New Straits Times


Current results show Malaysia will face uphill battle at Asiad


THE Malaysian men’s hockey team are far from ready to win their maiden gold at the Jakarta Asian Games on Aug 16Sept 2.

The Malaysian Hockey Confederat­ion (MHC) have set a lofty target for coach Stephen van Huzien and his men — to become automatic qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as Asiad champions.

For the record, Malaysia last played at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Judging from results at the Gold Coast Commonweal­th Games and the ongoing Six-Test matches against Argentina, Malaysia are in for the fight of their lives in Jakarta.

At the Commonweal­th Games, Malaysia lost 7-0 to England, lost to India 2-1 and drew 1-1 with Pakistan. They could only beat Scotland 2-1, and Wales 3-0 to finish fifth.

In the ongoing Argentina Tests, Malaysia lost all four matches (10, 6-1, 7-2, 2-1), and will play two more matches in the next few days.

One of the team’s weaknesses is goalkeepin­g, as the gap between No 1 S. Kumar and Hairi Rahman is huge.

In the fourth Test, it was 1-1 until the fourth quarter: “We substitute­d Kumar to allow Hairi to play in the the last quarter and we were careless to concede an early penalty corner within 17 seconds and they scored from a set-piece. We kept fighting to the end but couldn’t get the equaliser. However, it was a much improved performanc­e.,” said van Huizen.

When asked whether the goalkeepin­g department is a problemati­c area (when Kumar is on the bench), van Huizens said: “I think the other goalkeeper­s have improved and need more matches to progress in decision-making during matches.

“Hairi and Hafiz (Hafizuddin Othman, third goalkeeper) have done reasonably well when Kumar was out (on a six-month doping ban) and we will continue to give them as much match exposure as possible.

“The goals we conceded (against Argentina) even when Kumar was playing, are not entirely the goalkeeper’s fault but also the defence and team as a whole.”

So, what is the problem in Argentina? “The matches are tough and the tempo, skill level, physical strength and standard make it hard for our players,” said van Huizen.

Today, Malaysia will play their Fifth Test against the 2016 Olympic champions, who are blooding 10 new players in the series.

 ??  ?? Malaysia play Argentina in the fifth Test in Buenos Aires today.
Malaysia play Argentina in the fifth Test in Buenos Aires today.

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