Saturday, March 4, 2017
Looking for a blistering start in Dhaka...
TRAINING ... Malaysia having a feel of the field in Dhaka Friday.
NO 1 ranked Malaysia have no one to fear but themselves when they start their World League Round Two campaign against hosts Bangladesh in Dhaka Saturday.
Even though the best players are not available for the pre-World Cup qualifier due to weddings, injuries and family commitments coach Stephen van Huizen's men pack enough power to beat every team assembled here.
Malaysia are ranked 13th, while their Group A opponents Bangladesh (32nd), Oman (31st) and Fiji (not ranked) are way below.
Group B is no better as China are 18th while Ghana, Egypt and Sri Lanka are not ranked among the world's 35 hockey playing nations.
The national players had a sparring session with China and won 2-1 in two 15-minute halves, and they did not even hit 50 percent of their capabilities.
Bangladesh had a worse outing as in their three friendlies against Ghana, they lost 2-0 drew 2-2 and won 2-1.
"Training matches do not say anything about the strength of teams, its just for warm-up and teams do not push themselves. We have nothing to fear, even without some of our better players as our target here is to play in the final first to qualify for the World League semifinals and the second target is to win gold," said van Huizen.
Both the targets should be easy to reach, if the players believe in themselves like they did in the last World League Round Two in Singapore where they hammered Poland 8-0 for the gold.
Team manager Nasihin Nubli gave an 80 per cent thumbs up to the newly laid blue artificial pith at the 1971 built stadium.
"Its well laid, but for certain parts where it is difficult for players to dribble as they can't drag the ball left to right to beat an opponent as its very coarse.
"It (the pitch) also dries very fast as its very winds and humidity is high. But every team will experience the same and it should pose no problems in our campaign," said Nasihin.
One of the most senior players in the team Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, debut in the 2005 Rotterdam Junior World Cup, said even though many players were not available for Dhaka, the replacements are equally good.
"I would say that those who replaced players who could not make it here are no rookies, as they have played at many internationals before. The only problem i noticed when we played the China friendly was that the team had yet to get their act together.
"This is because we were all playing or our clubs (in the Malaysia Hockey League) and arrived here two days after the final. We might start slow against Bangladesh, but I am confdent we will win," said Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin who scored a total of 13 goals in the MHL and was also pivotal in helping Terengganu Hockey Team win the TNB Cup.
The confidence is also there as Malaysia only have 17 players in Dhaka now, and Faiz Helmi will arrive on March 5, to play against Fiji and hen the knock-out -- as he is getting married first.
FIXTURES -- SATURDAY: Group A -- Oman v Fiji (3.45pm), Malaysia v Bangladesh (6pm); Group B: China v Ghana (11am), Egypt v Sri Lanka (1.30pm).
SUNDAY: Group A: Oman v Malaysia (3.45pm), Bangladesh v Fiji (6pm); Group B: Ghana v Sri Lanka (11am), Egypt v China (1.30pm).
MONDAY: REST DAY
TUESDAY: Group A -- Malaysia v Fiji (11am), Bangladesh v Oman (6pm); Group B: China v Sri Lanka (1.30pm), Ghana v Egypt (3.45pm).
Note: Malaysian time.