Pleas­ant headache for Dhar­maraj

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WITH 25 days to the World League (WL) Semi­fi­nals in Bel­gium, na­tional women’s coach K. Dhar­maraj has 16 play­ers on his mind.

Two more slots is a pleas­ant headache, as a group of play­ers are fight­ing tooth-and-nail for the chance to play in Bel­gium on June 21-July 2.

Malaysia’s 18-mem­ber women’s team will be mak­ing their de­but in the WL Semi­fi­nals af­ter a ster­ling show in WL Round Two where they snatched the sil­ver medal from the jaws of Italy, whom they beat in a shootout in the semi-fi­nals in Kuala Lumpur.

Italy are ranked 16th while Malaysia are 22nd in the world.

Dhar­maraj and his charges, who are the low­est ranked team in Bel­gium, will at­tempt an­other mam­moth task of try­ing to qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup by fin­ish­ing in the sev­enth-eighth bracket in Bel­gium.

“I have the play­ers in mind, but the last two slots are dif­fi­cult to fill not be­cause I don’t have the play­ers but be­cause a group of them are al­most of the same stan­dard and have been train­ing and play­ing hard to make the grade.

“This is what I wanted, as I need fight­ers to make an im­pact in the World League (Semi­fi­nals),” said Dhar­maraj.

The women have been spar­ring with the Bukit Jalil Sports School girls and boys teams in the evenings, while morn­ings are re­served for fit­ness.

In the WL Semi­fi­nals, Malaysia are in Group B and will open ac­counts against Aus­tralia on June 21, fol­lowed by Spain (June 22), Bel­gium (June 24) and New Zealand (June 27).

“We need to beat one team in the group stage, and our chances of qual­i­fy­ing for our first World Cup will open up.

“I be­lieve eight teams (all the quar­ter-fi­nal­ists) from this tour­na­ment will make the cut to play in the World Cup in London,” said Dhrmaraj.

This is be­cause of dou­ble qual­i­fi­ca­tion in con­ti­nen­tal tour­na­ments will open doors to more than just the semi-fi­nal­ists.

Group A: China (8th), South Korea (9th), Nether­lands (1st), Italy (16th), Scot­land (17th).

Group B: Aus­tralia (4th), Bel­gium (14th), New Zealand (5th), Spain (10th), Malaysia (22nd).

Note: World rank­ings in brack­ets. Jug­jet Singh

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