05/12/2023 12:41 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 (Bernama) -- Can the Young Tigers rise to the occasion and clinch a place on the podium to create history by winning the Junior World Cup (JWC) for the first time in the 44-year history of the tournment as the 2023 edition kicks off at the National Hockey Stdium in Bukit Jalil tomorrow?

 Malaysia’s best ever finish in the tournament was a fourth place finish in three editions, namely the inaugural tournament in 1979 held in France, 1982 in Kuala Lumpur and 2013 in India, while the Young Tigers failed to get past the quarterfinal stage in the previous edition.

Going into the tournament as a well prepared team and supported by home ground advantage, local fans will certainly be rooting for the Young Tigers to roar past their opponents and provide stiff competition to the world powers in hockey throughout the competition to finish on the podium.

However, the recent below-par performance of the Young Tigers during the Sultan Of Johor Cup (SOJC) competition last month has certainly raised concerns among hockey lovers in the country, especially after having been drawn in the ‘group of death’ which features defending champion Argentina, 1997 champions Australia and Chile.

Drawn in Group A, the Young Tigers under Muhamad Amin Rahim will open their campaign against Chile tomorrow and face Argentina on Wed (Dec 6) and end the group fixtures against Australia on Dec 8, at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. 

On paper, Malaysia who are ranked world number eight (8), are not expected to face a tough resistence against Chile who are ranked (20th), but one cannot look down on the Chile team’s ability since Malaysia had managed only a 2-1 win during the encounter at the 2021 edition held in Bhubaneswar, India.

Winning the first match is very important, not only for the three points at stake, but a win for the Young Tigers will certainly boost their confidence and serve as a motivation when facing defending champion Argentina and powerhouse in hockey, Australia, later.

Argentina will come into the tournament as the firm favourite after having won the men’s Pan American Junior Championship in April but the Junior World Cup has always been a different ball game for even the powers of hockey in the world.

Facing Argentina will naturally be an uphill task but not impossible to register a win since the Young Tigers have registered a 2-1 win during the SOJC in 2015. 

Meanwhile, Australia, ranked one place behind the Young Tigers, did not display their full potential when emerging as runner-up in the 2023 SOJC last month while Malaysia only managed seventh spot in the competition that featured eight teams.

The Aussies under the guidance of Ben Bishop are here with the same team that featured in the 2023 SOJC recently.

The head-to-head record between Malaysia and Australia tilts in favour of the Aussies after the Young Tigers have only managed to win six and draw one game during 22 matches played since 1956. 

Past records aside, the confidence of the Young Tigers was given a timely boost after beating hockey giants India 1-0 in their final tune up friendly match yesterday. 

Coach Muhamad Amin did not make any significant change to the squad that played in the SOJC 2023, since only defender Muhammad Alief Adha Akhbar was replaced by midfielder Muhammad Addy Jazmi Jamlus.

The SOJC 2023 must serve as a learning curve for the players to not repeat their below-par performance, especially in the prestigious JWC, as any minor mistakes will be punished by their opponents. 

Muhamad Amin has understandably revised his strategies and game plan and coupled with penalty corner specialist Chris Ciriello from Australian giving his input, the Young Tigers will not be short of amunition to gun down their opponents when they start their campaign tomorrow.





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