KUALA LUMPUR: National women's coach K. Dharmaraj has been tasked with a steep target in the Asian Games in Jakarta, but he and his charges are game to make a gallant attempt.
The Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) had categorised the women's team as 'B', where they will have to pay their own expenses to the Asian Games and only reimbursed if they return with a medal.
Malaysia has always been fifth in Asia, but Dharmaraj aims to break that ceiling in Jakarta from Aug 10-Sept 2.
"It will not be easy, but whenever I take my girls for any tournament, I always tell them not to fear any team and break new barriers.
"We have been doing that for the last two years, and will make an attempt to enter the semi-finals, and then go for a medal in the Asian Games," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) deputy president Datuk S. Shamala had said: "Irrelevant of whatever category our women’s team are in, just as our president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal has said earlier 'the girls are definitely going to feature at the Asian Games'.
"We believe greatly that all the hard work the entire ecosystem has done tailoring for this edition of the Asian Games for the past 30 months with the dedication and extensive work of coaches Dharmaraj, Lailin Abu Hassan and Roslan Jamaluddin our girls will finish on the podium at the Jakarta Asian Games.".
Meanwhile, after hammering Indonesia 18-0 and Hong Kong 10-0, the women's team will play Kazakhstan in the Hockey Series Open at the Sengkang Stadium in Singapore Tuesday.
"We beat Kazakhstan 2-1 in our last meeting, and I expect them to be our toughest opponents in this tournament. We need to be sharper during penalty corners as we missed to many in the first two games," said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia won 39 penalty corners in two games, but could only score 10 goals.
"Yes, we had a total of 39 penalty corners in two matches but scored only 10. That's a big concern for me as we need to be sharper in the next two matches against Kazakhstan and Thailand.
"I expect Kazakhstan to defend and rely on counter-attack. They have really fast forwards who gave us a lot of problems in our last meeting (Asia Cup).
However in the World League Round Two in Kuala Lumpur last year, Malaysia hammered Kazakhstan 13-1.