Jiwa urges Speedy Tigers to make their caps count in Olympic Qualifier

KUALA LUMPUR: With the highest number of caps, the Speedy Tigers should stand out as one of the favourites in the Olympic qualifier in Muscat, Oman, starting Monday.

The 18 players in A. Arul Selvaraj's squad boast a collective total of 2,253 caps.

Leading the count is penalty corner specialist Razie Rahim, 36, with an impressive record of 325 appearances for Malaysia, closely followed by captain Marhan Jalil with 297.

The second most capped team are Britain with 1,919 caps, followed by world champions Germany (1,826 caps), New Zealand (1,614), Canada (1,598), Chile (875), Pakistan (503), and China (337).

The Speedy Tigers will open their Group A campaign against the 23rd-ranked China, the most inexperienced team in the qualifier, on Monday.

World No. 12 Malaysia will complete their group stage matches against No. 4 Britain on Tuesday and No. 16 Pakistan on Thursday.

Germany, Canada, Chile and New Zealand are in Group B.

The top three teams in Muscat will qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Former national player Jiwa Mohan said although Malaysia are the most experienced team based on caps, it does not guarantee an easy path to qualification for the Olympics.

"Unfortunately, it does not work like that. All eight teams in Muscat will be well-prepared to win the Paris Olympic spots.

"Our players must use their experience as an advantage and go all out to end Malaysia's Olympic wait.

"Nothing will be easy. Malaysia must apply effective strategies and execute them well in every game.

"They must first focus on finishing in the top two of their group to reach the semi-finals."

Jiwa was a member of Malaysia's 2000 Sydney Games squad — the last time the country qualified for the Olympics in hockey.

For the record, Malaysia have made nine appearances in the Olympics but were absent from the last five editions.

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