India to face Malaysia in opening match of Sultan of Johor Cup

The Indian team, led by the talented Mandeep Mor, will look to start the prestigious tournament on a winning note.

After Malaysia, India will play New Zealand on Sunday and Japan on October 9, before clashing with defending champion Australia on October 10 and Great Britain on October 12. (Representational Image)   -  Getty Images

Eyes firmly set on gold, last year’s bronze medallist India will take on host Malaysia in the opening match of the eighth Sultan of Johor Cup junior hockey tournament, here, on Saturday. The team, led by the talented Mandeep Mor, will look to start the prestigious tournament on a winning note.

“It is always important to begin the tournament with a win as it boosts the confidence and motivates the team to build on their performance as the event progresses,” said coach Jude Felix.

“But, having said that, many players will also be playing their first international match and they must shake off the initial jitters to play their natural game.”

In the previous edition, India had beaten Malaysia 2-1 in a closely fought round-robin match. But, in the bronze medal clash, India had improved its performance by leaps and bounds to beat the hosts convincingly by a 4-0 margin.

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“Playing the hosts in the first match is never easy because of the home support. But, I am confident if these boys play their natural game, we should do well,” said a confident Felix.

After Malaysia, India will play New Zealand on Sunday and Japan on October 9, before clashing with defending champion Australia on October 10 and Great Britain on October 12.

“According to me, it’s never about who we play, but how well we play, and we will go into the tournament with the mindset to play our best hockey,” Felix said.

“We have prepared well for this tournament and the players are certainly looking forward to the first match, from there on we will take one match at a time,” he added.