Monday, February 3, 2014
MALAYSIA will need a miracle to beat World No 1 Australia in their opening Group A match of the World Cup at the Hague, Netherlands on May 31.
Ranked lowest at the Hague, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has given Malaysia the honour to open the tournament curtains against the highest ranked team.
And there is more trouble in the format, as twelve-team tournament has two groups, with the top-two in each group moving into the semi-finals, while the rest will battle it out in the fifth-12th bracket depending on how they fare in the group stages.
The tournament format is such that it makes group matches more important, as the teams which end third in Group A and Group B will battle it out for the fifth-sixth spot.
“Yes, we would need a miracle to beat defending cham pions Australia, so we will concentrate on the other four teams to make sure we finish as high as possible in Group A, as the FIH format is a straight playoff with no cross-overs for cushion,” said national coach K. Dharmaraj.
World No 13 Malaysia’s other opponents in Group A are world No 5 Belgium (June 2), world No 4 England (June 5), world No 10 India (June 7) and world No 9 Spain (June 9).
In Group B are Olympic champions and world No 2 Germany, Netherlands (No 3), New Zealand (No 6), South Korea (No 7), Argentina (No 11) and South Africa (No 12).
“As the lowest ranked team in the tournament, we need to target a high position in our Group. But our first three matches will be difficult to win, so, we will go all out to get the better of India and Spain in the last two matches to avoid finishing last in the group,” said Dharmaraj.
But the Australians would surely remember last year’s Azlan Shah Cup final, where Malaysia took them to the wire before losing 3-2 with the winner scored seven seconds from time.
Then, Faizal Saari and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin scored to hold Australia 2-2 before Trent Mitton stunned the 15,000 fans with his dying second goal to win Australia’s seventh Azlan Shah Cup title.