Friday, September 4, 2009

China trip shaky

THE trip to China is on the verge of being shelved, as the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) plans for a Three-Nation in October instead, to prepare for the World Cup Qualifier.
Malaysia will play in New Zealand, and with China also in the same group, the MHF felt it would be foolish to spar with them.
“The joint management meeting with National Sports Council (which was held on Thursday) decided that the team should play at home and we have chosen Australia and South Korea as possible sparring partners.
“The trip to China was decided before we knew the Qualifier grouping, but now, it would be too risky to play with a team who are also in the same group,” said team manager George Koshy.
However, the final decision will be made by MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.
“A report will be sent to Tengku Abdullah, and he will have the final say on weather we travel to China, or play other teams in Malaysia,” said George.
China held Malaysia to a 3-3 draw, before winning on penalty strokes in the Asia Cup in Kuantan, and will be among the challengers in New Zealand.
Then, there is a precedent for Malaysia to be wary of, as just before the World Cup Qualifier in Changzhou, China in 2006, MHF hosted France to a series of friendlies at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, and it turned out to be a bad idea.
In the friendlies, Malaysia hammered France, but in the Qualifier, France beat Malaysia 4-1 — even though Malaysia were 13th in the world and the French 18th.
The others in Malaysia’s World Cup Qualifier group are Scotland, Wales and Austria.
“We have also been travelling extensively in our preparations and it was felt that playing at home will be much better.”
Malaysia have a slim chance of winning the round-robin format, as their record against European teams — even those ranked much lower — is worrying.
The 4-4 draw with Italy in the Olympic Qualifier in Japan last year, and then the poor form in the Champions Challenge II against Ireland, are classic examples.