Tuesday February 12, 2013
New Zealand likely to fly in earlier for friendlies
KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champions New Zealand will arrive early for this year’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament and play two matches with the national hockey team in Kuala Lumpur.
This year’s tournament will be a six-nation affair and will be held in Ipoh from March 9-17.
The other teams in the fray are hosts Malaysia, Australia, India, Pakistan and South Korea.
“We have fixed Feb 24 and Feb 25 for the two matches against the Kiwis, who are scheduled to arrive on Feb 20. But since the duration of the Azlan Shah Cup tournament has shortened due to the fewer number of teams, we are awaiting New Zealand to reconfirm their arrival date and plans for the two matches,” said national team manager George Koshy.
Malaysia are seeking to play as many matches as possible in their preparation for the World League semi-finals, which will be held in Johor Baru in June.
Malaysian are currently playing in a three-match Test series with Ireland at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. They won the first Test 4-2 on Sunday. The third test will be played tomorrow.
George said that they would use the New Zealand matches as the final selection ground for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
Malaysia will open their Sultan Azlan Shah campaign against South Korea, followed by matches against New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan and India.
Meanwhile, the national team goalkeepers are under going specialised training until Feb 16.
Dutchman Martijn Drijver, the goalkeeping specialist coach, arrived here last Friday and has had two training sessions with the goalkeepers – Roslan Jamaluddin, Khairulnizam Ibrahim and Mohd Hazrul Faiz.
Only S. Kumar is not with the team as he is playing in the India Hockey League. He is expected to be back in the next few days.
Koshy said that the goalkeepers in the Project 2013 squad are also part of the group training under Drijver.
The Dutchman first worked with the Malaysians prior to the Champions Challenge in Argentina last November and also joined the national squad at the tournament proper.