Saturday, September 6, 2014

Juniors going Down Under instead

THE National Juniors’ flight plan to Belfast has been rerouted to Perth, as they enter their final phase of training for the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) on Oct 12-19.
Initially, the team were supposed to play a series of friendlies in Belfast, but team manager Mirnawan Nawawi confirmed yesterday that Western Australian Institute of Sports (WAIS) are their new sparring opponents.
“The Belfast plan was shelved because we could not confirm the playing clubs, so we will be in Perth from Sept 15-23 and play a series of matches with the WAIS side,” said Mirnawan.
The SOJC, into its fourth edition, saw Malaysia win its inaugural tournament in 2011, but finished last in the next edition. The team bounced back by finishing second behind India last year.
The confirmed teams for SOJC are defending champions India, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and debutants Britain.
“We will take 22 players to Perth, of which three will be goalkeepers. And the final names will probably be confirmed by the end of the month.
“We expect tough matches against WAIS, and hopefully the boys will be hardened by the time they play in the SOJC,” said Mirnawan.
The tournament, which has received RM1.7 million in sponsorship, is the only invitational under-21 tournament in the world.
The SOJC is the platform for under-21 teams around the globe to showcase their talent once a year and most of the teams use the tournament as part of their preparation for the Junior World Cup.
Malaysian juniors are being groomed for the 2016 Junior World Cup, but they need to be ready to defend their gold medal in the Junior Asia Cup in November in Kuantan, as it offers a direct entry to the World Cup.