MALAYSIA have no medals to show from the Champions Challenge 1, but will aim for the sky beginning today at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium.
For the record, as hosts in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia finished fourth, and the other fourth was in Argentina in 2012.
The target in Kuantan in to win and qualify for the 2016 Champions Trophy on merit, as Malaysia has only played at that level as hosts in 1993 and 2007.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had said during a sponsors ceremony: “Lets go for the gold medal and qualify for the Champions Trophy, as a good performance in Kuantan will also boost the confidence of our players for the World Cup (in The Hague, Netherlands, on May 31-June 15).”
In Kuantan the other teams which have qualified for the World Cup are New Zealand and South Korea.
Malaysia played well to finish second behind Australia in the Azlan Shah Cup, but in the Champions Challenge, they might find the going tougher when they face South Korea or New Zealand in the knock-out stages.
National coach K. Dharmaraj yesterday dropped three players after his side beat Poland 2-1 on Thursday.
Ramadan Rosli, Shahrun Nabil and Razie Rahim were left out while defender Azlan Misron has been selected to wear the skipper’s band.
In the absence of senior goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin who is nursing a knee injury, Dharmaraj picked Junior World Cup goalkeeper Hafizzudin Othman as back-up for No1 S. Kumar.
Tournament favourites New Zealand, Ireland, Japan and Poland are in Group A while Malaysia, Canada, France and Korea are in Group B.
"I have been cracking my head for the last 10 days to select the best side, as it is never easy to drop players who have about the same standards. It was a difficult choice but since only 18 are allowed, I had to drop Ramadan, Shahrun and Razie," said Dharmaraj.
On the lofty targer: "We are here to keep the momentum running from the group stages to the knock-out, and of course, every team here wants the gold medal."
MALAYSIA: S. Kumar (gk), Hafizuddin Othman (gk), Azlan Misron, Kevin Lim, Izad Hakimi, Shukri Mutalib, Ahmad Kazamirul, Faiz Helmi, Azri Hassan, Fitri Shaari, Marhan Jalil, Nabil Fiqri, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Shahril Saabah, Ismail Abu, Rashid Baharom, Firhan Ashaari.
SATURDAY -- Group A: New Zealand v Ireland (3pm), Japan v Poland (5pm).
Group B: South Korea v Canada (7pm), Malaysia v France (9pm).
SUNDAY: Group A: Japan v New Zealand (3pm), Ireland v Poland (5pm)
Group B: Canada v France (7pm), Malaysia v South Korea (9pm).
April 28: REST DAY.
April 29: Group A: Ireland v Japan (3pm), New Zealand v Poland (5pm).
Group B: South Korea v France (7pm), Canada v Malaysia (9pm).