MALAYSIA were never expected to beat Australia and Belgium, so their World Cup campaign “actually” begins with the England match tomorrow.And they must also prove themselves against India and then Spain.
World No 1 Australia and World No 5 Belgium are in a different league, as both are front-runners for a spot in the semi-finals from Group A.
However, Malaysia must start playing better hockey, as Australia had scored four goals with ease, while their defenders made Belgian Tom Boon look good when he scored four in the 6-2 drubbing.
Two-time World Cup and two-time Olympian Maninderjit Singh feels there is still hope, provided teamwork and hard-work are back in the Malaysian game.
Maninderjit, a defender, played in the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics, while his World Cup appearances were in 1998 Utretcht and 2002 Kuala Lumpur.
“I have been there before, so I know how the boys are feeling after two demoralising defeats.
“Malaysia were never expected to beat Australia and Belgium, but they were also not expected to crack so easily as they did show promise in the Champions Challenge 1 (bronze medallists).
“That is why I believe if they start playing with more team-work, and put in more hardwork in defence, England, India and Spain can be beaten,” he said.
From his observation, Maninderjit feels the defenders were too slow to react and this led to goalkeeper S. Kumar becoming a shooting target.
“Luckily Kumar was at his element in both the matches, if not, the score could have reached double digits in both matches.
“This is because I do not see a commander in the back-line, who can call the shots and also, many players were in the semi-circle when the goals were scored, but all of them were mere spectators while Kumar was left on his own.
“By now, the defenders should know that the World Cup is a different league, and when one makes a mistake, recovery is almost impossible.
“So minimise damage by doing all the tackling outside the 25-yard, and also, stop playing too deep down as the midfield was almost non-existent in the two matches,” said Maninderjit.
England have beaten India 2-1 and drawn 1-1 with Spain — but they were not overly impressive.
Maninderjit’s advice to Malaysia, who only have No 2 goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin from the 2002 World Cup squad, is: “Have faith in your abilities, as you are now a World Cup player.
“The dignity must be maintained, as well as discipline on the pitch ... and the three points will follow suit.”
MALAYSIA’S World Cup fixtures (Malaysian time) — Thursday: v England (7pm); Saturday: v India (8.30pm); June 9: v Spain (8.30pm).