KUALA LUMPUR: Mohd Hafizuddin Othman turns 23 on Wednesday with only one birthday wish: to be named for the World League Second Round in Singapore from Jan 17-25.
But Hafizuddin, who was named the best goalkeeper after guiding Terengganu to the double – league and overall titles – in last year’s Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), faces a strong challenge from veterans S. Kumar and Roslan Jamaluddin to be among the final 18 for the Singapore tournament.
There are 25 players in the training squad and national coach Tai Beng Hai will name the final 18 on Friday.
Kumar, 35, is the country’s top goalkeeper with 244 caps while Roslan, 36, has represented Malaysia 180 times since 1998.
The Kuala Terengganu-born Hafizuddin has only 12 caps thus far. He made his international debut in the six-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh last year, replacing Kumar (hamstring injury). Malaysia finished runners-up to Australia in the meet.
“Kumar is one of the best in the world and is definitely the first choice. So, I will have to fight Roslan to be named the reserve keeper,” said Hafizuddin, who helped Malaysia finish a creditable fourth out of 20 teams in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi in 2013.
“Being named the best goalkeeper in the MHL has boosted my confidence and I’m confident I can pip Roslan to the reserve goalkeeper spot in the team.
“I know that my chances of winning a place for the World League will depend on my performance in training and the friendly matches.
“I think I did pretty well in the two friendlies against UniKL (Universiti Kuala Lumpur) last week. I didn’t play in the first friendly against Poland on Sunday, which ended in a 4-4 draw.”
Eight teams will feature in the World League Second Round, where world No. 13 Malaysia are the top seeds.
They are in Group A with Oman, Ukraine and Fiji.
Group B comprises Japan, Poland, Thailand and Singapore.
The top three teams will qualify for the two World League semi-finals in Belgium and Argentina in June.
The World League is the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Meanwhile, Karol Majchrzak scored a brace to steer Poland to a 4-3 win over Malaysia in their second friendly at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday.
Poland, who are here to prepare for the World League Second Round hockey tournament in Singapore from Jan 17-25, drew the first friendly 4-4 on Sunday at the same venue.
Majchrzak was on target in the 42nd and 59th minutes. Maciej Wejerowski (21st) and Mateusz Hulboj (52nd) netted the other goals.
Malaysia replied through Faizal Saari (40th) and Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (58th and 60th).
The Polish team will leave for Singapore on Monday.
by Aftar Singh - The Star