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Friday May 10, 2013

Azreen hoping to get national recall after fine performances

Good days: Azreen Rizal (right) last played for Malaysia in a five-match Test series against China last year. Good days: Azreen Rizal (right) last played for Malaysia in a five-match Test series against China last year.

KUALA LUMPUR: Sapura’s Azreen Rizal Nasir is hoping to get a recall to the national hockey squad following a string of good performances in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL).

Azreen played in the Guangzhou Asian Games silver medal winning team in 2010. He was a member of the 2010 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup squad and also went on a few tours with the national team.

A knee injury in 2011 sidelined him for almost a year and he was not chosen by new national coach Paul Revington when he recovered as he was not in action.

But the 24-year-old midfielder is hoping that the new coach had managed to watch him playing in the MHL.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed but not too hopeful as the national team have some very good players. Still I will give my best to the club and see where that takes me,” he said.

Revington had said before the MHL started that he will use the performance in the league to pick his new training squad. Azreen, like the other players in the squad, has a chance to make the team.

For Azreen this year has seen an improvement in his status. He has been picked to skipper the team and will lead them in the two-leg semi-finals against Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) this weekend.

“Yes, it was a pleasant surprise to be named skipper of the team. I want to see them do well and that means I have to lead by example. We have some very talented players in the team and there is no reason to think we cannot win,” he said yesterday.

But Azreen said that realistically KLHC will be the favourites as man-to-man they have a better side.

“They have a full national side and even the Pakistan players they have brought in are national stars. Their strength is their ability to play as a team.

“We will try our best. The game plan will also be crucial. We must consider both legs and not just on one. A heavy defeat in the first leg will be disastrous. It is going to be tough. We lost by similar 3-2 margins to them in the preliminaries but the knockout stage is a different ball game,” he said.

Azreen plays as a central midfielder with Pakistan’s Yasir Islam and India’s Raja Veerachamy as his partners.

Azreen was a member of the 2009 national juniors. He missed out playing in the Junior World Cup that year due to a leg injury.

The same year he joined Sapura for the MHL and has been a member of the team since then. Being made skipper is testament of his ability and commitment to the club.

But the UPM student is not having any high hopes.

“There is still time for me to prove myself and I will work hard to do so. I will be happy if there is place in the team. I will not be disappointed if I’m not chosen.

“For now the focus is on the semi-finals against KLHC. The players need to stay positive and also have the confidence to play them. We have nothing to lose,’ he said.

Sapura go into the match with Pakistani Khasif Ali as the tournament’s top scorer with 17 goals. For the record Sapura have won the overall title twice in 2005 and 2006. They were also league champions in 2004 and 2005.

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