Monday, August 13, 2018

Asian Games 2018 Contenders: Malaysia



Sukri Mutalib to lead Malaysia in Asian Games
There is phrase that goes in life and sports- ‘Never count out an underdog.’ Malaysian hockey team will be trying to prove this point and win that eluding Gold when they begin their Asian Games campaign against Kazakhstan on 20th August.

Malaysia has always been among of the top performing teams in the Asian Games, winning bronze medal six times (Asian Games record) but has still not managed to win a Gold in the tournament. Malaysia’s best finish came in the 2010 Asian Games when they finished second
after losing to Pakistan in the finals. Apart from India and Pakistan, Malaysia is the only team to participate in all 15 editions of the tournament.

Malaysia has been placed in Group B of the tournament and will face challenge from Pakistan for the top spot in Group B. Other teams of Group B are Bangladesh, Oman, Thailand and Kazakhstan. With top 2 teams qualifying for the semi-finals, Malaysia will be aiming to top the group to avoid India in the semi-finals of the tournament.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation Technical Director Terry Walsh expects Malaysia to break new ground in the Asian Games and is sure that the team will reach the finals of the tournament.

HISTORY

Despite being among the top performers in the tournament, Malaysia’s luck has always run out when it comes to winning Gold medals in Asian Games. In the inaugural edition of the tournament, Malaysia finish at 4th spot after losing to Korea in the bronze medal match. They bettered their performance in 1962 Asian Games by winning their first bronze medal. Next 20 years of Asian Games saw Malaysia and Japan battling it out for the third-place finish with Malaysia winning 3 bronze medals (1974,1978,1982) while Japan winning bronze 1966 and 1970 Asian Games. 2010 was the outing for Malaysia when they beat tournament favorites India in extra time to set up the finals clash with Pakistan. In 2014, Incheon Asian Games, Malaysia finish 4th after losing to Korea 3-2.

PREPARATION

Malaysia’s preparations have not gone as per the plan after losing 4 of the 5 test matches played against the Australia A team. The team conceded 18 goals in the 5 matches played and scored only 7 against what was a second-string Australian squad.

Fitri Saari is going to be a key for Malaysian success
Coach Stephan Van was unhappy with the team’s defensive play and penalty corner conversion during the Australia tour but believed that the team will overcome this and win Gold medal. Even Malaysian Hockey Confederation has kept a target of winning Gold medal in the tournament with MHC president saying that he is confident that the team will at least reach the finals of the tournament.

We spoke to renowned hockey journalist of Jugjet Singh (@JugjetSingh) of New Straits Times about Malaysia’s chances in the Asian Games and he has this to say:

ON MALAYSIA’S CHANCES IN THE TOURNAMENT

Expecting Malaysia to win the Gold medal in the tournament. Pakistan are our only challengers in Group B, and both teams will be playing to top the group and avoid favorites India in the semi-finals.

Malaysia and Pakistan should win full points against Bangladesh, Oman, Kazakhstan and Thailand.

ON KEY PLAYERS FOR MALAYSIA

Experienced campaigner S. Kumar in Goal; Razie Rahim in defense and as a penalty corner expert. Midfield Fitri Saari to build the play while in attack, Fitri’s younger brother Faizal Saari. Captain Shukri Mutalib who is equally equipped to play in attack, midfield and defense.

ON WHICH TEAM WILL POSE BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO MALAYSIA

India in the semi-finals/ or finals, always the crunch match as they even denied Malaysia a spot in the Rio de Janeiro during the Belgium Olympics Qualifier.

ON FINAL PLACINGS IN THE ASIAN GAMES

Gold -- Malaysia

Silver -- India

Bronze – Pakistan

Shukri Mutalib has been named as captain of Malaysian side for the tournament. Return of goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam (considered among the best goalkeepers in the world) will also help Malaysia in achieving the elusive Gold medal.

TEAM

S. Kumar, Hairi Rahman, Sukri Mutalib (C), Razie Rahim, 
Syed Syafiq Syed Cholan, Azri Hassan, Faiz Helmi Jali, Nabil Fiqri, 
Marhan Jalil, Meor Azuan Hassan, Fitri Saari, Joel Samuel van Huizen, 
Amirol Aideed Arshad, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Nik Aiman Nik Rozemi, Firhan Ashari, Shahril Saabah.

 

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