Thursday, May 4, 2017

41 days to buck up...

FORTY-One days to the matches of their lives, but the hockey team is still half-baked.
  And the way Malaysia has been playing in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, they will not qualify for the 2018 World Cup in India, unless there is a major attitude change.
  For, Stephen van Huizen's men blew hot-and-cold when they drew 1-1 with Japan, lost 6-1 to Australia and 1-0 to both Britain and New Zealand.
  Doomed to play in the fifth-sixth placing on Saturday, Malaysia complete their fixtures against India Friday.
  In the World League Semifinals in London from June 15-25, Malaysia are in Group A with Olympic champions and World No 1 Argentina, England, South Korea and China.
  Group B is made up of India, Pakistan, Scotland, Netherlands and Canada.
  In London, Malaysia must finish top-four in the group stage to play in the quarter-finals, and then try and finish in the fifth-sixth bracket to book their spot in the World Cup.
  It looks easy, as they only need to beat China and avoid heavy defeats in the hands of the other teams.
  Van Huizen will have the toughest opener against Argentina (June 16) followed by England (June 17), South Korea (June 19) and the do-or-die against China (June 20),
  In Ipoh, other than the Australian drubbing, Malaysia had higher number of penalty corners and 60 to 70 percent ball possession but bungled at the last pass.
  A classic case was the 1-0 defeat against New Zealand, as Malaysia had five penalty corners and 70 percent possession but failed to score. The Kiwis only had one penalty corner and made it count.
  Penalty corner flickers Razie Rahim, Shahril Saabah, Faizal Shaari and Najmi Jazlan were blunt as a butter knife, and Malaysia only scored two goals in four matches.
  One by Razie and one by Faizal. 
  Least Malaysia forgets, they were held 2-2 by China in the final of the World League Round Two in Dhaka before winning gold in penalty shoot-out.

  So China, with master coach Kim Sang Ryul as their consultant, will be looking to beat Malaysia as well in London as their ticket to the World Cup.
  Van Huizen knows his team might meet India, if they make the crossover quarter-finals in London.
  "We need to win the next two matches (against India and possibly Japan in the fifth-sixth) because India might just be our quarter-finals opponents in London," reasoned van Huizen.
  And India will be gunning to beat Malaysia for a possible final slot on Saturday in Ipoh.
  Time is against Malaysia, for 41 days, is all they have to change their mindset from losers to World Cup material.