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Friday January 11, 2013

Euro sides giving Azlan Shah Cup a miss

KUALA LUMPUR: The European teams will be conspicuously missing from this year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup which is slated to be held in Ipoh from March 7-17.

Three European teams – Germany, Holland and Spain – have declined the invitation. So far, six teams have confirmed their attendance and they all from the Asia and Oceania regions.

Malaysia, India, Pakistan and South Korea are the Asian teams in the mix while Australia and New Zealand will represent Oceania.

“We are hoping to make it a seven-nation meet. We are awaiting a reply from South Africa,” said Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) secretary Johari Abdul Aziz yesterday.

The Sultan Azlan Shah FCup will be the first assigment for the national team this year and the first for coach Pail Revington on home soil.

The Malaysians have two major assignments this year and both are qualifiers for the World Cup next year. The first is Round Two of the World Series in Russia in May.

If Malaysia make the cut by finishing in the top two (out of 32 teams) in Russia, then they will move on to Round Three in June at a venue yet to be decided.

Malaysia need to finish in the top four (out of 16 teams) in Round Three to qualify for the World Cup.

Should Malaysia fail to do that, they’ll have a third chance in the Asia Cup to be held in Ipoh in August, where only the winner will gain an automatic berth.

Thus, the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup takes on an important role for the national team as they fine-tune the side for the two challenges ahead.

“There’s no doubt that the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be extremely important and timely for the national side. The national team will start training on Tuesday,” said Johari.

“But the national players will be allowed to return to their clubs after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the Malaysia Hockey League.”

The MHL starts on March 22 and is expected to end in early May.

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