Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pakistan the first hurdle ..

                                      CHUA BOON HUAT

                                      ROSLAN JAMALUDDIN

MALAYSIA will open accounts against Pakistan in the World League Semi-finals in Johor Baru on Saturday, with tradition favouring the men in green.
   Pakistan have never failed to play in a World Cup since its inception in 1971. And from their 12 appearances, they are the most successful side with four titles won in 1971, 1978, 1982 and 1994.
     The Netherlands have won three titles, and Germany and Australia have each won two titles with India lifting the trophy once.
    “We have never failed to qualify for the World Cup and aim to keep the proud tradition intact in Johor Baru. We are here to qualify, and will not be looking towards the Asia Cup as a back-up,” said Pakistan head coach Akhtar Rasool.
    The other teams in Group B are England and South Africa. The top-three teams in Johor Baru qualify for the World Cup in the Hague, Netherlands, next year.
     Malaysian assistant coach Arul Selvaraj, however, aims to keep a winning momentum from the start -- and that means a win against Pakistan.
     “Even though all eight teams play in the quarter-finals, we aim to keep a winning momentum in the group stages as well to give the players a boost ahead of the knock-out fixtures.
    “Pakistan have some hard-running and skilful players, but the fact that we held them (2-2) in the Azlan Shah Cup means that they are not unbeatable,” said Arul.
    The present squad has seen more downs than ups, except two senior players who have been successful in steering Malaysia past a qualifier, be it for the World Cup or the Olympics since 2000.
     And goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin and striker Chua Boon Huat aim to utilise their experience in guiding their teammates negotiate their way past a host of top teams in Johor Baru.
     Roslan and Chua played in the Osaka Olympic Qualifiers in 2000 where Malaysia made it on merit to the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After that Malaysia played in the 2002 World Cup as hosts and have never made it past the qualifiers to the two top events.
      Roslan was left out of the national team after the 2006 Doha Asian Games and made a return in 2010 when coach Stephen van Huizen recalled him for the 2010 Commonwealth Games ( New Delhi) and Asian Games ( Guangzhou).
    “Playing and getting through a qualifier gives a player a sense of satisfaction. The feeling is totally different and that is what I hope to share with the rest of the team,” said Roslan who competes against S. Kumar for the goalkeeping job in matches.
    His views were echoed by Chua, who also like Roslan was in the wilderness from 2009 until recalled by coach Paul Revington when the South African took over the reins of the national team.
    “I can still remember that day, and it was a fantastic feeling. And I aim to do my best here in Johor Baru to relive that feeling,” said Chua.   

FIXTURES: World League Johor Baru

GROUP A: Germany, South Korea, Argentina, Japan.
GROUP B: England, Pakistan, South Africa, Malaysia.
   June 29: Group A -- Germany v Argentina (3pm), Korea v Japan (5pm),
    Group B: Pakistan v Malaysia (7pm), England v South Africa (9pm).
    June 30: Group A: Argentina v Japan (3pm), Korea v Germany (5pm).
                 Group B: Pakistan v England (7pm), South Africa v Malaysia (9pm).
     July 1: REST DAY
     July 2: Group A: Germany v Japan (3pm), Argentina v Korea (5pm).
           Group B: England v Malaysia (7pm), South Africa v Pakistan (9pm).
         July 3: REST DAY
         July 4: Quarter-finals.

       NOTE: Malaysian time.