Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gunning for first title..

MALAYSIA will play two-time champions India in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup at the Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh on Friday.
   India are facing a do-or-die situation to qualify for the World Cup, while Malaysia will be gunning for their first Asia Cup title -- making it a sizzling last four duel.
    The other semis is between South Korea and Pakistan, with the Green Shirts needing a win to keep their World Cup dream alive.
   However, the pressure will be less against India, if South Korea beat Pakistan in the first semi-finals as that result would see them qualify for the World Cup.
  India, who finished sixth in the World League semi-finals, are the fourth International Hockey Federation (FIH) reserves and with South Korea and Malaysia already qualified, it is their turn next.
   And if Pakistan lose to Korea, India do not need to win the Asia Cup title to play at the Hague next year, as even if Malaysia or Korea win India as the fourth reserves will make the cut.
   "We drew 2-2 with India in the last encounter (Azlan Shah Cup) but this side is more determined as they are looking to qualify for the World Cup," said team manager George Koshy.
   And comparing the performance dished out by both the teams so far, it would be skewed towards India, admitted George.
   "India have yet to concede a single goal thus far. But having said that we know India , both the team and their players well and what to expect from them.
    "The coaches will prepare the team to upset the form book . We are
fairly confident with the right mind set , focus , approach and passion we
will be able to turn the tables on India, as they are not invincible," said Koshy.
   And there is no more room for silly mistakes, like the two goals Taiwan scored against Malaysia.
   "The team is in high spirits and motivated to win the match and they know very well
that we can't afford to make silly mistakes because India is more than
able to punish us. The plan is for the team, and the country, to have a memorable Hari Merdeka celebrations," said George.
    For the record, Revington and his men made the final of the Azlan Shah Cup only to lose to 3-2, and Ipoh might just see another super show from Malaysia.
    However, the worryong factor is penalty corner conversions, as Malaysia won 19 in three matches, but have only scored six.
   And all 19 penalty corners were direct attempts by either Razie Rahim or Faizal Saari with not a single set piece utilised to date.
    Maybe coach Revington is keeping the set-pieces for semi-finals onwards, and we will find out when they play India who has yet to lose in the Asia Cup, or even concede a single goal yet.