KUALA LUMPUR: National men’s hockey head coach A. Arul Selvaraj (pix) is proud of the commitment and determination shown by his players (Speedy Tigers) to create history by winning the gold medal at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games in China.

Arul said every player in the squad remains focused and united in setting the goal for the Asian Games - to finish at the highest stage on the podium - and end the country’s wait for such a honour since the inception of the Games in Tokyo back in 1958.

“I am proud because they (players) have openly spoken to the press that they want to win the gold. They believe they can win and that made me more calm.

“Whenever, I speak to the players, never have they spoken about qualifying for the Olympics, because their focus is only on winning the gold medal at the Asian Games. For me personally I want to take the national team to the Olympics,” he told reporters when met after a training session ahead of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games, here today.

In the Asian Games, Malaysia have been drawn in Group B together with host country, China, Indonesia, South Korea, Oman and Thailand while defending champion Japan, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Singapore and Uzbekistan make up Group A.

The Speedy Tigers will open their Asian Games campaign against Thailand on Sept 24, followed by Oman (Sept 26), Indonesia (Sept 28), South Korea (Sept 30) and complete their group fixtures against China on Oct 2.

Only the winner and runner-up from each group qualify for the semifinals while the gold medal winner will earn an automatic ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“My approach is that every match is a final. On paper, the first three games might look easy but if don’t prepare mentally to go out and win it might be difficult for us,” he said.

In every match, players must take advantage of the penalty corners and convert every opportunity that come our way, so that we can build the momentum for tougher matches ahead.

Meanwhile, National Team Management Committee chairman Datuk Najmi Razak announced that the men’s and women’s squads for the Asian Games will comprise 18 players each, with both squads parading seven players who represented the country at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

He added that striker Hanis Nadiah Onn will return to the squad after serving a suspension for her comments that stirred racial sentiments in the social media.

The Malaysian Tigress are drawn in Group A with India, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore while the team coached by Mohd Nasihin Nubli Ibrahim open their campaign against Hong Kong on Sept 25, followed by India on Sept 29, Singapore (Oct 1) and South Korea (Oct 3). -Bernama

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