Tujuh perlawanan di Belfast, Ireland Utara, 14 hingga 27 September depan bakal menjadi ujian sebenar kemampuan skuad hoki remaja negara yang akan bersaing di Kejohanan Hoki Piala Sultan Johor (SOJC), di Stadium Hoki Taman Daya, Johor Bahru, Oktober depan.
Pengurus pasukan remaja kebangsaan Mirnawan Nawawi berkata, perlawanan ujian itu juga bakal madi medan pemilihan 18 pemain yang akan tersenarai menggalas cabaran negara di kejohanan itu nanti.
"Kami tidak mempunyai masa yang panjang untuk melakukan persiapan sebagai sebuah pasukan kerana jadual kejohanan tempatan yang padat dengan Liga Divisyen 1 serta Piala Razak. Namun pasukan remaja negara dijangka akan ke Belfast, Ireland Utara 14 September ini untuk menghadapi enam atau tujuh perlawanan ujian," katanya.
Tujuh perlawanan ujian yang diatur di Belfast nanti adalah menentang pasukan berstatus kelab yang bersaing dalam saingan Divisyen 1 liga negara terbabit.
Senarai 18 pemain yang bakal menggalas cabaran negara di SOJC pula dijangka diumumkan sebaik mereka tiba di ibu negara pada 27 September.
Begitupun, Mirnawan berkata tiada sasaran khusus diletakkan ke atas skuad kali ini berikutan pasukan hanya dibentuk April lalu.
"Kami tidak mahu letakkan tekanan ke atas pemain kerana kejohanan ini (SOJC) akan menjadi kejohanan pertama buat skuad remaja.
"Apa yang pasti, kami mahukan mereka melakukan yang terbaik setiap kali turun ke gelanggang.
"Sejak kejohanan itu diperkenalkan pada 2011, pasukan remaja kebangsaan muncul juara, namun hanya menduduki ranking keenam pada 2012 sebelum muncul naib juara tahun lalu.
Begitupun, beliau mengharapkan tiga pemain berpengalaman Meor Muhamed Azuan Hasan,19, Muhammad Shahril Saabah, 19, dan Muhd Haziq Samsul, 20, yang berada dalam skuad Piala Dunia tahun lalu mampu membantu pasukan kali ini.
Mirnawan berkata, pemain remaja yang ke Belfast perlu menunjukkan prestasi terbaik untuk tersenarai dalam senarai akhir 18 pemain, manakala bagi Meor Muhamed Azuan dan Muhammad Shahril pula, prestasi di Sukan Asia menjadi penentu.
"Saya pasti dengan kehadiran tiga pemain ini, pasukan ini akan tampil dengan penuh yakin serta diiringi moral yang tinggi.
"Ketika ini, Meor Muhamed Azuan dan Muhammad Shahril akan bersama skuad senior ke Sukan Asia, manakala Muhd Haziq kembali berlatih bersama skuad remaja selepas tidak terpilih ke temasya itu," kata Mirnawan lagi.
Beliau berkata, latihan pusat bagi skuad remaja kebangsaan akan bermula 2 September ini.
The Sultan Of Johor Cup is one of the most sought after tournaments at junior level and it has received international acclaim since its inception in 2011.
With it gaining reputation the 4th edition of the tournament, which will run from Oct 12-19, has received RM 1,710,000 in sponsorship to date
The sponsorship pledges were handed over today to the Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim together in the presence of Malaysian Hockey Confederation President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Johor Menteri Besar Dato Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin at its official launch.
Johor Hockey Association Deputy President, Manjit Majid Abdullah said “The status of the tournament has been increasing yearly and many teams are eager to participate in this tournament, but we have limited the entry to only six teams as we want the tournament to be played at the highest possible standard,”
India will be back to defend their title, alongside debutants Great Britain, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Malaysia.
The SOJC stands as the platform for the under 21 teams around the globe to showcase their talent once a year and most of the teams use the tournament as part of their preparation for the coming Junior World Cup.
As for the Asian countries, the SOJC will play an important part in their road towards preparing for the 2015 Junior Asia Cup which will be held in Kuantan next year as it serves as a qualifier for the 2016 Junior World Cup in India.
“This tournament was developed to help the junior squad and as part of preparation heading towards a big event such as the Junior Asia Cup and Junior World Cup, as they need to have quality matches to see where they stand and this is the best place for the youngsters to showcase their talent and prove their worth,”.
Without a doubt the first three years of tournament proved to be fruitful for the Malaysian junior squad as they went on to finish fourth at last year Junior World Cup in India.
With most teams looking forward to the 2016 Junior World Cup, the 4th edition of the SOJC will be their first real test to see where they stand.
- Kerajaan Negeri Johor : RM 500,000,00
- Astaka Padu: RM 200,000,00
- JBB Builder: RM 100,000,00
- Astro: 50,000,00
- UniKL: RM 40,000,00
- DRB Hicom: RM 50,000,00
- Majlis Sukan Negara: RM 100,000,00
- Angkatan Tentera Malaysia: RM 10,000,00
- Genting Berhad: 50,000,00
- UM Land: 100,000,00
- Khazanah Nasional Berhad: RM 100,000,00
- Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd: RM 100,000,00
- Atlan Holdings Berhad: RM 50,000,00
- Tenaga Nasional Berhad: RM 100,000,00
- SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd: RM 50,000,00
- BCB Berhad: RM 10,000,00
- Johor Corporation: RM 100,000,00
Seven games in Belfast, Northern Ireland from 14 – 27 September will prove to be the first test for our national junior squad before they go up against the big guns in the 4th edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup in October.
National Juniors team manager Mirnawan Nawawi said that the matches in Ireland will be the platform for the players to perform and prove themselves and from there they will narrow the team down to 18 players which will go on to do battle in the SOJC.
“We don’t have enough time on out hands to prepare the squad for the SOJC as the boys were busy with the Division One of the Malaysian Hockey League early this year and the recent Razak Cup. As such the seven games that we have arranged in Belfast will be vital for the coaches and players,”
The seven matches scheduled in Belfast are against teams that feature in their local national league and the final 18 players who will represent Malaysia at the SOJC will then be named on September 27.
However, Mirnawan made it clear that there is no specific target set for the team this time around as the squad was only formed last April.
“We do not want to place any pressure on the players for this tournament as it will only be their first tournament together as a team.
“The main aim is to go out there and do their best in each and every match and from there we can work our way up,” said Mirnawan.
Since the inception of the SOJC in 2011, Malaysia emerged as champions at the inaugural edition, but in 2012 they finished at the bottom of the pack before finishing as runners up last year.
Mirnawan expects three of his experienced players Meor Azuan Muhamad Hasan (19), Muhammad Shahril Saabah (19), and Muhammad Haziq Samsul (20) who were in the 2013 Junior World Cup squad to help steer the team to success.
"I am sure their presence will play an important role. Currently, Meor and Shahril is with the national squad who are preparing for the Asian Games while Haziq will return to the Junior squad after being axed from the Asian team squad.
The junior squad will resume full training in September.
India defeated Malaysia 3-0 to win the 3rd Sultan of Johor cup at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru. India who lost the final were deserving winners on a day Malaysia failed to find the spark that had seen them make the final with relative ease.
Korea secured fifth spot in the 3rd Sultan of Johor Cup by hammering England 6-0 at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.
Korea opened scoring in the 6th minute through Seo In Woo. And they doubled their advantage in the 18th minute as You Seung Ju converted a penalty corner that gave England keeper Thomas Jolyon no chance whatsoever.
England had a chance to reduce the deficit as Stanley French created spacre in the semi circle in the 24th minute but skied his shot.
In Woo showed splendid skills to ghost past three defenders before pushing the ball past Jolyon in the 28th minute to make it 3-0 for Korea.
Korea did not ease up with the 3-0 lead, bearing in mind they had lost 4-3 after taking a 3-0 lead in the final preliminary round match.
You Seung Ju converted a penalty corner in the 44th minute to make it 4-0 while You Min Young scored the fifth in the 58th minute, his shot squeezing in beteen the post and Thomas in England's goal.
Ji Woo Cheon then got into the scoring act by scoring Korea's sixth in the 62nd minute.
Malaysia held India to a 3-3 in their last preliminary match at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium. But the result was of academic interest since they will play each other in Sunday's final.
Both the teams lacked urgency as they already qualified for Sunday's final, hence they did not go all out in the match, with Malaysia fielded several players who had not seen much action in earlier matches.
Still it was a great fightback from Malaysia who were 2-0 down at halftime to race to a 3-2 lead only to concede a goal in the final minute.
"We wanted to give ou fringe players a run out and prove their ability hence the decision not to play the full team in this match," said team manager Mirnawan Nawawi.
"The final will be a different proposition altogether as we will give it our best. We tried out some tactics today that we may use in the final.
"All players are injury free and we are raring to go. Having won the 2011 edition, we obviously want to win the trophy and go to the Junior World Cup with confidence."
As for India, they are hoping to win the title after failing to do so against Germany in last years final which they lost 3-2.
"We were close last year and hope this time around we will be able to hoist the trophy. Read nothing into the performance today as both teams were going through their motions," said Indian team manager Baljit Singh Saini.
"It will be a close final as Malaysia are a very good side and will have the entire stadium cheering them on. We will plan the right tactics to overcome the,"
India took the lead in the 10th minute wjhen Satbir Sing slammed in a penalty corner rebound after the initial attempt by Amit Rohidass was palmed away into the path of Satbir by Malaysian keeper Mohd Hazrul Ahmad Sobri.
Malaysia were awarded a penalty corner in the 25th minute but failed to make a stop and the opportunity was wasted.
And after withstanding the Malaysian pressure, India struck for the second time in the 33rd minute as Ramandeep Singh drew out keeper Hazrul before sending the ball into the roof of the net.
Malaysia reduced the deficit in the 61st minute when Shahril Saabah converted a penalty corner, his seventh goal in the tournament, the same as Pakistan's Muhammad Dilber.
And three minutes later Rashid Baharom latched on to a through pass from Fitrii Saari to send a high flick into the top net with Harjot singh beaten at the near post.
Shahril scored for Malaysia in the 68th minute to make it 3-2 only for Yousof Affn to equalise in the final minute.
Pakistan strolled to a comfortable 4-1 win over Argentina at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.
And both the teams are to battle it again for the bronze medal on Sunday as Pakistan finished third in the standings with Argentina fourth.
“The scoreline is flattering but I think Argentina did not go all out and neither did we as we lay each other again to determine the bronze,” said Pakistan coach Manzoorul Hassan.
“We had set a podium finish target and god willing we hope to achieve it. It has been a valuable learning lesson for us and hopefully we continue to improve over the next few months.”
Pakistan took an early lead in the 6th minute when Ahmad Shakeel Butt converted a penalty corner.
And in the 14th minute Pakistan scored their second as Muhammad Dibler sent in a cross from the left that Muhammad Arslan Qadir tapped into goal with Argentina keeper Tomas Matias caught in no mans land.
Argentina were awarded four penalty corners in the 10th, 16th, 18th and 20th minute but not once did they force Pakistani keeper Amin Yusof into making a save.
Pakistan got their third in the 31st minute as Dilber’s reverse stick hit from the top of the semi circle had Tomas beaten all the way.
A minute later Dilber was on target again as he deflected a cross by Shakeel into goal for a 4-0 lead.
Argentina reduced the deficit in the 47th minute when Matias Eduardo converted a penalty corner.