Penalty cor­ner worry for team

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MALAYSIA have al­ways had penalty cor­ner spe­cial­ists from the days of hit­ting the ball right up to drag­ging it in.

K. Em­baraj and Nor Sai­ful Zaini were the feared hit­ters, while Amin Rahim and S. Kuhan were the drag flick­ers who did much dam­age in the World Cup and Asian Games.

Cur­rently, Malaysia have the largest num­ber of flick­ers in Razie Rahim, Faizal Shaari, Shahril Saabah and Na­jmi Farizal.

The stats, how­ever, since the World League Round Two in Dhaka and the Azlan Shah Cup, is a cause for con­cern as Malaysia pre­pare for the World League Semi-fi­nals in Lon­don on June 1525.

Malaysia won 14 penalty cor­ners and one penalty stroke against China in the World League Round Two fi­nal be­fore hold­ing them to a draw.

China were lead­ing 2-0, and Malaysia had al­ready wasted 12 penalty cor­ners and a penalty stroke be­fore nail­ing the 13th off Shahril and 14th off Na­jmi to take the match to a penalty shootout and win the gold on a 5-3 score.

In Lon­don, which is also a qual­i­fier for the 2018 World Cup in In­dia, Malaysia (World No 14) hope to beat China (18) to qual­ify for the quar­ter-fi­nals, as the Ar­gentina (one), Eng­land (seven) and South Korea (12th) matches will be tougher to tame.

In Group B are In­dia (six), Netherlands (four), Canada (11th), Scot­land (23rd) and Pak­istan (13th).

The top-six teams in Lon­don should make the cut to the World Cup.

In the Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia won a to­tal of 31 penalty cor­ners but could only score three goals.

“We (the flick­ers) know about the poor stats in the re­cent two tour­na­ments and are work­ing hard to get it right. The team are play­ing well and we are win­ning a hand­ful (av­er­age five) of penalty cor­ners in ev­ery match but the scoring rate has been low.

“After the Azlan Shah (Cup), I have been flick­ing about 50 balls in the morn­ing and 50 in the evening and my team­mates are also un­der­go­ing the same rou­tine.

“We need to tuck in the penalty cor­ners at a higher rate, as it would be much more dif­fi­cult to win them against higher ranked teams in Lon­don,” said Razie, 29.

China are cur­rently camp­ing in Europe and play­ing matches, 26 days ahead of the tour­na­ment proper to in­di­cate that they are dead se­ri­ous about qual­i­fy­ing for the World Cup — which could be at Malaysia’s ex­pense if the na­tional team con­tinue to squan­der penalty cor­ners. Jugjet Singh

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