Friday, June 28, 2013
THE World Hockey League Semi-finals looks like a walk in the park, as a team just needs to enjoy the first three matches and then go for broke in the quarters and semis to qualify for the World Cup.
But like the easygoing chameleon, the tournament is designed to trap and destroy teams which are not consistent, and are not prepared mentally and physically for the last two hurdles.
Malaysia has never qualified for the World Cup since hosting it in 2002, and would find it difficult to finish among the medallists, as only the top-three advance to the Hague, Netherlands, next year.
Looking back at the Champions Challenge I in Argentina last December, hopefully Paul Revington and his men are better prepared for a tournament which offers all eight teams a place in the quarter-finals.
In the Champions Challenge Malaysia, in Group A, beat Poland 4-0, South Korea 4-2 and Canada 4-2 to enter the quarter-finals with their head high in the clouds.
And in the quarter-finals, Malaysia hammered South Africa 4-1 which was a super and remarkable achievement by any standard.
However, when it mattered most, Paul Revington’s men were crushed 6-3 by South Korea in the semi-finals, and then in the bronze play-off, were beaten 4-3 by Ireland.
Fourth placing in Argentina, after a super group and quarterfinal run, must never be allowed to happen in Johor Baru -- if the team has learnt from the past.
Comparatively, the Koreans only had one win in the group stages, but went all the way to the final before Argentina showed class to whip them 5-0 for the title.
Both Argentina and South Korea are also down in Johor Baru, and when one strings together England, Germany and Pakistan -- the leader-board looks cluttered with the chances of Malaysia sneaking in as a top-three candidate looking like a remote bet on Russian Roulette.
However, national coach Paul Revington is as optimistic as ever, and has even put the turbulent period before the World League to rest.
"I don't think this past week has been the concern - it was the period between January and just prior to last week that definitely affected everyone involved in the national squad.
"We managed to keep a lid on things through the Azlan Shah Cup and produced some quality hockey as a team and squad (Silver medal behind Australia).
"However, immediately after the Azlan Shah Cup, the real issues set in. I am confident that we have managed to get control of the situation and I will be pushing for further improvement than the Azlan Shah performance," said Revington.
And his thoughts on the opening game were: "Malaysia versus Pakistan has developed into a good rivalry over recent years.
"Pakistan are a very good side and we respect their ability. I think everyone in this event also knows that Malaysia have been improving year after year, month by month and have a group of players who can match any team in world hockey.
"This makes the opening game an exciting encounter."
The South African picked Germany as one of the top-three teams, and said the other seven have an equal chance to lay their hands on the remaining two slots.