Thursday, March 15, 2012

Malaysia in driving seat

MALAYSIA will finally find worthy opponents in the Olympic Qualifiers when they square off in a do-or-die match against the South Koreans at the University Dublin College grounds today.
The national players have done what was expected of them when they beat Chile 5-1, Russia 6-2 and then Ukraine 5-1 in what could be considered as warm-ups before the big Korean test.
They lead the standings on nine points, but that could change like the unpredictable weather in Dublin, as Ireland still have an easy match against Chile on Thursday, while the Koreans another winner against Russia on Saturday.
Korea almost had the better of Ireland in a late match on Tuesday, but were held to a 1-1 draw which opened up the Olympic campaign.
Now Malaysia must beat the Koreans at all cost for 12 points, and then they don't have to worry about the Ireland match, as they would already be in the final with a match in hand.
"We came into the tournament knowing very well that we must beat the Koreans and to have a shot at the Olympics, and the script has not changed.
"The nine points can be considered as a warm-up for the two tough matches, and we still have a few surprises up our sleeves for the remaining matches here," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
Malaysia have yet to show their true potential in this tournament, as they have been late starters in all three matches, but did just enough to score a handful for full points.
The fact that we have let in four goals against easy opponents is a point to worry about.
"The Koreans have a more systematic way of playing, and we know them as well as they know us and so the element of surprise could turn out to be a match winner," said Beng Hai.
Malaysia have a strong penalty corner battery with three sound flickers, and have yet to utilise their set-pieces in Dublin.
The Irish used a clever penalty corner set-pice to score against Korea and steal a point, and hopefully, Malaysia does more than that for an outright win against an experienced Korean side.