Monday, June 5, 2017

A Great Wall re-built by Kim Sang Ryul...

 MALAYSIA .. Winners in Dhaka.
CHINA .. Silver medallists.

MALAYSIA'S last opponents in Group A of the World League Semifinals are China, and coach Stephen van Huizen's men can't afford to lose to the 18th ranked team in the world.
  It is most likely a do-or-die match for world No 14 Malaysia's aspiration to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as all the other teams are much more superior in ranking.
  Opening accounts against World No 1 Argentina will be followed by hosts and world No seven England, and then 12th ranked South Korea -- and if they fail to collect any points in these three matches, they will have to smash the Great Wall of China to play in the quarter-finals.
  Only the top four teams in each group qualify for the knock-out, and finishing fifth will shut the World Cup door on van Huizen's men.
   China, after a 40-days playing and training stint in Europe under renowned consultant Kim Sang Ryul, have also marked Malaysia as their only hope for three points.
  In Group B of the World League Semifinals on June 15-25 in London are Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Scotland and Canada.
  "China have been playing and training in Europe for over a month and their last match against us was very close. We need to win this match (in London) to play in the knock-out. And since its our last group match, we can't afford to drop any point against them," said van Huizen.
  For the record, Malaysia and China last played in the World League Round Two in Dhaka and the regulation time score was 2-2 before Malaysia won the gold 5-3 on penalty shoot-out.
  And the fear-factor here is that China were leading 2-0 by the 22nd minute, and by then Malaysia had failed to score off 12 penalty corners and a penalty stroke as No 1 flicker Razie Rahim was totally off form.
  However, a late fourth quarter charge saw a change in flickers and Shahril Saabah and Najmi Jazlan score two penalty corner goals to take the match to shoot-out.
  China have named the same 18 who almost stanched the gold medal from Malaysia in Dhaka, with Du Talake the penalty corner danger-man leading the charge.
  Talake scored 10 goals in Dhaka to finish second on the top-scorers list, while the closest Malaysian was Shahril on seven.
  "That's why we need to steal at least a point from the first two matches and then win against South Korea before facing China. Otherwise, we might face a big wall of resistance from China who have roped in master coach Kim to revive their fortunes," said van Huizen.
  Kim is recognised as the man who turned South Korea's hockey fortunes around, and his players almost landed the elusive Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000 -- but after gallantly holding Netherlands 3-3 in regulation time, they lost the shoot-out 5-4.
  And with Kim sitting on top of the Great Wall to watch over China, Malaysia need to play the best hockey of their lives on June 20 to claim the quarter-finals slot in London.