By Ajitpal Singh
THE moment of truth has arrived.
The Malaysian national hockey team, who singled out the Asian Games as their top priority, arrived in Guangzhou on Thursday, determined to erase their disappointing performance at last month's New Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Pressure is on the national team to fulfill their promise to make an impact in the Asian Games, where the champions will get a direct ticket to the 2012 London Olympics.
In Delhi, the team failed to impress, winning only a match out of five to finish eighth but national captain Mohamed Madzli Ikmar (pic) said the Commonwealth Games was treated as an arena to test tactics and strategies.
"Our mission is in Guangzhou. We learnt many things about our strengths and weaknesses in Delhi and we have rectified them, " said Madzli.
"We failed to defend wisely in Delhi which led to the dismal results but it was only a test. We learnt from our mistakes there and made the necessary changes for the past two weeks. Now we are ready to make our name here.
"This Asian Games is important to all teams as the winners get to play in the Olympics. Like us, other teams are also hoping to clinch that single ticket. "
Madzli, 31, is making his fourth Asian Games appearance, having made his debut in the 1998 Bangkok edition.
His best show in the Asian Games was winning a bronze in the 2002 Busan edition. The defender has been captain of the national team since last year's 2009 Asia Cup in Kuantan.
In Guangzhou, Malaysia will start their Group A campaign against Singapore on Monday followed by South Korea (Nov 18), Oman (Nov 19) and China (Nov 21).
"Overall, the team are in high spirits but we need to translate it on the pitch. Korea and China are our main rivals. However, we must also take Oman and Singapore seriously as we need the goals," he added.
New Straits Times