Young Speedy Tigers set semi-final target for Nations Cup

KUALA LUMPUR: Teenager T. Naaveennash Panicker is among six players shortlisted for the Nations Cup in Gniezno, Poland, from May 31-June 9.

National hockey coach Sarjit Singh will trim his 20-member squad to 18 players for the Nations Cup after friendly matches against New Zealand on May 27 and South Africa on May 29 in Poland.

Naaveennash, 19, however, is expected to earn his first cap with Speedy Tigers in the tournament.

The other newcomers shortlisted are Nur Rahull Hrsikesa Thaitchana Muruthi, Syawal Abdul Razak, Faris Harizan, Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin and Arif Syafie Ishak.

Malaysia's first mission in the Nations Cup is to reach the semi-finals.

It will be Malaysia's second major assignment this year. At the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, the team finished fourth.

World No. 13 Malaysia are in Group B with No. 9 France, No. 16 Pakistan and No. 20 Canada.

Group A comprises Austria, South Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and Poland. The champions will qualify for the FIH Pro League.

Team manager Datuk Ahmad Najmi Abdul Razak hopes to see healthy competition between the players to seal their spots in the final-18 for the Nations Cup.

"The Nations will challenging, and I hope to see some newcomers making the final squad," said Najmi.

Sarjit wants his players to show fighting spirit during the tournament.

"We are rebuilding the team for the future, and our first task is to reach the semi-finals in Poland," said Sarjit.

Malaysia will open their campaign against Pakistan on May 31, followed by matches against France (June 2) and Canada (June 5).

Training squad:

Goalkeepers: Hafizuddin Othman, Zaimai Mat Deris;

Defenders: Marhan Jalil (captain), Syed Syafiq Syed Cholan, Amirul Hamizan Azhar, Najib Abu Hassan, Faris Harizan, Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin, Arif Syafie Ishak;

Midfielders: Fitri Saari, Nik Aiman Nik Rozemi, Shello Silverius, Azimuddin Syakir Kamaruddin, Syawal Abdul Razak;

Forwards: Faizal Saari, Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal, Akhimullah Anuar Esook, Muhajir Abdu Rauf, T. Naaveennash Panicker, Nur Rahull Hrsikesa Thaitchana Muruthi.

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