Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Malaysia with even chance

AS hosts since 1983, Malaysia have yet to win the Azlan
Shah Cup gold medal, but came close in three editions only
to settle for silver medals.
And an appearance in the final is not out of their hands as
the 20th Edition begins in Ipoh today, as almost all the
teams will be parading a healthy dose of junior players
while Malaysia still have their Asian Games team intact.
The hosts play Great Britain today in the curtain raiser,
and coach Tai Beng Hai will have his hands full against the
Olympic hosts.
"We have not played with Britain for a long time but I
expect it to be a tough match as they are preparing for the
"A winning start is what we will be looking for, as the
MHF have set a target of finishing top-four in Ipoh," said
national coach Tai Beng Hai.
Britain coach Jason Lee said: “We would not normally be
able to attend a high-calibre international tournament as
Great Britain this early in an Olympic cycle, so competing
in the Azlan Shah is a good opportunity.
“The heat and humidity of Malaysia will be a true test of
the team’s fighting spirit, things we will need in 2012. It
will be an interesting match against Malaysia tomorrow
The last time Malaysia played Britain was in the 2007
Kuala Lumpur Champions Trophy where we lost 3-2.
Overall, Malaysia have played 20 times with Britain and
lost 12 drew six and only won two matches.
The first win was in 1991 in Cardiff where K. Embaraj's
penalty corner goal was enough, while the second win was
in the 1996 Azlan Shah Cup where we won 3-2.
In the Azlan Shah Cup, The national team were second
in 1985, 2007 and 2009 while last year they finished fourth
behind Australia.
The fact that Malaysia are world No 15, while the rest of
the field are many rungs above, should not be brought into
the picture as the national players prepare to play in the
Olympics for the first time since Sydney 2000.
World No 1 Australia, Great Britain (fourth) South Korea
(sixth), New Zealand (seven), Pakistan (eight) and India
(ninth) are the world class fare who will make their
presence felt at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh.
India and Pakistan have always been a draw-card in the
tournament, and with the latter winning the Asian Games
gold medal over Malaysia, the expectations will be high on
the men in green.
However, both the Asian leaders will be sending diluted
sides and it would be interesting to see how well their
reserves bench has progressed.
Australia, won the World Cup, the Champions Trophy and
Commonwealth gold by losing just one match in the
process last year --- surprisingly finished third in the Azlan
Shah Cup.
And could well end up in the same position as they also
opted to blood new players.
So, reaching the final is not a piped dream for coach Tai
Beng Hai and his charges as they prepare to break into the
Olympics bracket, which could take them into the top-10 in
the world by 2013.
FIXTURES: MAY 5 -- New Zealand v Pakistan (4pm), India
v South Korea 6pm), Great Britain v Malaysia (8pm).
MAY 6 -- Korea v Pakistan (4pm), Great Britain v India
(6pm), Australia v Malaysia (8pm).
MAY 8 -- Australia v India (4pm), Great Britain v Pakistan
(6pm), Korea v New Zealand (8pm).
MAY 9 -- Australia v Pakistan (4pm), Great Britain v New
Zealand (6pm), India v Malaysia (8pm).
MAY 11 -- New Zealand v Malaysia (4pm), Australia v Korea
(6pm), Pakistan v India (8pm).
MAY 12 -- Australia v Great Britain (4pm), New Zealand v
India (6pm), Korea v Malaysia (8pm).
MAY 14 -- Great Britain v South Korea (4pm), Pakistan v
Malaysia (6pm), Australia v New Zealand (8pm).
MAY 15 -- Fifth-Sixth (4pm), Third-Fourth (6pm); Final