MALAYSIA failed to qualify for the New Delhi World Cup when they were edged 2-1 by New Zealand in Invercargill yesterday.
However, the match was a heart-stopper, as Malaysia took the match to the higher ranked Kiwis and even scored an early goal, only to lose on penalty corers.
Malaysia shocked New Zealand, who started sluggishly, by scoring an 18th minute penalty corner goal. Amin Rahim made a dummy and passed it to Razie Rahim, who flicked in the lead.
And then three were a string of chances, including three more consecutive penalty corners, but Malaysia failed to increase the lead and paid the price.
New Zealand came back into the match in the second half, and the energetic Malaysian side started to fade away as the clocked ticked by, and it was only a matter of time before the World Cup ticket was snatched from their grasp, 13 minutes before the flight took off.
Andrew Hayward scored a soft penalty corner attempt in the 57th minute, which caught Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar by surprise, as it went in between his pads.
And with the equaliser, came a series of blunders from the Malaysian side and the Kiwis earned another penalty corner in the 60th minute, which Hayward tucked in to take his team into the World Cup.
“We had a super start, and then three consecutive penalty corners came our way but the boys failed to connect. That was the turning point which led to our defeat,” said assistant team manager M. Gobinathan.
Gobinathan, however, feels the team gave their best but it was not enough: “I feel for players like Kumar and Madzli Ikmar who are in their 30s and probably will not get another chance to play in the World Cup.
“They gave their best, and personally speaking, coaches Tai Beng Hai and Nor Saiful Zaini worked very hard to transform a few hopeless players to do well here.
“I would recommend, in my report, that both the coaches be retained in the national outfit,” said Gobinathan.
Beng Hai coached the team on an interim basis, and the Malaysian Hockey Federation had said that his future de pends on the team’s performance in Invercargill.
Meanwhile, New Zealand coach Shane McLeod said on NZ TV: “Malaysia played very well. They gained a lot from the earlier game. They did their homework and cancelled out a lot of things we were succeeding with.
“They’re really difficult if you fall behind by a goal, they defend with a lot of passion.”
McLeod thought the ease of New Zealand’s cruise to the final also hindered their performance.
“They weren’t tested a lot over the week and sometimes it gets a little bit hard to keep trying to lift yourself above other teams.
“With Malaysia getting a goal against the run of play we were in a situation we hadn't faced.”
And were the team inspired by their soccer players who had qualified for the World Cup the night before?
“My players watched, and were inspired by, the All Whites’ 1-0 win over Bahrain. All sports get motivated by the success of others, I think it assisted us with out campaign.”
RESULTS: Final -- Malaysia 1 New Zealand 2; Third- Fourth: China 2 Scotland 2 (Scotland win 5-3 on penalty strokes); Fifth-Sixth: Austria 3 Wales 2.