KUALA LUMPUR: Two experienced players who played in the World Cup Finals last year may not be among the final squad of 18 players for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, which will be played in Ipoh from March 22-30.
They are midfielder Saiful Azli and veteran forward Chairil Anwar.
National coach Paul Lissek said that Saiful received a hard knock on the knee in a collision with a teammate during training at the Bukit Serendit Stadium in Malacca yesterday.
“Saiful can't even move his knee after taking the knock. I doubt that he can recover in time for the Azlan Shah tournament,” said the German coach.
The national team have been in training in Malacca since March 1 and they will return to Kuala Lumpur today.
There are 24 players in the training squad and the final 18 for the tournament will be named tomorrow.
In Chairil's case, Lissek is not too happy with the player who has 230 international caps to his credit.
“He is the most experienced forward in the team but he has not been impressive in training,” said Lissek.
“He was absent for the first four days of training and his fitness level is not up to the mark.
“I don't think he will be considered for a place in the national squad.
“The absence of Saiful and Chairil will definitely dilute the strength of the team.
“To compound the problem, a few players are also nursing injuries,” he added.
Lissek added that the preparation for the tournament had not been going on well.
“The final phase of training in Malacca began with some players checking in unfit ... some of them were overweight.
“And after 10 days of tough training, some of them are injured,” he said.
Lissek said that defender K. Gobinathan suffered a slight knee injury yesterday while goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin and midfielder P. Prabahkaran were nursing ankle injuries.
He also said that forward Mohamed Rodhanizam Mat Radzi could not train for the last two days because he was down with fever.
“Defender Nor Azlan (Bakar), who made a return to the national team after a long layoff, looked exhausted after the tough training.
“He did not participate in the 4,000m run today, which was a test to gauge the players' stamina,” said Lissek.
He added that the juniors, among them Megat Azrafiq Termizi and Engku Abdul Malik Abdullah, were impressive in training and they could well earn places in the final squad.
In the tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia will open their campaign against Asian Games gold medallist South Korea on March 22.
The national team will also go up against world champions Germany, Pakistan, India and New Zealand.
Prior to the tournament, Malaysia will play four Test matches – two against Pakistan at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on March 17 and 18.
The other two matches will be played against South Korea at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh on March 19 and 20.