KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia have been drawn in Group B with two big guns – world No. 4 Britain and No. 5 Belgium – in the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium from June 20-July 5.
Minnows Ireland and China are the other teams in Group B in this Olympic hockey qualifying tournament.
Group A consists of world No. 1 Australia, India, Pakistan, France and Poland.
After the group matches, the top four teams from each group will proceed to the knockout quarter-final stage.
National coach Tai Beng Hai admitted it was a tough draw.
“The challenge now is for us to defy the odds and qualify for the Olympics,” said Beng Hai.
“I hope the team will finish in a good position in the group to qualify for the knockout stage.
“The crucial match is the quarter-finals as a win will confirm our place in the Olympics,” he added.
Malaysia last reached the Olympics in Sydney in 2000.
In preparation for the World League, Malaysia will be going on a six-match playing tour in Europe.
The team are now preparing for the six-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which begins in Ipoh on April 5.
The other participating teams are title-holders Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India and Canada.
by Aftar Singh