JOHOR BARU: Let’s go and win it!
That’s the rallying call of National Juniors skipper Mohd Najib Abu Hassan ahead of the Sultan of Johor Cup, which begins at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium here on Sunday.
“I don’t see why we should be contented with placing matches instead of going for the title,” he said as the Malaysians checked in for the tournament on Friday.
“I want my team-mates to think big and aim for the title. We have won this tournament before in 2011. So, let’s try to regain it. This may be an invitational meet but it’s of great importance as we can gauge our standard against the other top teams.
“Let’s set winning the title as our target, although the association (Malaysian Hockey Confederation) have set us a top-three finish.”
This, he feels, will boost their confidence for next month’s Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan.
“We must make the semi-final (in Kuantan) to ensure we qualify for the Junior World Cup in 2016 (in New Delhi, India). All out preparations are targeted towards making the top four in the Junior Asia Cup,” said Najib.
“We have a good team ... and some have had the experience of playing in the senior team as well. So, we have to use this tournament in Johor Baru to improve further,” said the Perak-born player.
Najib, a defender with Tenaga Nasional in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), believes that a winning start in the Sultan of Johor Cup against Britain would do wonders to their confidence.
“Last year, we lost to Britain, but many of the players were then playing in their first tournament. This year, we have a more experienced side ... we can start with a win,” said Najib, who added that “defending champions India will be the team to beat and Australia will be a handful”.
“We must not take any team for granted. This is a learning curve for all of us ... improve with each match and cut down on our mistakes. We also must stick to the game plan and see if our tactics are working. The coaches have put in a lot of work and we have to repay them with a good showing.”
The Malaysians played a friendly against Britain at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium and lost 2-3.
National Juniors chief coach A. Arulselvaraj admitted that “there will be a few heavy legs out there” due to the very physical nature of the training they’ve had in the last two weeks.
“I know some will be tired. The main objective here is to sharpen our decision-making on the field and also the tactical aspects.
“It’s good to see the players having a positive attitude. It will help as they will be in a good frame of mind to listen and try out new ideas,” he said.
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