Thursday, June 25, 2015
Beat Ireland or start packing...
THREE-TIME Olympian Nor Saiful Zaini was shivering on the stands while watching Britain and Ireland play in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium.
The match ended in a 2-2 draw, and Nor Saiful made a chilling observation: "It not going to be easy against Ireland, they have a hard-running side which attacks from every part of the field and they just keep coming at you, no matter what."
And his assessment: "Don't get into the trap of playing their style of hockey, its the only way for Malaysia to beat the Irish."
In layman's term, Malaysia must play their own style -- which is attacking without fear like they did in the World League Round Two in Singapore where they grabbed the gold by beating Poland 8-0 in the final.
Today is reckoning day for Malaysia as a win against Ireland will place them in good footing to challenge for an Olympics spot, but if they lose, the door will be half shut.
Rest assured, as an experienced player and now assistant coach to Tai Beng Hai, Nor Saiful would have parted his observation to the Malaysian players.
Malaysia, who beat China 31st ranked China 3-2, were guilty of defending after taking a 2-0 lead and that was exactly what Britain did wrong against Ireland.
After grabbing an easy looking 2-0 lead the British slowed down, and in came a charging Irish squad to level the score and steal a point even though they are ranked 14th and Britain fifth.
Beng Hai was more prepared as he knows the Irish style well: "That's what they are good at. They just keep coming and coming in waves no matter what. Its a very stubborn team and we can't take it easy even for a minute until the final hooter is blown."
Ireland goalkeeper David Harte 6' 5", and a giant added by padding, played in the last match against Malaysia -- where they lost 2-4.
"I was there in Kuantan (Champions Challege) and it was 2-2 until the last 10 minutes and a Malaysian blitz saw us loose the bronze.
"This is an experienced Malaysian side, but now, both teams are fighting for an Olympic berth, and it not going to be east for both sides."
The giant Harte, covering half the goalmouth when arms a stretched, will be tough to beat with direct penalty corner flicks. And this is where Beng Hai must use the many set-pieces to get the goals.
Harte knows our No 1 flicker Razie Rahim very well , as he was also there to deny Malaysia a berth in the final of the Dublin Olympic Qualifier. Then, Malaysia drew 1-1 with Ireland in the semi-finals, and the Irish in turn were beaten by a nine-second from regulation goal by South Korea in the final for the sole London Olympic ticket.