KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian boys and girls hockey teams are expected to face a tough time qualifying for the under-18 Youth Olympics which will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Oct 6-18.
Both the teams will have to play in the final of the Hockey 5s tournament qualifier in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 25-29 to win a ticket to Argentina.
Yesterday, the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) named both the squads and boys coach Wallace Tan as well as girls coach Yahya Atan admitted it will not be an easy tournament.
Played in a fast paced format of Five-a-Side, the Malaysian boys are in Group B with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Taiwan and Cambodia.
The girls are in Group A with China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Yahya feels China and Japan will be the main hurdles: "Malaysian girls have never qualified to play in the Youth Olympics and I expect the challenge to come from China and Japan who both qualified for the last Youth Olympics.
"I believe my charges are ready to give their best and make the grade," said the 63-year old veteran coach.
Boys coach Wallace Tan also said he expects a tough challenge from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
"This is a good tournament to gauge our players as they will be under tremendous pressure against some of the best teams in the region. Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have already qualified for the Youth Olympics, and are in our group and I expect the challenge to come from both of them.
"It will be tough, but my players are up to the challenge," said Wallace.
The boys will be led by Junior Hockey League top-scorer Akhimullah Anuar Esook, who has scored 14 goals so far to hand Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) Thunderbolts the League title.
MALAYSIA -- Boys: Hamiz Ahir (GK), Arif Syafie Ishak, Akhimullah Anuar Esook, Amirul Hamizan Azhar, Muhibuddin Moharam, Noor Firdauz Rosdi,
Syarman Mat Tee, Kamaruzaman Kamarudin, Alfarico Lance Liau.
GIRLS: Siti Zalia Nasir (GK), Nur Atira Ismail,
Nurmaizatul Hanim Syafi, Siti Nur Arfah Nor, Nor Asfarina Isahyifiqa Isahhidun, Siti Zulaika Hussin, Nur Fatin Fatiah Azman, Putri Nur Batrisyia Nornawawi, Elizaberth Epui Martin.
BOYS' -- Group A: India, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand.
Group B: Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Taiwan, Cambodia.
GIRLS' -- Group A: Malaysia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan.
Group B: South Korea, India, Thailand, Singapore.