Monday, April 23, 2012

May 5: Acid test for Project 2013

MAY 5 could well be judgement day for Project 2013 in the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca.
   For that is when they play South Korea which could seal their semi-finals fate or may have to wait for their next match against Japan two days later.
   For the record, Malaysia beat South Korea 4-2 in the inaugural Sultan of Johor Cup.
  And recently coach K. Dharmaraj's boys played a series of friendly matches against Korea losing the first 2-1 but then thrashed them 9-1 They lost the third 5-3 but won the final match 6-5.
  "The Koreans have brought 17 players who played in the Sultan of Johor Cup, with the exception of the one player who scored both the goals against us.
   "I don't know the reason for his absence, but after the friendly matches, confidence is high and we will have a good outing against them in Malacca," said Dharmaraj.
   The missing player is You Seung Ju, who scored a brace in Johor off penalty corner deflections, and his name was on the final list forwarded to tournament organisers the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF).
  The Junior Asia Cup doubles up as qualifiers for next year's Junior World Cup which India will host. The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has only given two slots to the World Cup from Malacca, as only eight teams will be competing.
   India, automatic qualifiers, are in Group B with Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka. In Group A are Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Iran.
   The Project boys also played three friendly matches against Pakistan losing the first two 5-3 and 4-3 before winning the third 5-3.
   "During the Korea and Pakistan friendlies, I tested a big group of players and that is why the scores were erratic. But I believe when I field my best in the tournament proper, the scores will favour Malaysia," said Dharmaraj.
   Right now, the only headache for Dharmaraj is whether to name two goalkeepers or one. "My first choice Hazrul Faiz is in top flight and even if I name two goalkeepers, I might not get a chance to play the reserve (Shahrul Azaddin) for the entire tournament.
   "That is why I am contemplating naming only one goalkeeper, but then the fear that he might get injured or sick looms large.
   "I am still in two minds about that, and that is why I have selected 19 players. I will only drop the last one after the friendly matches against an Australian County team in Malacca on May 24 and 26," said Dharmaraj.
   And it could well be the reserve goalkeeper, as Dharmaraj goes for broke.