Vikneswaran: Underestimating any side at Junior World Cup will be ‘mother of all evils’


PETALING JAYA: The national hockey players have been reminded to take every team seriously in Group A of the Junior World Cup.

On Wednesday, world No. 11 Malaysia were drawn with Belgium, Chile and South Africa for the competition starting from Nov 24-Dec 5 in Bhubaneswar, India.

On paper, world No. 2 Belgium appear to be the biggest threat but Malaysia can ignore South Africa and Chile at their own peril.

The South Africans, ranked 14th, boast the presence of promising forward Mustaphaa Cassiem, who had a good outing in the Tokyo Olympics.

Chile, lying at 28th, won’t be pushovers too as they will be parading hotshot Andreas Pizarro, who emerged as the top scorer en route to his side winning the Junior Pan American.

Malaysia team manager I. Vikneswaran was quick to keep the players on their toes against every opponent.

“South Africa and Chile are ranked lower than us but we must give them due respect,” said Vikneswaran.

“The South Africans are strong while Chile have shocked teams like Argentina in the Pan American junior meet, so it won’t be easy. These sides have some up-and-coming talents.

“To me, making an assumption (of another team’s strength) is the mother of all evils. We’ll just have to be prepared and do the necessary groundwork.”

Group favourites Belgium, the 2016 Junior World Cup silver medallists, will parade Thibeau Stockbrockx, Roman Duvekot and Tobias Biekens, who have played for the national team.

Vikneswaran said the Malaysian squad would be finalised before the Razak Cup from Nov 10-20.

They are currently under quarantine after completing their United Kingdom tour and will return for training next week at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

“They played eight matches in 13 days and there were injuries. We are focusing on recovery first.

“The race for places in the Junior World Cup squad is still open,” he added.

THE DRAW

Group A: Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Belgium.

Group B: Canada, France, India, Poland.

Group C: South Korea, Holland, Spain, United States.

Group D: Argentina, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan.

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