Malaysia's Fazial Shaari having a ball of a time in Inveercargill. The 18-year-old has scored three goals, and should be give a chance during penalty corners against China. Pic: S.S. Dhaliwal.
MALAYSIA’S route to the New Delhi World Cup is expected to run smack into the Great Wall when they square off against China in the World Cup Qualifier in Invercargill, New Zealand.
Only a will give them another shot against the Kiwis, and statistically, history favours Tai Beng Hai’s men, but not recent statistics.
Malaysia have played China 32 times over the years, and won 21, lost six and drew 5.
But the wins were achieved when China was still strug gling, and the recent record favours China who won the last two encounters. China are now 13th in the world, while Malaysia a struggling 16th.
The most recent win was in the Asia Cup in Kuantan, where China held Malaysia 3-3 and went on to win the bronze with a 7-6 score in the penalty shoot-out.
“We are here with the strongest available and I am confident we will play in the final,” said China coach Zhuang Xiodong.
Even without six players who featured in the Asia Cup, China did just enough to take the second spot to the wire. Their three wins were identical 2-1, while their blemish was a 6-1 trashing in the hands of the Kiwis.
Two of their better players Song Yi and Jiang Xishiang are playing in the Dutch League, and the national federation decided against calling them for the Qualifier as China look to the future.
“The two players will gain good exposure in Netherlands, and will serve China in the years to come,” said Xiodong.
Malaysia started the tournament with a surprising 2-2 draw with Austria but have since made up with slim victories, and Beng Hai believed they are finally getting use to the conditions in Invercargill.
“Yes the victories were slim, but that does not matter now as we still have a chance to play in the final.
“The players are also finally a little more comfortable with the wind here, and I believe we will beat China to claim a re- match with New Zealand,” said Beng Hai.
Malaysia’s campaign was thrown a life-line by 18-year-old Faizal Shaari who has scored three goals, while his more illustrious team-mate Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin trails with two goals.
Even the vastly experienced Azlan Misron has only scored two goals, while Amin Rahim also has two.
Faizal scored a total of eight goals in the Junior World Cup, and is also a powerful penalty corner flicker, but has yet to be give a chance in the Qualifier.
He may get his chance today, especially as only a win will do.
TOMORROW (Malaysian Time): Scotland v Wales (5am), New Zealand v Austria (7am), China v Malaysia (9am).
P W D L F A Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 24 5 12
China 4 3 0 1 7 9 9
Malaysia 4 2 1 1 9 9 7
Austria 4 1 1 2 7 7 4
Scotland 4 1 0 3 6 15 3
Wales 4 0 0 4 4 12 0