28 Mar Malaysia wary of Canada
The final is out of reach for Malaysia but the last preliminary round match against Canada in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Friday is important for two reasons.
The first is that the National team needs a point to make sure they stay in the podium playoff.
Secondly, Canada is in the same World final series which will be held in Kuala Lumpur in late April.
So, beating Canada is important.
National coach Roelant Oltmans knows that getting the upper hand here at the Azlan Shah Stadium will give the Malaysians a distinct advantage and might make a difference later.
“Our preparations heading in the right direction and we have had some fantastic games
thus far. Getting the feel of Canada and keeping ahead of them is crucial.
“We will take every match seriously and want to win. The players have stuck with the structure we have come up with and I am pleased with their performance in the match. There is so much talent in the younger players and I feel good about the team” he said.
Malaysia won their first two matches 5-1 against Poland and 4-3 against Japan. They lost to India 2-4 and South Korea 1-2.
But in both the defeats the Malaysians played some of their best hockey.
If they can produce the same form that they displayed in the last quarter against India and Korea, then they will likely overcome Canada.
There is a likely chance that the Malaysians will meet the Canadians twice.
Both teams could end up playing in the third placing playoff match.
Canada coach Paul Bundy said they too and very interested in the Malaysians game as the two teams will meet in the world final series.
“ Our objective is no different from Malaysia. The World series final is the target. We are here to learn and gain exposure. So far that has been going well and we are happy with what the teams have achieved.
“ The objective in each game is different but the target will be to win.
“Malaysia is a strong team and play at good speed. They have the skills to exploit any situation and in Faizal Saari they have a good goal scorer eight field or penalty corners. There is also Razie (Rahim) and others with the ability to get the goals.
“We will not take them lightly and will push really hard,” he said.
It will be an interesting battle as both teams run their eye over each other. This will be a game of psychology and could even be a little rough.
As for Japan, they will need three points to have a remote chance of making the podium playoff.
But they will need a big margin win over South Korea and hope Malaysia or Canada are on the losing side.
Malaysia with six points has a plus 2 goal difference. Canada also on six has a minus 2 goal difference.
And Japan has a negative goal difference with three points.
So, either Malaysia or Canada must lose.
Japan coach Siegfried Aikman, as usual, remains optimistic of their chances.
“We will play to win and not worry about the other score. It is our game that we must worry about. We are playing well but the finishing has been woefully off target. There have been many missed chances that we should have won the matches.
“You don’t win matches if you do not score goals. It is that simple. Of course, we want to make the podium playoff. It is not in our hands. We play first and then only Malaysia and Canada.
“But let us not worry about that. We need to do our job and beat Korea. Otherwise, it does not matter what happens in the last match,” he said.
Korea has already made the final so the match against Japan is just of academic interest.
That does not mean they will be a pushover. It is just that they may want to reserve their energy for the final which they aim to win.
India is also in the same frame of mind. They have the final in mind and their last match against Poland is of no importance.
Poland has been winless and they are not likely to bother India much.
Overall the match that counts on Friday is the first game between Japan and Korea.
A Japan win will add pressure to the Malaysia-Canada game.
That would be a fitting end to the preliminary round.