MALAYSIA have been blessed with a kind hockey draw in the Asian Games, and reaching the semi-finals should be a breeze.
However, the erratic form in the 2006 Doha Asian Games is still fresh in mind, and even coach Stephen van Huizen said ‘it all depends on how the players hold court during the tournament.”
Malaysia, 15th ranked in the world, are in Group A with defending champions South Korea (sixth), China (14th), Oman (43rd) and Singapore (39th).
In Group B are Pakistan (eighth), India (ninth), Japan (16th), Hong Kong (54th) and Bangladesh (34th).
The Asian Games this year will be held in Ghuangzhou, China, from Nov 12-27 and a gold medal in hockey is a direct entry into the 2012 London Olympics.
“Naturally, the first target is to finish top-two in our group and play in the semi-finals. But having said that, I do not believe it is an easy group as we still need to win big against weaker teams in case goals come into the picture,” said van Huizen who is in Germany with the national side.
Van Huizen feels even though Malaysia had played against China and South Korea in the Azlan Shah Cup, and then China in a recent Tour, the Asian Games normally brings out a different side in most teams.
“Yes, we have played with Korea, China and in the Com monwealth Games we are in the same group with India and Pakistan.
“All these matches have and will give me an inside to the teams, but then again, they will also know about my players and it will not be easy in the Asian Games,” said van Huizen.
Four years ago in Doha, Malaysia were grouped with Pakistan who held us to a 1-1 draw, Japan (2-2) Hong Kong (2-1 and Taiwan (9-0)
Pakistan, Japan and Malaysia all ended up with eight points, but Malaysia were bundled out of the semi-finals on goals difference and ended up a miserable sixth instead.
So, naturally, van Huizen is not ready to count his eggs yet.