Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slow start a worrying factor..

MALAYSIA have been playing a game of two halves in the Olympic Qualifiers, and the lucky streak is that the fixtures had paired them against weaker sides in the opening matches at the University College Dublin grounds.
Today, they face another weak side Ukraine, and coach Tai Beng Hai must make sure that his charges play 70 minutes of hockey to not only win three points but also pile up goals.
Ireland had whitewashed Ukraine 12-0 on Sunday, and the national players must also strive to hit a double digit against the weakest side in the Qualifier.
"I think the problem is with warm-up before the match, which is not enough, and that is why we have been struggling in the first halves of both the matches," said 21-year-old Faizal Saari who has scored two goals thus far.
Goalkeeper S. Kumar also believed the same: "In Malaysia I only need to warm up for 15 minutes and I will be ready for the match, but here, even after 30 minutes, I am still a little stiff and it is difficult to move."
The Malaysian campaign is chugging along just fine, but the show of strength by Ireland is fast becoming a worrying factor.
The Irish have been relentless in both their penalty corners and also field attempts, while Malaysia have been heavily relying on penalty corners for goals.
Out of the 11 scored, only two were from field attempts while one from a penalty stroke and eight from penalty corners.
"We need the wins, and how the goals are scored does not matter. The penalty corner battery is working well, and hopefully, it keeps the momentum in the remaining matches," said Beng Hai.
For the record, Malaysia won a total of 16 penalty corners in the two matches, and all the attempts were direct flicks and not a single set-piece was used.
The secret weapon for Malaysia is Amin Rahim, who has been sparringly used by the coach as he is still recovering from a knee injury, but the seasoned campaigner has scored a total of four goals to keep the Malaysian dream afloat.

Ireland claim fevourites tag

IRELAND snatched the favourites tag in the Olympic Qualifiers, after they pomelled Ukraine 12-0 in a show of strength and skills to top the standings with a total of 18 goals.
In their first match, the Irish had disposed Russia 6-1.
The Green Machine, as they are nick-named, were merciless in their onslaught and their precision in the semi-circle is simply awsome.
However, their true form will only be known today, when they square off against world No 6 South Korea.
The Koreans showed that they are vulnerable at the back as they have let in three goals, and the also needed some 30 minutes before they could crack open the Chile goalmouth for a 6-1 win.
However, Ireland coach Paul Revington was not in a mood to celebrate the goals galore, yet, when he said: “I don’t think we’ll read too much into it.”
The coach was well aware that goals might come to nothing is they do not win three points against the Koreans.
“I think we are happier with the clean sheet. It was a composed and organised performance against Ukraine, however, Korea will be tough and we’ll do our preparation to be ready for that.”
Korea have not been their usual confident self in this tournament, and the fact that they recalled four Sydney 2000 players into their ranks also indicates that they have pushed the panic button, and the Irish could just dash their Olympics dream today.

Ireland-Malaysia sold out..

TICKETS for the Malaysia-Ireland match on Saturday have all been sold out, as it is expected to be the crunch match which will decide the fate of both teams in the Olympic Qualifier.
The fact that Malaysia has played in nine Olympics and declined the 1980 Moscow Olympics, while Ireland have been waiting for the last 104 years to play hockey at its highest level, has not gone unnoticed.
The Malaysian students here, on their own initiative, have snatched up 100 tickets for the match, while the National Sports Council have bought another 200 to be distributed to Malaysians living in Ireland.
The support will not be lacking when Malaysia play the Green Machine, as even the Malaysian Hockey Confederation will be bringing a 23-strong cheering squad for the South Korea and Ireland matches.
Malaysia have never won three matches in a row in any tournament, and they look set to break the jinx when they play Ukraine today, but after that the real tests await them.
Off the field, the fans are ready, but the team does not look 100 per cent confident and they need to change their mind-set in the final warm-up against Ukraine.
The strikers have only shown patches of brilliance, and missing are their darting runs and counter-attacks which were evident during the run-up tours.
Malaysia's best striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin has only played 50 per cent to his capabilities, but was still named as the best player against Russia.
He seem to lack his usual confidence, and hesitates when given the ball, someting which this scribe has never seen him do since the 2005 Junior World Cup in Rotterdam.
Faizal Saari has been more confident in his attacks than Tengku Ahmad, and is fast turing into a realiable hand even though he is only 21 years old.
His brother, Fitri, is only 19 and both of them had a good understanding against Russia and it looks like they might just turn out to be the twin-attack Malaysia need to win the remaining three matches and enter the final.