Monday, February 3, 2014

Need a miracle at the Hague opener...

MALAYSIA will need a miracle to beat World No 1 Australia  in their opening Group A match of the World Cup at the  Hague, Netherlands on May 31.
   Ranked lowest at the Hague, the International Hockey  Federation (FIH) has given Malaysia the honour to open the  tournament curtains against the highest ranked team.
  And there is more trouble in the format, as twelve-team  tournament has two groups, with the top-two in each group  moving into the semi-finals, while the rest will battle it out in  the fifth-12th bracket depending on how they fare in the  group stages.
    The tournament format is such that it makes group  matches more important, as the teams which end third in  Group A and Group B will battle it out for the fifth-sixth  spot.
    “Yes, we would need a miracle to beat defending cham pions Australia, so we will concentrate on the other four  teams to make sure we finish as high as possible in Group A,  as the FIH format is a straight playoff with no cross-overs for  cushion,” said national coach K. Dharmaraj.
    World No 13 Malaysia’s other opponents in Group A are  world No 5 Belgium (June 2), world No 4 England (June 5),  world No 10 India (June 7) and world No 9 Spain (June 9).
   In Group B are Olympic champions and world No 2  Germany, Netherlands (No 3), New Zealand (No 6), South  Korea (No 7), Argentina (No 11) and South Africa (No 12).
   “As the lowest ranked team in the tournament, we need to  target a high position in our Group. But our first three  matches will be difficult to win, so, we will go all out to get the  better of India and Spain in the last two matches to avoid  finishing last in the group,” said Dharmaraj.
    But the Australians would surely remember last year’s  Azlan Shah Cup final, where Malaysia took them to the wire  before losing 3-2 with the winner scored seven seconds from  time.
    Then, Faizal Saari and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin scored to  hold Australia 2-2 before Trent Mitton stunned the 15,000  fans with his dying second goal to win Australia’s seventh  Azlan Shah Cup title.