KUALA LUMPUR: South Korea will be looking to redeem themselves at the FIH Champions Challenge I hockey tournament after a lacklustre display at the recently-concluded Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
The world No. 7 missed several players during the Ipoh tournament due to injury as they scraped their way to a third-placed finish.
South Korean team coach Shin Seok-kyo is confident they can do better in Kuantan where the tournament will be held from April 26-May 4.
The former international defender was clearly unhappy with his team’s performance in Ipoh.
“My players never showed up in Ipoh ... they were performing way below par. We hardly had enough training prior to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as the weather back home was not conducive for outdoor activities. I had expected better performances all around. After all, the players are fighting for a place in the World Cup team and what better way to prove their worth than at meets like this,” he said.
“We will be back in Malaysia on April 15 and I hope the players will put in more effort this time around,” he said.
With the 2014 World Cup just around the corner (May 31–June 15), Seok-kyo will be looking to field his best squad at the Champions Challenge.
More importantly, they will be looking at winning the tournament so as to seal their place in the Champions Trophy in 2015. Only the champions will get promoted to the Champions Trophy which is for the top eight ranked teams in the world.
Seok-kyo said that the timing of the Champions Challenge I is perfect for teams going for the World Cup.
“The tournament comes at an ideal time as I get to test my strongest squad for the World Cup. But it is also a big gamble as the possibility of losing players to injury is there,” he added.
Besides South Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand are the other teams playing in Kuantan who are also going for the World Cup.
The South Koreans were denied a spot in this year’s Champions Trophy as Argentina defeated them 5-0 in the final of the 2012 Champions Challenge, which was held in Quilmes, Argentina.
“Malaysia is like a second home to us and maybe that will help us to win the tournament this time around. But things won’t be easy for any of the teams,” he said.
The South Koreans will have arch rivals Malaysia together with Canada and France in Group B, while Group A consists of New Zealand (world No. 6) who are the highest-ranked team in the tournament alongside Japan, Ireland and Poland.
The South Koreans are expected to arrive on April 15 and it is likely that they may play a few friendly matches prior to the start of the tournament.