Selangor Journal
Speedy Tigers, Malaysia’s men’s hockey team, lifting the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the first time, at Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh, on November 10, 2022. — Picture by BERNAMA

Malaysian Tigers eye semis in FIH Nations Cup tourney

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 — The national men’s hockey team, buoyed by having finished as champions in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 tournament, have set themselves a semi-final target in the inaugural International Hockey Federation (FIH) Nations Cup 2022 in Potchefstroom, South Africa from November 28 to December 4.

National team management committee chairman Datuk Ahmad Najmi Abdul Razak said the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) had set the Malaysian Tigers an initial target of making the semi-finals.

“We are targeting a semi-final spot and, if everything goes well… you saw what happened in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. We did not start well but we finished as champions.

“The players have also realised that if you lose, it is not the end and, if you win, it does not mean you will end up as champions. That was the best lesson gained from our participation in the Asian Games and Asia Cup when we began well but did not end up as champions,” he told a media conference at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil here today.

The eight-team Nations Cup will see Malaysia (world number 10) playing in Group B with Canada (world number 14), Japan (18th) and South Korea (12th) while Group A comprises France (11th), Ireland (13th), Pakistan (17th) and South Africa (16th). The top two teams from each group will advance to the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, national head coach A. Arul Selvaraj has described the target as fair as he prepares to take his team of 20 players, including four who did not feature in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament earlier this month, to Potchefstroom.

The four include forward Faizal Saari, who just returned from the Netherlands after playing for club side ZSV Schaerweijde, and newcomer Syarman Mat.

Arul Selvaraj said that he has some changes to their training sessions to further enhance the team’s playing style.

“We have tuned our training session to mirror conditions in Potchefstroom, in terms of the time difference and playing at an altitude of about 1,500-metre above sea level. We also need to continue progressing and do better than how we did at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup,” he said.

At the media conference, Ahmad Najmi also announced the 20-player list, although only 18 can be registered, which Arul Selvaraj will finalise in Potchefstroom, with Muhammad Najmi Farizal Jazlan named skipper.

The winner of the Nations Cup 2022 will automatically qualify for FIH Hockey Pro League for the 2023-2024 season.

The Nations Cup will also be the best platform for the Malaysian Tigers to prepare for the World Cup 2023 in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela in India from January 13 to January 29.

— Bernama

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