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Coach Stephen wants his men to be competitive in Ipoh

National hockey coach Stephen van Huizen has called on his players to raise their game when they face higher-ranked teams in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which begins in Ipoh tomorrow.

The other sides in the six-team competition are world No. 2 and defending champions Australia, world No. 6 India, world No. 7 Britain, world No. 8 New Zealand and world No. 16 Japan.

Only Japan are ranked lower than Malaysia (world No. 14).

“We need to be competitive … after the Asian Champions Trophy last year, we are playing teams ranked higher than us. It’s a chance for us to gauge where we stand in our preparations for World Hockey League Round Semi-Finals.

“All the teams will try to do well and boost their confidence. If we can get good results, then the team will have good dose of confidence as well,” said Stephen, who agreed that Australia and India will start as the early favourites for the title.

“Australia and India have a good pool of players, so they can try out any combinations they want.

“As hosts of the World Cup, India do not need to worry too much about the World Hockey League Semi-Finals.

“They are automatic qualifiers (for the World Cup). They can experiment … but their squad, even the juniors, are very well exposed.

“They are Junior World Cup winners. Holding the Indian Premier League (IPL) has also helped the younger players to gain confidence.”

– Courtesy of The Star