Monday, October 16, 2017

ASIA CUP: Keep Calm and Play Hockey


THE Asia Cup has never been Malaysa's favourite hunting ground, as in nine previous editions, only one bronze medal was won in 2007 in Chennai, India.
  Malaysia made the semi-finals six times, but failed to advance to the final. The not so proud record has five fourth placings.
  The tournament brings together the best in Asia, and is a World Cup qualifier. South Korea is the most successful team with four gold medals, with the most recent in 2013 in Ipoh.
  The Koreans have used the Cup wisely to qualify for the World Cup 
four times, but are one of the Asian giants fighting with an aged team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
  India, Pakistan and Malaysia qualified via the World League, while China also has a good chance to play in the World Cup, but South Korea must win the gold medal in Dhaka to claim their spot.
  And Malaysia dealt them a big blow with a hard-fought 2-1 win, and now Korea must beat China on Monday to play in the Round Robbin.
  This Malaysian side has shown team and fighting spirit which has been missing for the last decade.
  The Koreans pushed hard, even played robust and some say dirty hockey to find the equaliser in the third quarter, but Malaysia stood their ground.
  Even in London in the World League Semifinals, Malaysia scored early and then defended with their lives to beat South Korea 1-0.
  There is something magical in the way this Malaysian team attacks and defends in numbers.
  After two matches, the team has made few mistakes, but still, the Koreans showed that Malaysia is not ready in one aspect.
  When pushed to the limit, the Malaysian players seem to fall back into their old mentality -- making school-boy mistakes in their own 25-yard even though they have the lead.
  This is dangerous, as India and Pakistan as well as South Korea are masters in making players from the other team lose their cool by playing robust and sometimes 'dirty' hockey.
  Dirty here means agitating players with little nudges, and nippy hits while dribbling past, which does not cause injury but anger to the opposite side.
  Malaysia were put to this test in the last minute by South Korea and even experienced Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, normally a very cool player, lost his mind and retaliated.
  With 26 seconds left on the clock and South Korea winning a free hit just outside the scoring circle, Tengku Ahmad was sent out with a yellow card for retaliating a shoulder bump.
  This is what Malaysia can expect in the Round Robin. Robust, sometimes 'dirty' play from the Asian masters.
  And it looks like Malaysia must beat India, Pakistan and South Korea in the Round Robin -- by keeping their cool when pushed and irritated to the limit.