Saturday March 16, 2013
Hockey: It all points to a M'sian-Aussie final in Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
By S. RAMAGURU
IPOH: It all points to a Malaysia-Australia final in the 22nd edition of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
But with the twists and turns that have taken place in the last few days, there is no doubt that defending champions New Zealand will have a say. They are the only team who can stop a Malaysia-Australia final.
The Kiwis play the Australians in the last match today and they need to win to make the final. If that happens, then the Malaysians will have to go and grab a draw with India in the last match to secure their place. Of course, this will put the Australians out of the final.
But if Australia draw or win, then they will go into the final and take Malaysia with them.
So, the scenario is clear for the final day of action in the preliminary round.
Malaysia and Australia could have secured their places in the final had they won on Thursday. But both teams were forced to a draw. Malaysia drew 2-2 with Pakistan while Australia were held 3-3 by South Korea.
Malaysia coach Paul Revington is not perturbed about the permutations involved in reaching the final.
“We have to go into the match with a positive attitude and try to win it. It does not matter what happens in the other matches. We must play our best and not depend on other results to get through.
“We have no intention of taking it easy against India,” he said.
Like Australia, Malaysia are also undefeated thus far.
Revington’s confidence has been buoyed by Malaysia’s performance against Pakistan. To him, it was the team’s best display since he took over last year.
“The performance was good and I appreciate the attitude of the players very much. They have done me proud and I am sure that we can improve on it,” he said.
But there are still some serious concerns for Revington as he looks to rebuild the Malaysian team into an attacking side.
“The players’ inability to hold on to a lead is a concern. We must know when to go into attack and when to hold out especially when you lead with six or seven minutes to go.
“At times, you need not attack at all costs. We have to bolster the defence and dig into the ground. That is a lesson to be learnt.
“Our penalty corners were not that effective although Faizal Saari and Mohamed Razie Rahim scored a goal each. We need to see where it went wrong. There were nine penalty corners in the match against Pakistan.
“But with each step we must learn and improve. Otherwise, we will go nowhere. For me, it is better we take it one match at a time,” he added.
India are last in the standings but they are certainly no pushovers. They are desperate for a win to try and secure a spot in the third placing playoffs.
The all-Oceania match between New Zealand and Australia will also be keenly contested.
New Zealand coach Colin Batch, who was assistant coach to the Australian national team previously, said: “Our rivalry dates back to several decades and each match is a tough encounter. It will be the same tomorrow. With a final berth at stake, both teams want to win. I expect a good match and one that will be of high quality.”