KUALA LUMPUR: Let’s aim for the sky!
National men’s hockey team skipper Mohd Shukri Mutalib does not want his team-mates to be satisfied with just qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
Malaysia defeated India 3-2 in the last eight of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in London on Thursday to confirm their berth for the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
The national team will face world No. 1 Argentina in the semi-finals at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre today.
“We should not be contented with the quarter-final win over India,” said Shukri in a telephone interview from London yesterday.
“Instead, it should spur us to try harder and go as high as we can.
“I’m extremely proud of my team-mates for fighting tooth and nail to qualify for the World Cup. For once, I can say that we had a team of players rather than individuals.
“Everyone complemented each other. This shows we have the skills to match the best.
“We must capitalise on this opportunity and start thinking big.”
Although coach Stephen van Huizen’s team are a mixture of ageing players and youngsters, Shukri, 31, admitted that it is the seniors who are the core players.
The seniors are goalkeeper S. Kumar, 37; Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, 31; Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, 30; Mohd Razie Rahim, 29; and Mohd Marhan Jalil, 27.
The rest are aged below 25.
And Shukri believes that today’s semi-final against Argentina would definitely benefit the youngsters in the national team.
“They are very good. They have an all-round team, combining individual play with team work.
“It will definitely be an uphill task, but we must try. Let’s not be overawed when facing them,” said Shukri, who has also warned his team-mates to be wary of Gonzalo Peillat – Argentina’s penalty corner specialist.
The 24-year-old Argentine is the leading goal scorer in the tournament with 12 goals.