MALAYSIA should cruise into the semi-finals of the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca on May 3-13, judging from the groupings released by the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) yesterday.
Malaysia are in Group A with South Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and Iran while India, Pakistan, China and Bangladesh make up Group B.
Project 2013 coach K. Dharmaraj said the team should have no problem advancing to the semi-finals.
"We only have to beat Japan, Sri Lanka and Iran and should be in the semi-finals with a match to spare against South Korea," said Dharmaraj, who has set his mind on winning the gold medal in Malacca.
As hosts, defending champions India have already qualified for the Junior World Cup next year.
Dharmaraj's boys will play a series of matches against Pakistan and South Korea starting on April 5, and their last tune-up will be against an Australian club side.
"There is no use targeting anything lower than the gold medal as we must make the World Cup. The Korean and Pakistan teams will be down for friendlies and I will use all 35 players I have in training to give every player a chance to prove himself before naming the final squad."
Meanwhile, the AHF has yet to get confirmation from the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on how many teams from the Junior Asia Cup will be given berths in the World Cup.
"I will be in Barcelona this weekend to attend a FIH meeting and should get confirmation from the parent body on how many teams from the Asia Cup will make a direct entry into the World Cup.
"As India are automatic qualifiers, AHF will propose to the FIH to give our tournament three tickets to the World Cup," said AHF secretary general Tan Sri P. Alagendra.