Friday, June 12, 2009
MALAYSIA'S mistake against South Korea has placed them in a tight spot, and they must beat Spain today to qualify for the second round of the Junior World Cup.
The Taman Daya Stadium was packed to the brim, with more than 5,000 fans cheering Malaysia when they played against England, South Korea and then the United States.
With no more space at the stands, fans stood five-deep behind the goalmouth, and even spilled onto the road leading towards the stadium. The plus point for this venue is that it is surrounded by many housing estates, and entrance is free.
"I would like to thank all Malaysian fans for their solid backing, and to a certain extent, my boys played better hockey when cheered on by a packed gallery," said Rajan.
"We played Spain in March (in a Four-Nation in Seville) and only lost 2-1. The match was heading towards a draw, but a mistake allowed Spain to score three minutes from time.
"I believe we can upset the Spaniards, what more with backing from our home crowd," said the 21-year-old striker.
He also believes that today's match will determine this team's future, and they will have to bring out their best.
"Tomorrow (today) is really a big day for all of us, as how we play will decide the future of this team. We must win at any cost, and take Malaysian hockey to a new level," said Faizal.
He has scored three of Malaysia's six goals, and will be a marked man today.
"Initially, I was worried about our defence, as I believe our forwards can, and will score against Spain.
"However, after three matches, the defenders have held up well, and we have only conceded four goals. Every member of the team is confident of a good result against Spain, and can't wait for the match to start," said Faizal.
THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) is unlikely to allow 18 players to be registered from the second round onwards in the ongoing Junior World Cup.
The FIH had allowed 18 players to be registered when Malaysia hosted the 2002 World Cup, and the 2008 Champions Trophy.
"The Junior World Cup cannot be compared with two previous senior tournaments played in Kuala Lumpur where such an exception was made. Firstly the tournament is being played over an extended period of 15 days," wrote FIH Secretary General Peter L. Cohen in his letter to the Spanish HF.
Spain wrote to FIH before this tournament and their request was denied. But they are still hoping that the FIH will change its stand in the second round.
"We have to play tough matches -- four in the space of five days -- and that puts a lot of strain on the players. One can see that many teams are affected as evident from the injuries they have suffered at the closing stages of a match."
Tournament director Bjorn Isberg said he was bound by the decision taken by the world body.
The only hope for teams here is the FIH studies the daily medical reports.
"I take instructions from FIH so, it will be up to them to decide on this matter," said Isberg.
SOUTH Korea qualified for the second round of the Junior World Cup when they edged Spain 1-0 in a Group C tie at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru yesterday.
It was a hard fought victory, and the hero was Seo Jin-su who scored a field goal in the 49th minute, after which they were reduced to a defensive side.
Spain had a barrage of penalty corners in the last 10 minutes, but failed to equalise, and will now play Malaysia today in a crucial do-or-die clash.
In Group D, India look set for an early exit after they lost 3-2 to Netherlands at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium in Singapore.
India have four points from four matches and will play Poland tomorrow to wrap up their fixtures.
"We had three penalty corners in the last five minutes with Netherlands down to nine men but still failed to equalise," said India team manager Anupan Ghulati.
India took the lead off Antil Mandep in the fifth minute, but Netherlands equalised in the 10th minute off a Mink van er Weerden penalty corner.
Three minutes later Netherlands took the lead off a Weerden penalty corner and the Dutchman got his hat-trick in the 51st minute to make it 3-1.
Kullu Innocent scored India's second in the 53rd minute.