Yang Liu: 'We hope to pull one or two surprise wins despite being the lowest-ranked team in the tournament.'
KUALA LUMPUR: Debutants China are the lowest-ranked team in the six-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, but they are not here to just make up the numbers.
Team manager Yang Liu said that China are more than happy to make their debut in the tournament, which begins on Thursday in Ipoh, despite being ranked 25th in the world.
“We have a young team with an average age of 22, and we are in Ipoh to put up a strong challenge.
“Some players are only playing in their second international tournament. They made their debut in the six nation Asian Champions Trophy in Japan last October, where we finished fourth.
“Despite some of them lacking international exposure, my players are in high spirits. We hope to pull one or two surprise wins despite being the lowest-ranked team in the tournament,” said Yang Liu.
The other teams in the fray are world No. 1 Australia, South Korea (No. 7), South Africa (No. 12), Malaysia (No.13) and Canada (No. 16).
Yang Liu, who wants his team to avoid becoming the wooden spoonists, explained that they are using the tournament as part of their prparations for the Incheon Asian Games, which is in September.
China, under coach Ciu Ying Ciau, will open their campaign against Asia Cup champions South Korea on Thursday before they take on world champions Australia on Friday.
They are expecting a daunting task in their match against the speedy Koreans, who are preparing for the World Cup in The Hague, Holland, in May.
“I cannot remember when was the last time we played 2012 London Olympics runners-up Australia in a tournament. Playing two tough matches in two days definitely will be a tall order. But we are not complaining as we need to play tough matches like these to prepare a strong team for the Asian Games,” said Yang Liu.