WIN all three remaining matches or Malaysia can forget their hopes of reaching the final of the 29th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2022 International Men’s hockey tournament at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh.
National hockey team coach A. Arul Selvaraj and team manager Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi were the first to admit that their path to the final is crystal clear after only collecting one point after two matches – win all remaining three matches or forget about playing in the final.
Malaysia opened their campaign in the tournament with a 0-3 loss to to Korea and on Wednesday despite taking the lead against Pakistan, had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Malaysia play South Africa tomorrow, Egypt on Saturday and Japan in their final round-robin match on Sunday.
“Our mission now is not finding fault on what went wrong but to find solutions to overcome the shortcomings to win all three matches to make the final,” said Mirnawan.
“Except for Korea who have two wins and look set to book their place in the final, the other slot is open with with some upset results.
“We can hope for some more upset results for us to qualify for the final, but the clear passage is to determine our own path by winning all three matches.”
Mirnawan said that critics may be pessimistic about Malaysia winning all three matches after having only collected one point from two matches and only scored one goal so far.
Arul chipped in to say: “Agreed we could have started better, but that is behind us and we have to move forward. We did well to improve tremendously against Pakistan, but we were not clinical in our finishing.”
Arul said the players have the right spirit, determination, motivation and doing extremely well in training. Now they have to apply in the game and make use of the chances.”
Malaysia has only scored one goal in two matches and that too a field goal by Shello Silverius against Pakistan.
Malaysia had three penalty corners against Korea and score none, while Korea had three and converted all three. Against Pakistan, Malaysia had five penalty corners and did not convert any, while Pakistan had five and converted one.
“We had close calls in our penalty corners like hitting the post and millimetre misses from converting but that is not good enough. We have to be clinical in our finishing and make use of the penalty corners,” said Arul.
In the absence of Faizal Shari and Sharil Saabah, Razie Rahim and captain Mohd Najmi Jazlan have been taking the flickers.
In all fairness to the team, they are also missing the likes of captain Marhan Jalil, Faiz Helmi Jalil and forward Norsyafiq Sumantri have just returned to the squad fresh from their injuries.
Then there is also youngsters in the team like Muhammad Amirul Hamizan Azahar, Syaarman Mat Tee, and Tengku Nasrul Ikmal Tengku Abdul Rahim.
But no excuses, the team has to rise to the occasion as they have been selected to don national colours on their merit although Arul has insisted that it is a process with the ultimate goal to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
“I believe and have faith in his team and have every confidence that they will rise to the occasion when it matters,” was Arul’s parting shot.
South Africa after their opening game 4-1 victory over Pakistan, went down surprisingly to Egypt 0-3 on Wednesday.
With South Africa’s unpredictability, Malaysia indeed cannot take them lightly.
South Africa’s coach, Garreth Ewing, said is team was tired after the match against Pakistan but is confident will bounce back against Malaysia after a day’s rest today.