No Easy Path In Jakarta, Warns Van Huizen

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 10 (Bernama) – With the mission of clinching their maiden Asian Games gold medal, the national men’s hockey squad will not take any challengers lightly.

Its head coach, Stephen Van Huizen said based on paper, only favourites India (5th), stood above Malaysia (12th) in the world rankings, but he reminded his charges that Pakistan (13th), South Korea (14th) and Japan (16th), as well as Kazakhstan (86th) could pose threats.

“Either we play Pakistan or Thailand (47th) or Kazakhstan, we have to take it seriously because we know that at the end of the day, our goal is to emerge top two in the group to advance into the semifinals. Realistically, it is going to be tough because there will always be four or five teams trying to win gold.

“We also do not know about the Kazakhstan, we have not played them before. But knowing they are a former Soviet Union country, we are expecting them to play more towards European style than Asian,” he told reporters after naming his 18-men team for the Asiad at the National Hockey Stadium, Thursday.

The Malaysian Tigers squad were drawn in Group B with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Oman, Thailand and Kazakhstan, while Group A comprises defending champion India, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Van Huizen also agreed that the anticipation for his team to win the gold medal and gain the automatic qualifying to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is high due to the team’s inclusion in the Podium Programme.

“For a lot of the boys in the team, it would probably be their last chance to play in the Olympics. We know the expectations will be higher when we get into Podium Programme. The challenge is going to be heavy and we will have to focus from the first match itself,” he said.

Commenting on the players selection, the former international said, he selected a well-balanced team, moulded since October 2015.

“We have five players in every department and we have one player who can cover all department (Muhammad Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad) in case if we have injury,” he said.

Meanwhile, skipper Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib is confident his teammates could overcome the pressure to win the elusive gold with the intensive training and experience the team has.

The Malaysian Tigers squad would begin their Asian games campaign on Aug 20 against Kazakhstan, while the women’s squad is scheduled to play Hong Kong a day before.

List of 18 players in the men’s squad:

S. Kumar, Muhammad Hairi Abd Rahman, Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib, Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim, Syed Mohamad Syafiq Syed Cholan, Muhammad Azri Hassan, Faiz Helmi Jali, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, Muhammad Marhan Jalil, Meor Muhamad Azuan Hassan, Mohd Fitri Saari, Joel Samuel Van Huizen, Muhammad Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil, Faizal Saari, Nik Muhammad Aiman Nik Rozemi, Muhammad Firhan Ashari and Muhammad Shahril Saabah.

List of 18 players in the women’s squad:

Farah Ayuni Yahya, Mas Huzaimah Md Aziz, Siti Noor Amarina Ruhani, Juliani Mohamad Din, Raja Norsharina Raja Shabuddin, Nuraini Abd Rashid, Fatin Shafika Mahd Sukri, Fazilla Sylvester Silin, Wan Norfaiezah Md Saiuti, Surizan Awang Noh, Norazlin Sumantri, Hanis Nadia Onn, Nuraslinda Said, Nur Syafiqah Mohd Zain, Nur Amirah Shakirah Zulkifli, Nur Zafirah Aziz, Kirandeep Kaur Gurdip Singh and Noor Hasliza Md Ali.

-- BERNAMA