By Ajitpal Singh
THE future of Malaysian hockey will depend on how the Project 2013 squad fare in the Junior Asia Cup, which doubles up as a qualifier for next year's New Delhi Junior World Cup.
Coach K. Dharmaraj believes his players, who have been with him since 2009, will not let him down at the tournament scheduled for May 3-13 at Malacca's Bukit Serindit Stadium.
Except for India, who as hosts have qualified automatically for the Junior World Cup, the other seven teams will be vying for the two berths allocated by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Malaysia have been drawn in Group A with South Korea, Japan and Iran while India, Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka make up Group B.
"I want my team to win this tournament. Anything less than that means I've failed. We, however, need to focus on reaching the final first before thinking about the title," said Dharmaraj yesterday.
"We have played all these teams and I believe we are good enough to do better than them. I have 32 players in training and all of them have improved since 2009. It will be tough for me to select only 18 for this event."
The team will bank on the experience of national players Firhan Ashaari, Amir Farid and the Saari brothers, Faizal and Fitri in the tournament.
"They will form the core but I also have 10 other players who have been in and out of the national squad of late," said the coach.
Dharmaraj will drop 10 players after today's friendly against South Korea before they leave for Malacca.
"We will play friendlies against an Australian county side in Malacca before I trim the squad to the final 18," he added.
Malaysia open their campaign against Iran on May 3.