CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE 1 MOCKERY...
Fact 1: Eight teams in two groups of four each, but FIH approve a fixture with Quarter-finals.
Fact 2: Malaysia can afford to lose to Argentina, Japan and Canada in Group B but will still play in Quarter-finals.
Fact 3: The trick to the semi-finals is to choose and pick your Quarter-finals opponents, and if need be, drop a match or two in the Group stages, so that the crossover in the Quarter-finals will see your team play against a weaker opponent.
Fact 4: Group matches have been turned into warm-ups and teams will not play all out, to avoid injury and cards. If I was the Malaysian coach, I will rest some key players in the three Group matches to expose my substitutes.
AZLAN Misron returns to the fold, as coach Tai Beng Hai named his players to finish among the top-five in the Champions Challenge I in Johannesburg, South Africa on Nov 26-Dec 4.
Malaysia are in Group B with Argentina, Japan and Canada. In Group A are Poland, South Africa, Belgim and India.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) have made the pool matches into a mockery, after they drew a quarter-finals fixture in an eight-team tournament.
It means, even if Malaysia lose all three matches against Argentina, Canada and Japan; they will still play in the quarter-finals.
And one win in the quarters will see them play in the semi-finals, and achieve their top-five target.
Azlan, a former skipper and 28-years-old, was left out of the Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos because a drop in form, but he fought back his spot in the national team after a good show in the Malaysia Hockey League.
Hafifi Hafiz Hanafi, who opted out of Ordos for personal reason, is also back.
The youngest player in Beng Hai's squad is 18-year-old Firhan Ashaari, who will receive a great exposure ahead of the Junior World Cup Qualifier in Malacca in May.
The other players eligible to play in the Junior Asia Cup is 20-year-old Faizal Saari.
Both the players were spared from playing in the Sultan Of Johor Cup, because the coach was afraid they would suffer from fatique.
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.