The national hockey team will work on the defence before they play in the World Cup at the Hague starting May 31. - Filepic
KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey team will use the next two weeks to improve on their shortcomings in defence and penalty corner drag flicks in preparation for the World Cup at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague from May 31-June 15.
The backline led by national skipper Azlan Misron came under fire for conceding goals in the Champions Challenge I tournament in Kuantan, which ended on Sunday.
Malaysia lost the first two matches against France (3-2) and South Korea (3-1) before winning their third group match against Canada (4-3).
In the quarter-finals, Malaysia were leading 4-1 against New Zealand before the Kiwis fought back to score three goals to force a 4-4 draw.
However, Malaysia defeated the Kiwis in a penalty shootout (3-2) to reach the semi-finals before losing to Canada (5-4) in another shootout after the match ended 2-2.
In the playoff for the bronze medal, Malaysia defeated Ireland 4-2.
Team manager George Koshy said that the good news is that the country’s top penalty corner drag flicker Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim has recovered from a shoulder injury and will join the national team for training on Monday.
“Defender Razie’s presence will definitely boost the team’s morale and confidence in the backline. We will focus on fine-tuning the defence and improving on the penalty corner drag flicks in the next two weeks,” said George.
There are 30 players in the training squad and the final squad of 18 players will be named before the team departs for the World Cup on May 23.
As part of their preparations, Malaysia will play a friendly against Holland on May 25. The national team will also play two matches against club sides on May 27 and May 29 before they open their Group A campaign against defending champions Australia on May 31.
Their other matches are against Belgium (June 2), England (June 5), India (June 7) and Spain (June 9).
Reigning Olympic champions Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Argentina, South Africa and host Holland are drawn in Group B.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have set a target for the national team to finish in the top 10.
Malaysia’s best result was fourth in the 1975 World Cup, which was played on grass in Kuala Lumpur.