Time run­ning out for Malaysia

New Straits Times - - Sport -

JUST over a month to go be­fore they face the matches of their lives but the na­tional hockey team are half-baked. And judg­ing from the way Malaysia have been play­ing in the Sul­tan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, they will not qual­ify for the 2018 World Cup in In­dia, un­less there is a ma­jor change in at­ti­tude.

Stephen van Huizen’s men blew hot-and-cold when they drew 1-1 with Ja­pan, lost 6-1 to Aus­tralia and 1-0 to both Bri­tain and New Zealand.

Doomed to play in the fifth­sixth plac­ing to­mor­row, Malaysia com­plete their fixtures against In­dia to­day.

In the World League Semi-fi­nals in Lon­don on June 15-25, Malaysia are in Group A with Olympic cham­pi­ons and World No 1 Ar­gentina, Eng­land, South Korea and China.

Group B has In­dia, Pak­istan, Scot­land, Nether­lands and Canada.

In Lon­don, Malaysia must fin­ish top-four in the group stage to play in the quar­ter-fi­nals, and then try and fin­ish in the fifth­sixth bracket to book their World Cup spot.

It looks easy on pa­per as they only need to beat China and avoid heavy de­feats against the other teams.

Malaysia will have the tough­est opener pos­si­ble as they face Ar­gentina (June 16) first fol­lowed by Eng­land (June 17), South Korea (June 19) and the do-or-die against China (June 20),

In Ipoh, other than the Aus­tralian drub­bing, Malaysia have had a higher num­ber of penalty cor­ners and 60 to 70 per cent ball pos­ses­sion but bun­gled at the last pass.

A clas­sic case was the 1-0 de­feat to New Zealand, as Malaysia had five penalty cor­ners and 70 per cent pos­ses­sion but failed to score. The Kiwis only had one penalty cor­ner and made it count.

Penalty cor­ner flick­ers Razie Rahim, Shahril Saabah, Faizal Shaari and Na­jmi Ja­zlan have been woe­fully blunt, and Malaysia only scored two goals in four matches — one each by Razie and Faizal.

Least Malaysia for­get, they were held 2-2 by China in the fi­nal of the World League Round Two in Dhaka be­fore win­ning gold in a penalty shoot-out.

So China, with mas­ter coach Kim Sang Ryul as their con­sul­tant, will be look­ing to beat Malaysia as well in Lon­don to boost their hopes of a ticket to the World Cup.

Van Huizen knows his team might meet In­dia, if they make the cross­over quar­ter-fi­nals in Lon­don.

“We need to win the next two matches (against In­dia and pos­si­bly Ja­pan in the fifth-sixth) be­cause In­dia might just be our quar­ter-fi­nal op­po­nents in Lon­don,” said van Huizen.

And In­dia will be gun­ning to beat Malaysia to­day for a pos­si­ble fi­nal slot in the Azlan Shah Cup.

Time is against Malaysia, for 41 days is all they have to change their mind­set from losers to World Cup ma­te­rial.

And judg­ing from the way Malaysia have been play­ing in the Sul­tan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, they will not qual­ify for the 2018 World

Cup in In­dia.”

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