MALAYSIA will play in the London World League Semifinals for a shot at playing in the 16-team 2018 World Cup in India.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) released groupings of the two qualifiers, the other one in Johannesburg, and coach Stephen van Huizen's men have been placed with four other Asian teams.
Malaysia, who dropped back to 14 from 13th in the World in the latest FIH ranking, have Olympic champions and newly crowned world no 1 Argentina, European champs Netherlands, Asian champions India, Pakistan, South Korea, hosts England, China, Canada and Scotland for company.
The tournament will be held On June 15-25 at Lee Valley’s Hockey and Tennis Centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
In Johannesburg, on July 8-23, the 10 teams are World League Round Two qualifiers Ireland, Japan, France and Egypt.
They will be up against reigning Hockey World Cup, World League and Champions Trophy winners Australia, Olympic silver medallists Belgium, Olympic bronze medallists Germany, New Zealand, Spain and hosts South Africa, winners of the 2015 African Hockey Championship.
"The target is to first finish among the top-four in the group as the fifth team will not play in the quarter-finals.
"After that, we need to finish among the top-six in the knock-out stage to qualify for the World Cup. There are bound to be many double qualifications, and this is where even No 6 in London will make the cut to the 16-team event in Indian next year," said van Huizen.
Going by ranking, Malaysia will be placed in Group A with Argentina, Great Britain, Canada and China.
In Group B would be Netherlands, India, South Korea, Pakistan and Scotland.
"The 18 who played in the World League Round Two in Dhaka as well as those who will be selected for the Azlan Shah Cup will form the core of the team. All the injured players as well as those with family commitment will be available for Ipoh, and that's where I hope to select the best and fittest for London," said van Huizen.
The fact that London will be akin to an Asian championship should also favour Malaysia's chances.
"The good and also the bad of it is that we have a big number of teams which we play frequently in the Asian Games, Asia Cup and Asian Champions Trophy.
"We know them, and they know us. In a way, its also good that we have been placed in London, as we will be meeting known foes and our players would also be more comfortable in this situation," said van Huizen.