Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good Asian Games draw for Malaysia

NATIONAL chief coach Arul Selvaraj was all smiles yes terday as Malaysia received a favourable draw for the Asian  Games hockey in Incheon, South Korea, on Sept 19-Oct 4.
  Silver medallists Malaysia are drawn in Group A with South  Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and Singapore.
   Pakistan, the defending champions, are with arch-rivals  India, Sri Lanka, China and Oman in Group B.
    As for the women, Malaysia are in Group A with India,  China and Thailand. South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and  Hong Kong are in Group B.
   The Asian Games could be a turning point in Malaysian  hockey as not only will the gold medal take them into the  2016 Rio de Janeiro, but could also change Malaysian Hockey  Confederation (MHC) president’s mind from quitting the  body.
   Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had announced  recently that he will quit the MHC after their Annual General  Meeting in November, unless the team wins gold in Korea.
   “I am happy with the grouping, and the team will take it as  a challenge to give their best and hopefully change Tengku  Abdullah’s decision to quit,” said Arul Selvaraj.
   And to do that, the team must trade in their 2010  Guangzhou Asiad silver to gold.
   The first step would be to finish top-two in Group A, and  that means Japan, Bangladesh and Singapore must be  beaten at all costs to enter the semis.
   And waiting for them in the cross-over would be either  India or Pakistan.
    But Arul and his men can’t take any team lightly: “We last  played Japan in the World League Semi-finals and it ended in  a draw and we needed to beat them in the penalty shoot-out  to finish fifth.
   “Paul Revington and I were the coaches then, and it is still  fresh in in mind. So we will not take any team lightly,  including Bangladesh and Singapore.”
   After finishing last in the World Cup without a single win or  draw, Malaysia went on to lose to Trinidad and Tobago 4-2 in  the Commonwealth Games.
   “I’m happy with the team’s progress (as he took over from  K. Dharmaraj recently) and the good news is that forward  Firhan Ashaari has recovered from an ankle injury and  everybody is giving their best in training.
   “As part of the build-up we will head to South Korea on Aug  27 for training as well as playing matches. I will name the  final squad of 16 after returning from the trip next month,”  said Arul Selvaraj.