Sunday, August 1, 2010

Van Huizen ready for all-weather

NATIONAL hockey coach Stephen van Huizen has decided on the Commonwealth Games team composition after playing matches in China and Australia.
However, he will leave it to the Malaysian Hockey Fed eration (MHF) to decide if they want to stick to their decision of sending a mixed team to New Delhi, while the best in Malaysia will be rested for the Asian Games.
“After playing matches in China and Australia, I have a clearer picture on the team’s capabilities. I was told by MHF to prepare a mixed team (of youth and seniors) for the Commonwealth Games because the main target is to do well in the Asian Games.
“However, if there are any changes in the plan, I am ready for it,” said van Huizen.
In New Delhi Malaysia are in a virtually hopeless situation as they have been grouped with defending champions Australia, Pakistan, India and Scotland.
In Group B are England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago.
The Asian Games draw has yet to be done by the Asian Hockey Federation.
The Commonwealth Games does not offer a ticket to anywhere, while a gold medal in the Asian Game is a direct entry to the 2012 London Olympics.
And the MHF president Tengku Ahmad Sultan Ahmad Shah had stressed in their last council meeting that the target is a gold medal in the Asian Games.
Van Huizen and his men will next head for France to play in a Five-Nation involving France, Ireland, Poland and Scot land.
“It (gold) has always been our target, and it will be the same for the other teams in the Asian Games as well. Our highest achievement in the Asian Games to date is bronze and we will again have to beat higher ranked teams like South Korea, Pakistan and India to achieve the set target.
“And if we fail, we will have to go through a qualifier where there will again be a higher ranked team than us to beat.
“In short, we are working towards an Asian Games gold, but it will not be easy,” said Van Huizen.
And in the qualifier, Malaysia might eventually end up playing teams like France, Poland and Ireland.
“England as hosts are automatic for the Olympics, and the battle in Europe will be among countries like Spain, Nether lands, Germany and Belgium. And those who don’t qualify from this group might just end up in our group.
“So, that is why the Five-Nation in France is also an important tournament for us to pit our strength against possible qualifier opponents.”
When in Europe from the middle of August, Malaysia will also play friendly matches against Germany, while matches against other strong teams are still being discussed.