Japan’s chief coach Siegfried Aikman on Tuesday said that the upcoming Sultan Azlan Shah Cup will be a platform for the team to test where they stand in international hockey ahead of this year’s big ticket events.
Ranked 18th in the world, for Japan, the Azlan Shah Cup will be a great opportunity to tune up for this year’s important tournaments like the Hockey Series finals, and the Olympic qualifier, later in the year.
“We are in a very positive phase since the last two years. The team mood is optimistic. For us, the Azlan Shah is a very prestigious tournament and a great platform to see where we stand in international hockey,” Siegfried told The Dragflick.
Japan has played at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup only thrice, first in 1987, where they finished 6th, second in 2016, where they finished 7th and third in 2017, where they finished sixth, respectively.
The squad to be led by the highly experienced Manabu Yamashita (168 caps), includes 14 players from last year’s Asian Games-winning side, and 2 very talented young players, out of which one will make his senior debut at the Azlan Shah Cup.
“We are bringing a competitive team to the tournament. They are a mix of experienced and young players. The players are now mentally strong and confident, coming off last year’s spectacular Asian games gold medal victory,” Siegfried stated.
Asked about Japan’s chances to reach the podium, the Dutchman said that the team is ready to fight to reach the finals and there is nothing they are really afraid of.
“Well, we always play to win and we hope to reach the finals, just like all the other teams. So, we will try to do everything to achieve our goal,” said Siegfried.
Japan will begin their Azlan Shah Cup campaign against India on March 23rd, 2019.