S. Kumar in action against Wales. Malaysia won 2-1. FIH pic
MALAYSIAN goalkeeper S. Kumar could play a key role in stopping an impressive New Zealand in the World Cup Qualifier in Invercargill.
Kumar was beaten twice by Austria and once by Wales players, but he is more confident against New Zealand penalty corner flickers, and is game to shut them out.
“Bring them on, Hayden Shaw and Andy Hayward (drag flickers) do not scare me. In fact, their flicks are quite predictable, and I was only beaten once by Shaw in the Five- Test series in August,” said Kumar.
In the Five Test Malaysia lost 3-0 twice, lost 2-1, drew 1-1 and 2-1.
The gap then was not big then, but the Malaysian team has been anything but predictable in the Qualifier, and the forwards have muffed more than 10 clear chances in the two matches, and scored a total of four goals only.
Compare that to New Zealand’s 14 goals in two matches, and Malaysia look to be heading for another defeat.
“We could have afforded a defeat to New Zealand to morrow (today) if we had beaten Austria, but the drawn (2-2) match has placed us in a very tight spot. Now, we will have to beat the Kiwis at any cost,” said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
Shaw was not fielded in the 6-2 win against Wales and the 8-0 drubbing of Scotland as he has been down with fever, but is likely to feature against Malaysia today.
However, in his absence, 18-year-old Nick Wilson has filled the void and is tournament top scorer with six goals.
“I have my plans against New Zealand, and if all works well, we will then have two relatively easier matches against China and Scotland,” said Beng Hai.
And his views on China: “It is not the same team which beat us in Asia Cup (Malaysia were held 3-3, and lost 6-7 in the penalty shoot-out in the third-fourth placing match).
“China is fielding six new players and I believe we will beat them.”
Even if Malaysia lost to the Kiwis, there is the China-New Zealand match which could be a huge factor to help Malaysia qualify for the final.
TODAY (Malaysian Time): Austria v Scotland (9am), Wales v China (11am), New Zealand v Malaysia (1pm).
TOMORROW: Malaysia v Scotland (9am), Austria v Wales (11am), China v New Zealand (1pm).