Egypt surprised Japan with their determined performance to limit their opponents to a solitary goal win this evening in the opening match of the 29th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 International Men’s hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh.
But Japan, who were the first to declare that they were eyeing for the title when they were the first arrived in Ipoh five days again, said that their slim win over Egypt, the lowest ranked team in the tournament (20th ranking) has not changed their aim to win the title for the first time ever.
Japan has never won the tournament since they made their debut in 1987 when they finished 6. In their three other appearances, they finished 7th in 2016, 6th in 2017 and 5th in 2019.
Japan’s coach Akira Takahshi said that his players were a little nervous as it was the opening match and Egypt too played well to make things difficult for them.
“We will definitely be better in our next match against Korea tomorrow (today) and being traditional rivals, I am confident the players will rise to the occasion.
“Our goal to win the title has not changed. We will improve with each match,” added Takahsi.
Koji Yamasaki scored a field goal in 16th minute off a pass by Kosei Kawabe in the box for Japan’s solitary goal.
Egypt’s goalkeeper Sayed Mohamed Gamal Mohamed, 35, one of the senior players in the team with 49 caps, also played an instrumental part in denying the Japanese from scoring, including saving a penalty stroke in the early stages of the third quarter.
Fittingly, Sayed was named the Man of the Match by the media covering the tournament.
Besides, Sayed, the Egyptian team themselves played well and were denied a goal in the dying seconds of the second quarter, when umpire Rashid Haroon from Pakistan, referred to the VAR, to deny the goal as it was scored by captain Amr Sayed after the buzzer had gone.
“It was a great result for us. Japan is a good team and to have just allowed them to score only one goal against us, is an achievement. But above all, the experience from this high-level international game augurs well for the players,” said Egypt’s Pakistan former international, coach Zaman Tahir.
“We came here for the tournament to gain experience against better ranked teams and we have certainly have started on the right foot.”
Egypt play South Africa tomorrow who are familiar opponents to them who come from the same continent.