KUALA LUMPUR: The Project 2013 hockey squad will play about 40 matches in preparation for next year’s Junior World Cup in New Delhi.
There are 35 players in the training squad and Project coach K. Dharmaraj said he wants to give them ample match exposure before the New Delhi tournament begins in November next year.
“The players need to play at least 40 quality matches and the first five or six matches will be against the Queensland state team in Kuala Lumpur next month,” he said.
“We will also go to Europe in August to play six matches. We will play two matches each against Spain, France and Belgium.
“The three countries had requested for matches against the Project squad to prepare for the European qualifier of the Junior World Cup.”
The Project squad qualified for the Junior World Cup after winning the seventh edition of the Junior Asia Cup for the first time in Malacca last month.
Malaysia defeated three-time champions Pakistan 2-0 in the final.
Dharmaraj said that the Project squad will start their next phase of training after the Sukma (Malaysia Games) from July 7-16.
“We also intend to go all out to retain the Sultan of Johor Cup title in November. We expect to play top teams like Germany, Holland, Australia, India and Pakistan in the tournament,” said Dharmaraj.
Last November, the Project 2013 squad defeated top-ranked teams like Australia, India, Pakistan, South Korea and New Zealand to win the inaugural Sultan of Johor Cup.
They also did it without the services of three key players – Faizal Saari, Mohd Firhan Ashaari and Amir Farid Ahmad Fuzi – who were then in the national senior training squad preparing for the Champions Challenge I in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was also held in November.
The trio and four others – Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim, Mohd Fitri Saari, Mohd Rahmadan Mohd Rosli and Norhizzat Sumantri – featured in the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca.
Although all seven are not eligible to play in next year’s Junior World Cup as they will be over the age limit, Dharmaraj wants them for the Sultan of Johor Cup.