Penalty corner worry for team
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