KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia received a favourable draw for the men’s hockey competition for the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea from Sept 19-Oct 4.
Nine countries will feature in the men’s event and Malaysia, the silver medallist at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad, are drawn in Group A with South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh and Singapore.
Pakistan, the defending champions, are pitted with arch-rivals India, Sri Lanka and Oman in Group B.
National coach A. Arulselvaraj was pleased with the draw.
“We have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals although we are drawn with South Korea and Japan.
“The Koreans have homeground advantage and they will be one of the contenders to reach the last four.
“We have a fighting chance against the Japanese. Although they will pose a threat to us, I believe we will be able to get the better of them to reach the semi-finals,” said Arulselvaraj, who replaced K. Dharmaraj as national coach last week following Malaysia’s disastrous showing at the World Cup in The Hague, Holland, in June and the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
When asked whether he had problems with the players, Arulselvaraj said: “I’m happy with their attitude and commitment in training. The good news is that forward Mohd Firhan (Ashaari) is back in training after recovering from an ankle injury.”
As part of their build-up to the Asiad, the Malaysians will go to South Korea next week for two friendly matches.
“We will be leaving for South Korea on Aug 27. I will name the final squad of 16 players for the Asiad after returning from the trip next month,” said Arulselvaraj.
The Asiad is an important assignment for Malaysia as the winners will gain an automatic berth to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Meanwhile, eight teams will feature in the women’s competition in Incheon.
Malaysia are drawn in Group A with India, China and Thailand. South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong are in Group B.