IPOH: Pakistan are gunning to start their campaign in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament with a bang against Malaysia today.
Newly-appointed coach K.M. Junaid said that he expected an closely contested match but felt that the heat would favour Malaysia.
“It is the hot weather that worries me most as it’s a lot milder back home,” he said.
Junaid is also looking forward to a tactical battle against Malaysian coach Stephen van Huizen.
“It’s nice to see Stephen back in charge of the Malaysian team. He will have a game plan against us and I am looking forward to outwitting him.
“Matches between Pakistan and Malaysia have been close in recent years and I expect it to be the same tomorrow,” he said.
Three-time champions Pakistan have a new-look side for the tournament but Junaid is quite familiar with the players.
Twelve of the players are from the side Junaid coached for the Junior World Cup Finals held in Malaysia and Singapore last year.
Senior players, among them Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, Rehan Butt and Mohamed Saqlain, have been rested while several others have retired after a disappointing last place finish in the 12-team World Cup Finals in New Delhi.
“More than half of our players are pretty new but I’m hopeful that they will do well here,” said Junaid.
“The tournament also serves as platform for our run-up to the Asian Games. We have begun a rebuilding process that will help us raise a strong team to give us hope of a medal in the 2012 London Olympics.”
And Junaid is silently hoping that his team will give it their best shots in the tournament.
“We have youth on our side and the players have a lot to prove.
“The outing here in a way will let them gain experience on what to expect at the higher level,” he said.