The more the merrier.
Defending champions New Zealand are not intimidated and have called on fans to come in droves to watch their opening match against Malaysia in the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup at the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Stadium on Wednesday.
New Zealand team manager Dean Couzins said he would love to see a full crowd at the 10,000-capacity stadium.
“I believe a full stadium will spur my players and raise their game a notch higher. An NZ-Malaysia match is always a touch-and-go affair,” said Couzins.
The two sides met four times in Malaysia’s tour of New Zealand last month. The Kiwis recorded two wins (4-1 and 4-2), one loss (3-2) and one draw (0-0).
Said Couzins: “We are looking forward to a winning start. But we know each other so well, so I’m expecting a tough match.”
Unlike Malaysia, the Kiwis are preparing for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
As part of their run-up to the Games, world No. 8 New Zealand have brought a vastly-experienced line-up.
The Black Sticks have recalled veteran midfielder Shea McAleese, whose last appearance was at the World League Semi-Final in Argentina last year.
Besides the 221-cap McAleese, New Zealand have also included Ryan Archibald (306 caps), captain Simon Child (253), Arun Panchia (176), Bradley Shaw (172) and Hugo Inglis (165).
“We do have some younger players coming through the ranks like midfielder Hayden Phillips. He will be making his senior debut in this tournament,” added Couzins.
The Kiwis have twice won the Ipoh tournament. They were champions in 2012 and last year when they beat Australia 3-1 in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw.
Malaysia have never won the tournament but finished runners-up on five occasions.
– Story courtesy of The Star