Monday, 21 April 2014 | MYT 9:30 PM
Fit-again Razie a boost for Malaysia
Mohd Razie Rahim has been included in the 21-man squad for two friendlies - against France and Poland. - filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: The quick recovery of defender Mohd Razie Rahim from a shoulder injury is definitely good news for Malaysia as his presence will shore up the defence in the Champions Challenge I tournament which starts in Kuantan on Saturday.
Razie played in two of the six friendlies against China last week, performing better than expected. And that has earned him a place in the 21-player squad for the Kuantan tournament.
Even national coach K. Dharmaraj was pleasantly surprised to see Razie back in action sooner than expected.
However, Dharmaraj admitted that Razie would need more matches to be fully fully fit for international duty.
“We tried him out in the friendlies to give him some much-needed match practice and to see how the injury is healing.
“I must say that I was surprise that he played without any problem and even played like his old self. This is good news for us as the defence will be much stronger with him around. It certainly gives me more options in selecting the backline ... and I’ll also have a good drag flicker in the team,” said Dharmaraj.
The 21 players left for Kuantan on Monday and will play two more friendlies – against France on Tuesday and Poland on Wednesday – before the final 18 players are named.
Dharmaraj has named 21 players as he wants to give some of the previously injured players more time to prove themselves.
The inclusion of Razie has also ensured that none of the defensive players in the team will take it easy in the next few days.
Initially, it was thought that Razie would be be left out of the Champions Challenge I team so as to let him fully recover for the World Cup challenge in May.
Razie dislocated his shoulder in January when he played in the Hockey India League for Mumbai Magicians. The injury forced him to miss the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in March.
With Razie’s inclusion, there are seven defenders in the team. The others are Azlan Misron, Kevin Lim, Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin, Faiz Helmi, Izad Hakimi and Mohd Shukri Mutalib.
As such, one defender is likely to get the chop tomorrow when Dharmaraj trims the squad to 18 players.
Only two players are assured of making the last 18. They are goalkeepers S. Kumar and Mohd Hafizzuddin Othman.
In the Champions Challenge I, Malaysia will open their Group B campaign against France on Saturday. The other teams in the group are South Korea and Canada.
Group A comprises New Zealand, Poland, Japan and Ireland.