KUALA LUMPUR: National hockey coach Roelant Oltmans has set a top 10 target for his side in the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India, which begins on Nov 28.
In the last World Cup in The Hague, Holland, four years ago, Malaysia lost all six matches and finished last in the 12-nation tournament. It was the worst-ever outing for Malaysia in the World Cup.
But the 64-year-old Dutch coach, who was hired on Oct 1 to chart the fortunes of the national team, has faith in his charges.
“We have players who can play good hockey and we’re improving the structure of our game. And I’m confident that the players can play a high-level game in the World Cup,” said Oltmans.
Sixteen teams will feature in the World Cup and Malaysia are drawn in Group D with Holland, Pakistan and Germany.
Oltmans added that they are in the “group of death” as they have three former world champions in their group.
“Holland is my native country and they are ranked fourth in the world while Germany are ranked sixth,” said Oltmans after naming 18 players for the World Cup.
“We have full respect for this two teams but I know all about the European style of play.
“Our first target is to survive the group matches to finish in the top three in the group to play in the second round.
“If we reach the second round, we’re likely to face India (Group C runners-up) to reach the quarter-finals. We drew 0-0 with them in the Asian Champions Trophy (in Muscat, Oman) last month. So anything is possible but we just need the luck to achieve our target.”
Experienced forward Muhd Shahril Saabah was dropped as he is down with a hamstring injury suffered in Oman last month.
Utility player Muhd Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad was also dropped from the squad.
Goalkeeper S. Kumar, who did not play a single match in Oman due to a right thumb injury, has fully recovered and will feature in his second World Cup.
Muhd Hairi Abdul Rahman, who played well in Oman, has been named as the second keeper.
Malaysia will play the Kiwis on Nov 16, 20 and 22 at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.