22 Sep 2013

Desperate for 2011 high Featured

www.nst.com.my

MALAYSIA were the inaugural champions, but froze and sank to the bottom of the pool in the second edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup last year.

But coach K. Dharmaraj is looking for a winning start against Argentina today to lay his hands on the title again as a prelude to the Junior World Cup challenge in New Delhi on Dec 6-15.

 

Malaysia are in Group D of the Junior World Cup with England, Pakistan and South Africa.

"This is our last tournament before New Delhi, and with England and Pakistan also in the Sultan of Johor Cup, we need to make a lasting impact," said Dharmaraj.

The Taman Daya Stadium will again play host to the only Under-21 tournament sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation.

The other teams in the tournament are South Korea and India and all six teams have qualified for the Junior World Cup.

Pakistan will start as the team to beat, as they will be powered by Olympian Umar Bhutta who also played in the 2012 Champions Trophy where Pakistan claimed the bronze.

Umar was also in the silver medal-winning Junior Asia Cup side -- where Malaysia claimed the title on a 2-1 score.

India are also a powerful side, as they have a string of players who have broken into the senior side like Manpreet Singh, Kothajit Singh, penalty corner specialist Amit Rohidas, Mandeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh.

India's abundance of junior talent also saw them resting three players -- Malak Singh, S.K. Uthappa and Gurmail Singh -- who played in the Asia Cup in Ipoh last month.

"The quest for gold will not be easy, as all the teams are in their final stage of preparations for the Junior World Cup. But we also have players who have seen action with the senior side and their experience will be invaluable," said Dharmaraj.

The backbone of Malaysia will be formed by Fitri Saari, Syamim Yusof, Faiz Helmi, Firhan Ashaari, Rashid Baharom, Meor Azuan and Izad Hakimi.

The stakes are too high for Malaysia to end up as chumps again in the third edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup, and the players as well as the coach, know the score.


 

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