Not impossible for Malaysia to reach Junior Hockey World Cup quarterfinals, says Stephen van Huizen

This year’s men’s Junior World Cup, which starts tomorrow till Dec 16, sees former national hockey captain Stephen van Huizen come full circle.

Van Huizen, who also coached the national team, was a member of the 1979 squad that finished fourth in the first Junior World Cup in Versailles, 44km from Paris, France, before going on to represent Malaysia in the Asian Games, Olympics and World Cup.

For this year’s Junior World Cup, van Huizen is the team’s consultant to coach Amin Rahim, one of his former charges when he was the national coach.

“We could not have asked for a harder group than the one we are in, as we have Australia, Chile and defending champion Argentina,” said van Huizen, roped in to help the juniors in May.

“However, this is the World Cup, and there is no easy group as we could have faced teams like Germany, Netherlands, Belgium or India.

“Argentina and Australia are the favourites to qualify, but we need to use our home-ground advantage when we face them later in the tournament.”

Malaysia opens its campaign against Chile on Tuesday before taking on Argentina on Wednesday and Australia on Friday.

The match against the Aussies could be a make-or-break one for junior tigers, and van Huizen said he expects a bumper crowd at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

“We will not take Chile lightly, even though they are ranked lower than us. It is the World Cup, and everyone will want to do well,” said van Huizen, who turned 65 in September.

“If we can get three points, that will set us up nicely for the match against Argentina before the crunch tie against the Aussies.

“Friday is also the Malaysia Cup final, and to avoid the football crowd, the matches are starting early. I hope to see some football fans who arrive early come to the hockey stadium to cheer for the team, especially as the entrance is free.”

Van Huizen added that he has seen vast improvement in the team over the past seven months.

“The players were inconsistent – they will be great for the first two periods, then struggle in the next two,” he said.

“Amin has been working on rectifying this weakness. We have trained hard for the tournament, and I believe we can achieve our first target of finishing in the top two.”

Three Malaysians, an umpire, the umpires’ manager, and one technical official will be involved in the tournament.

Nazmi Kamarudin will be the man in the middle as he blows in his first World Cup, but he will have Ravinderpal Singh to call on for advice.

Completing the Malaysian connection is Nesan Poologasingam, who was also a technical officer in the Women’s Junior World Cup in South Africa a year ago.

Malaysian squad

Goalkeepers: Rafaizul Sani, Danish Afnan Faizal.

Defenders: Azmilmuizzuddin Misron, Ahmad Suhaimi Kamaruddin, Wan Najmie Ahmad, Andywalfian Jeffrynus, Faris Harizan (captain), Khairul Norizam.

Midfielders: Alfarico Lance Liau, Danish Aiman, Adam Ashraf, Danish Danial, Mughni Kamal.

Forwards: Shamir Rizmi Shamsul, Che Nur Aqilrullah, Harris Iskandar Osman, Shafiq Ikhmal Daniel, Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi.

Pool A: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Malaysia

Pool B: Egypt, France, Germany, South Africa

Pool C: Canada, India, South Korea, Spain

Pool D: Belgium, New Zealand, Netherlands, Pakistan

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