KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions Kuala Lumpur, powered by two World Cuppers, will be the team to beat in the National Under-21 hockey tournament, which begins on Monday at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
Tajol Rosli and Azli Misron are the two forwards who played in the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur last year.
KL also have four national senior trainees in their ranks goalkeeper Mohd Hanafi Hassan, defender Engku Abdul Malek Engku Mohd and midfielders P. Prabakaran and Jivan Mohan.
They also have five players from the national team who finished as the runners-up to India in the recent Malaysia Under-19 Invitational tournament. The five are Kelvindar Singh, Mohd Redza Maadun, Mohd Fairuz Hamsani, Mohd Fakhrul Razi and Mohd Izwan Hassan.
The other players in the squad are goalkeeper Mohd Firdaus Razali, Kamaruddin Abdul Rahman, K. Regan, M. Manikumaran, Wan Asyrizal Wan Mustapa and Mohd Hosni Abdul Rahman.
Coach Nor Saiful Zaini said that they had a formidable side and he was confident that KL would retain the title they won in Ipoh two years ago.
We won the Sukma gold medal in Kota Kinabalu last September and should be the favourites to win the national Under-21 tournamen, said Nor Saiful. However, the only setback is that we have never trained together as a team since we began our preparations two weeks ago.
The former international added that five of his players would only be released from the national senior team on Saturday.
Another five just joined us for training two days ago after competing in the Malaysia Under-19 tournament. I hope they will be able to fit into the team , said Nor Saiful after a training session at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium yesterday.
We have named 17 players and will drop one player on the eve of the tournament.''
Two foreign teams are among the 13 sides for the nine-day tournament. They are Australia's New South wales Institute of Sports and Singapore.
KL have been drawn in Group A with Johor, Kelantan, Malacca, Perak and Singapore. Group B has New South Wales Institute of Sports, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perlis and Selangor.
KL will open their campaign against Johor on Monday.
New South Wales Institute of Sports, who are competing for the first time in the tournament, could pose a threat to our title defence, said Nor Saiful.