Lucknow (8 December, 2016): After three days of good rest and having acclimatized to the cold weather conditions, the Malaysian juniors are set for their biggest test in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016 against Netherlands on Friday at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium here.
National juniors’ captain, Muhammad Najib Abu Hassan, views Malaysia’s participation in the Lucknow Junior World Cup as a great chance to do right what went wrong in Kuantan during the Junior Asia Cup qualifier.
And his strong words of motivation to the players ring loud and clear.
“We came here as underdogs. Don’t think of any pressure as there is none. Believe in your own skills and put into your game complete passion and commitment against the Dutch. Show that to everyone on the field and we may get a positive result,” he said while watching six-time champions Germany defeat Spain 2-1 and New Zealand post a 1-0 win over Japan in the events Group C opening matches today.
“The Dutch know little or maybe nothing of us and neither have we played against them in the past so we are going into the match taking a very cautious approach.
“Our structure will depend on their approach and we aim to build it from there. We cannot afford to play an open game and need to check on this early in the match,” he added.
The Malaysians open their Group B campaign against Netherlands at 8pm local time (10.30pm Malaysian time) in chilly conditions with temperatures dipping below 20 degrees Celsius, and play Egypt (Dec 11) and Belgium next on Dec 12. Only the top two teams in each group will advance to the Dec 14 quarterfinals.
However, Najib is confident they have overcome the situation by wearing more warm clothes underneath as they did during Wednesday’s training session at the main stadium.
“Most of the players are pretty used to cold weather having played in similar situations in Japan, New Zealand and Australia before. It gets a little bit foggy at time and that is my concern. Hopefully it won’t get any worse than this,” said Najib.
Malaysia, who accepted a late invitation by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to replace Pakistan, has produced some strong performances in previous editions of the Junior World Cup. The majority of the players in the team competed in the recent Sultan of Johor Cup, where Malaysia finished in fifth place. The team ended the competition with two successive victories over New Zealand, and will be aiming to continue that winning streak here.
Fixtures (9 Dec, 2016):
Group A: Australia v Korea; Argentina v Austria.
Group B: Belgium v Egypt; Malaysia v Netherlands
Group C: Spain v Japan; New Zealand v Germany