NOBODY expects Malaysia to beat World No 1 Australia in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh today, but the fans can rest assured that coach K. Dharmaraj's men would strive to keep the score low.
For this might just see them play Australia again in the final on Sunday.
The Aussies have already qualified for the final and will be going for
their eighth Azlan Shah Cup title, with the second spot being a toss
between South Korea and Malaysia.
Malaysia have a seven-goal cushion, while the Koreans are on level terms as they have scored nine and let in nine.
Mathematically speaking, Malaysia need to keep the score against
Australia low, and hope South Korea do not hammer the daylights out of
South Africa in their chase for goals -- as they play after the
Malaysian game and would know just how many goals to score.
Australians are in a different league altogether as they are also the
raging favourites for the World Cup. But we need to make sure we do not
let in too many goals so that we have another chance to play them in the
final," said Dharmaraj.
This is the best chance for Malaysia to
spar with Australia, as their next meeting would be in the opening match
of the World Cup in The Netherlands on May 31-June 15. The
International Hockey Federation (FIH) has paired the World No 1 against
the lowest ranked team in the World Cup, Malaysia at 13th, for the
"Playing Malaysia in Malaysia is a dream
situation, as this would be our last chance to meet our first World Cup
opponents. And with Malaysia having fast forwards who have very good
individual skills, it would be a very interesting match for sure," said
Australian skipper Mark Knowles who last played in the Azlan Shah Cup in
Australia has a massive advantage over Malaysia, and their
pedigree in the tournament saw them lift the title seven times in 1983,
1998, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011 and 2013. And as hosts for 23 Editions,
Malaysia's record stops at four silvers won in 1985, 2007,2009 and 2013.
"Yes, the match would certainly be a very interesting one as not only
are Malaysia a very fast side, but also have a very supportive fan base
and when they fill up the stadium, the noise is deafening and the
atmosphere is electrifying. We don't get mush of this in Australia, so
the experience would be good heading into the World Cup," said
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth.
The Ipoh fans have filled the
Azlan Shah Stadium to the brim during all the Malaysian fixtures, and
today would also see a mammoth turnout. And the fans would not be
disappointed if their team lose to Australia, as all they would be
looking for today is a brave fight.
Keeping in mind that Dharmaraj
took the risk of blooding seven rookies for this edition, the boys
showed their mettle by beating China, Canada and South Africa and their
draw was against Asian giants South Korea.
But with Australia
hammering South Korea 5-1, and all their other scores were in the region
of sixers and sevens, and only letting in one goal, tonight's match can
turn into a mismatch, or the crowning glory in Malaysia's record
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 4 4 0 0 25 1 12
MALAYSIA 4 3 1 0 15 8 10
S KOREA 4 2 1 1 9 9 7
CHINA 5 1 0 4 13 21 3
CANADA 5 1 0 4 7 18 3
S AFRICA 4 1 0 3 5 17 3
March 21: REST DAY.
March 22: Australia v Malaysia (6pm), South Africa v South Korea (8pm).