MALAYSIA are assured of a quarter-finals slot in the eight-team Champions Challenge II starting today in South Africa, but that is not what they are there for.
Coach Tai Beng Hai is more interested in quality matches, to make his team stronger in the run-up to the Olympic Qualifier in Ireland.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) drew a fixture which will see every team reach the quarter-finals, even if they lose all three group matches.
Malaysia open accounts against Canada today, followed by Japan tomorrow and Argentina on Monday.
“Winning all three matches in the group stages will be meaningless if we fail to win in the quarter-finals and end up playing in the fifth-eight bracket.
“That is why this tournament is unique, and offers teams a chance to prove themselves in one crucial match,” said team manager George Koshy.
But having said that, Koshy is more interested in the qualify field assembled in South Africa.
“We are more interested in playing against quality sides in the run up to the Olympic Qualifier, and with the best 18 selected for this assignment, we will play to achieve our target of being in the top-five bracket,” said Koshy.
Torrential rain has hit South Africa in the last few days, and Malaysia’s friendly against South Africa was rained off after 15 minutes and the score stood at 1-1. Firhan Ashaari, 18-years-old, scored for Malaysia.
“All friendly matches were hit by rain and pitch flooding, but that is not a problem as we came prepared,” said Koshy.
MALAYSIA: S. Kumar (gk), Roslan Jamaluddin (gk), Izzat Rahim, Azammi Adabi, Amin Rahim, Marhan Jalil, Izwan Firdaus, Madzli Ikmar, Faizal Saari, Shahrun Nabil, Sukri Mutalib, Firhan Ashari, Azlan Misron, Razie Rahim (Capt), Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi, Baljit Singh, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Azreen Rizal.
Coach: Tai Beng Hai; Team Manager: George Koshy.
TODAY: Group A: India v Belgium (9pm), South Africa v Poland (11pm).
Group B: Canada v Malaysia (5pm), Argentina v Japan (7pm).
TOMORROW: Group A: Belgium v Poland (9pm), South Africa v India (11pm).
Group B: Argentina v Canada (5pm), Malaysia v Japan (7pm).
MONDAY: Group A: India v Poland (9pm), Belgium v South Africa (11pm).
Group B: Canada v Japan (5pm), Malaysia v Argentina (7pm).
NOTE: Malaysian time.