Challenge, and former skipper Shahrun Nabil made an entry after being sidelined in two major tournaments this year — the CC1 and the Azlan Shah Cup where Malaysia won silver.

The other two players named for the World Cup are midfielder Ramadan Rosli and forward Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi.

The five players dropped from the Champions Challenge 1 squad are goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman, defenders Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin and Ahmad Kazamirul; midfielder Azri Hassan and forward Rashid Baharom.

Dharmaraj said he named the team based on current form and experience, and it is the best team to put up a strong challenge in the World Cup.

“The players are in high spirits and they have vowed to give their best in the World Cup,” said Dharmaraj.

“The return of Razie, will definitely beef up our defence as he is the best defender in the country. We are also banking on him to deliver goals from his penalty corner drag flicks.

“I have included Roslan, Shahrun and Hafifi as they are experienced players, who have shown their ability in training.

“Our ranking has improved by one rung to 12 in the world after we won the bronze in the Champions Challenge 1,” said Dharmaraj, who took over as the national chief coach from South Africa’s Paul Revington in January.

WORLD CUP SQUAD — 

Goalkeepers: S. Kumar, Roslan Jamaluddin;
Defenders: Azlan Misron (captain), Razie Rahim, Kevin Lim, Faiz Helmi, Sukri Mutalib;
Midfielders: Fitri Saari, Marhan Jalil, Shahrun Nabil, Ramadan Rosli, Nabil Fiqri Noor;
Forwards: Ismail Abu, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Firhan Ashaari, Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi, Shahril Saabah;
Team manager: George Koshy
Stand in manager: Nor Azlan Bakar
Chief coach: K. Dharmaraj
Assistant coach: K. Gobinathan
Team doctor: Razana Abdul Raffar
Physiotherapist: Yeo In-seung.


Malaysia players undergo training for the World Cup at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday. Pic by Osman Adnan

Read more: HOCKEY: Dharmaraj taking a big risk - Other - New Straits Times

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