KUALA LUMPUR – Captain of the national men’s hockey squad Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib is optimistic that the Malaysian Tigers squad will surprise Great Britain in the final qualifying round for the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.
Malaysia which went to 11th place in world ranking on Sunday had a hard time when it drew to meet the three-time Olympic gold medalist compared to other countries like Spain, New Zealand and Canada at the draw in Switzerland last night.
Besides the daunting match against a strong team, the national players will also have to deal with a time difference of seven hours and the start of winter when they play at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London on Nov 2 and 3, when the temperature could fall below 15 degrees Celsius.
However, Sukri wants his team to continue with the strong performance they showed during the Europe Tour last month when the Malaysian Tigers tied England 3-3 and improved on their weaknesses.
The Great Britain team will be featured by players from world number seven England, Wales (18) and Scotland (19).
“We have positive aspects which we can inculcate in our team. Before head coach Roelant Oltmans took over, we were struggling to meet European teams, especially Great Britain, but this year we were able to close the gap with England.
“I feel we have begun to understand the game structure which Roelant uses. I am confident we will repeat our achievement when we qualified for the 2018 World Cup on merit in London (through the semi-finals of the World Hockey League) this time,” he said.
Sukri praised young players like Muhammad Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal and Muhammad Noor Firdaus Rosdi who showed good performance when they were brought in to take over from the main players who suffered injuries.
Roelant said he did not want to think too much of the previous record of games, but will focus on creating a new history.
“We know what to do and have about a month-and-a-half to prepare. Great Britain is a fantastic team, but every great team will have some areas where we can make use of, that is what we have to look after now.
“We played lately in Four Nations tournament in Spain and I have seen them playing at the European Championship. So we have a lot of information to do homework and prepare ourselves as good as possible.
“I and the players believe in the chances we have. If we do not believe, it is better for us not to compete there, just stay at home. I think there won’t be many changes from the England team, only about three key players from Scotland and Wales might be called, including Scottish forward Alan Forsyth,” he said.
The national squad will leave for South Korea on Sept 19 and will leave for Europe two weeks early before the qualifying games for warm-up against any team such as France, Spain, Germany or Netherlands.