National juniors team manager I. Vikneswaran reckons the 11th edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup will be a litmus test for the young tigers as they gear up for the task ahead against formidable teams.

“There is no looking back. We have very strong teams competing in the SOJC and the experience and exposure here is going to benefit the players ahead of the World Cup in December,” said Vickneswaran.

“The players will have to play their best games and push New Zealand to their limit in their opening match. It is a highly competitive tournament with seven of the eight teams competing here will feature in the Junior World Cup in December at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

“The experience will be immense for all the teams,” added Vickneswaran. “A good performance for us in SOJC is what we are looking at which will boost our confidence level as we move forward.”

“The European tour was a success and the players also had a good outing in the Junior Asia Cup in Oman. In terms of experience and exposure, the team is on the right track,” he added.

The Malaysians, who won the inaugural tournament in 2011, are drawn in Group B alongside reigning Asian Junior Cup champions and 2022 SOJC Cup winner India, Pakistan and New Zealand. Coach Amin Rahim’s team will play the Indians on Oct 28 and conclude their fixtures against Pakistan on Oct 31.

Two other matches are also scheduled on the opening day fixtures. The Indians will renew their rivalry against Pakistan while former champions Australia and Great Britain will rough it out in Group A.

For the record, the Malaysian juniors lost 6-2 against Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Junior Asia Cup in Oman and subsequently ended their foray in fourth position after going down 2-1 to South Korea in the bronze-medal playoff.

The Kiwis are making their seventh appearance in the tournament and hope to break the ice this time and win the title for the first time. Their best finish in the tournament was fourth place achieved in 2014 

The young tigers also played a friendly match against three-time champions Great Britain in a time-shortened encounter on Wednesday that ended in a 3-3 draw.

“We were down 2-0 in the first quarter but led 3-2 in the fourth quarter before allowing GB to equalize in the last minute. It was a good game for both sides. Overall, we were equal to the task in pressing forward and in defence,” said Vickneswaran.