Time running out for Malaysia
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.”