PETALING JAYA: The national hockey team have had their best preparation – and now, it’s time to deliver.
Three-time Olympian Datuk N. Sri Shanmuganathan (pic) believes Malaysia have every chance to beat Britain and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as they have gone through a thorough preparation over the last few months.The men’s team will play world No. 7 and three-time Olympic gold medallists Britain in a two-legged playoff which will be held at the Lee Valley Hockey Stadium in London on Nov 2 and 3.
Shanmuganathan was pleased with the best support given to the hockey team coached by Roelant Oltmans.
The Dutch coach has been assisted by three experts Australian striker Michael McCann and two others from Holland – penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema and goalkeeper Martin Drijver.
“We’ve a strong team, and I believe, the players have the experience to take on any team in the world, ” said Shanmuganathan, who had played in three Olympics – in 1968 Mexico, 1972 Munich and 1976 Montreal.
“The management have also been fair to them by giving the coaches and staff free reign over the team.”
“They’ve had ample time to iron out problems in the team and now it all comes down to two matches. They just have to go out there and perform, ” he said.
He said playing against their opponents’ background should not put fear in the team.
“The knew where they would play when the draw was announced – and they knew the weather will be cold. It’s all a matter of adapting, ” said Shamuganathan.
“They are in Holland now for friendlies and will leave to London soon to adapt to the conditions there. It’s all in their mind. The task is obviously difficult but that’s what the Olympics is all about, it’s not meant to be easy.”Malaysia have played two friendly matches in Holland but they were beaten by Dutch clubs Gazellen-Combinatie (1-4) and HC Bloemendaal (2-4).
Shanmuganathan said the friendlies were good for Malaysia.
“I’m glad they had a chance to try out and experiment different things during the friendlies, ” said the 72-year-old, who has been hailed as one of the greatest captains of the national hockey team.
“I believe they can be the victors at the qualifiers if they go all out and give a gutsy display, ” added Shanmuganathan, who skippered Malaysia to their best-ever outing at the World Cup, when the team finished fourth in Kuala Lumpur in 1975.
Malaysia last competed in the Olympics at the 2000 edition in Sydney.
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