Saturday, March 10, 2012

All set for Chile encounter

A YOUNG lad oozing with confidence, and a seasoned goalkeeper who feels at the top of the world might just be the tonic Malaysia need to squash the butterflies in their opening match against Chile in the Olympic Qualifiers in Dublin today.
Faizal Saari, 21 and with 78 caps, without blinking an eyelid said his personal target is to score two goals against Chile, who play the Argentinian sytle of robust hockey.
And S. Kumar, with a string of best-goalkeeper awards at international events, said he has never felt better leading into a tournament.
At 32 and with 177 caps, Kumar's steady hand at the back has seen Malaysia beat the best in the world, while on his off days, we have even lost to minnows.
"Normally, we arrive just before a tournament and Acclimatisation is the biggest problem but this time, we have been in the cold and damp for more than nine days, and I feel nothing is going to go wrong in the opening match," said Kumar.
As for Faizal, who scored eight goals in the 2009 Junior World Cup and has been a regular in the senior side since: "I have set personal targets against every team, and it is two goals against Chile. We have seen videos of their matches, and I believe I will be able to contribute towards a win in the opening match."
Chile, are ranked 26th in the world, while Malaysia are 13th. However, Malaysia have shown tendencies to play erratically against lower ranked teams like they did in the 4-4 draw against Italy in the 2008 Olympic Qualifiers in Kakamigahara in Japan.
That was a nightmare of a Qualifier as Malaysia started by edging Poland 2-1, then the 4-4 draw and also a 4-3 struggle against Switzerland. The national players finished third behind Japan, and Germany went on to the Olympics where they won the Beijing gold medal.
"I was named as the best goalkeeper in Kakamigahara then, but we still failed to play in the final and struggled against lower ranked teams.
"However, I believe this will not be the case in Dublin, and I aim to keep the ball out of my goalmouth so that we will have comfortable wins and not struggle," said Kumar.
The national players moment-of-truth will start today at the University College Dublin grounds, and nothing but am A is expected against Chile at the hallowed sprawling education hub in Belfield.