National hockey chief coach K. Dharmaraj wants his side to win the Champions Challenge I tournament that starts in Kuantan on Saturday. - Filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey team have set themselves a lofty target in the Champions Challenge I, which starts in Kuantan on Saturday.
Coach K. Dharmaraj’s men are targeting the Champions Challenge I title to qualify for next year’s Champions Trophy.
And, en route to doing that, improve on their best-ever performance – a fourth-placing achieved in Quilmes, Argentina in 2012 – in the tournament.
Winning the Champions Challenge I will surely boost the team’s morale as they then set their sights on the World Cup, which will be held at the Hague, Holland, from May 30-June 15.
So, basically the Kuantan tournament will give Dharmaraj’s men an additional platform to gauge their strength as they prepare for the World Cup.
Fresh from a runner-up finish behind champions Australia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh last month, the Malaysians will no doubt aim for the title – or at least make the final.
“This tournament (the Champions Challenge I) serves as the final warm-up for teams heading for the World Cup. For us, the team we field in Kuantan will almost certainly be the one that will carry the challenge at the World Cup,” said Dharmaraj.
“There may be some minor reshuffling of the line-up but I believe that the majority of players in the list of 18 here will also be on the plane to Holland.”
Dharmaraj is expected to drop three players when he names the final 18 later this evening after the friendly against Poland. Malaysia were supposed to have played France on Tuesday but it was cancelled as the Frenchmen only arrived in Kuantan in the afternoon.
Dharmaraj said that they will also be looking closely at New Zealand and South Korea as these two teams will join Malaysia at the World Cup in May.
“The target here is to win the title and I’m hoping that the players will show further improvement in their game and also play to the structure we have devised,” said Dharmaraj.
For the Champions Challenge I, Malaysia are in Group B with France, South Korea and Canada. New Zealand, Ireland, Japan and Poland make up Group B.
Malaysia will open their campaign against France on Saturday.