Monday, March 12, 2012

Arul could derail Malaysia's hopes

IT was back in the 2009 Champions Challenge II that Arul Selvaraj first assisted Ireland to beat Malaysia 2-1 in the semi-finals.
Playing in Dublin, Malaysia fell by the wayside and ended up fourth, after losing 4-3 in extra-time to France.
And today, as a much more experienced Ireland assistant coach, Arul will again be in charge of plotting a win for his adopted country in the Dublin Olympics Qualifier which starts on Saturday.
Arul is no stranger to Malaysian hockey, and as a former international, he had played alongside the likes of Nor Saiful Zaini and knows the ins-and-outs of the national side.
He has been in the Malaysian camp as a player and then coach when he assisted Paul Lissek, and kept in touch with the current batch of players when he was back home on a holiday.
Always with a smile, Arul could be the 12th man when Malaysia play Ireland in their final league match on March 17.
The fixtures have been kind to Malaysia as they first meet Chile followed by Russia and then Ukraine to not only get the maximum nine points, but also goals which could come into play when the dust settles.
After the 'easy' early matches, Malaysia play South Korea and if they falter, the Ireland match will be a must-win tie if Malaysia hope to to reach the final of the Qualifier.
And if Malaysia reach the final, either Korea or Ireland are tipped to be their nemesis again.
Arul knows that Amin Rahim is flat-footed and that it's easier to win penalty corners off him compared to Razie Rahim, Baljit Singh and Madzli Ikmar, the other defenders.
He also knows that when Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin is given too much space, he will score even from an acute angle.
Arul is also wise to the fact that Malaysia have three penalty corner flickers in Amin, Razie and Faizal Saari.
The damning conclusion is that Ireland's assistant coach knows not only the penalty corner variations and strengths and weaknesses of all the Malaysian players, but also their favourite food as he has had many a 'teh-tarik' with the players.
Arul had helped Malaysia qualify for the 1998 Utrecht Word Cup when they finished sixth in the Kuala Lumpur Qualifier in 1997.
But his work is now cut out to stop Malaysia at all costs, especially if the Irish lose to Korea and the Malaysia encounter is their last avenue to reach the final -- which is very likely.