Thursday, 22 June 2017

Malaysia qualifies for next year’s World Cup Hockey

Stephen salutes players’ character after sealing World Cup spot

image: http://www.thestar.com.my/~/media/online/2017/06/22/02/28/fitri-saari.ashx/?w=620&h=413&crop=1&hash=A6F2F7A05A0D734C1FEB800295F97B77FA7763B7
On target: Fitri Saari celebrating after scoring against China in the Group A match of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in London on Tuesday.
On target: Fitri Saari celebrating after scoring against China in the Group A match of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in London on Tuesday.
KUALA LUMPUR: Who would have thought that Malaysia would qualify for next year’s World Cup after losing their two opening group matches in the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in London?
They lost 5-2 to world No. 1 Argentina in their first Group A match before being trounced 7-3 by England.
National coach Stephen van Huizen’s men then bounced back to beat South Korea 1-0 and, on Tuesday, completed their group fixtures with a 5-1 win over China to check into the quarter-finals and seal their place in next year’s World Cup, to be held in Bhubaneswar, India.
World No. 14 Malaysia will face Group B runners-up and world No. 6 India in the quarter-finals at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre today.
Malaysia played their best match in London against China – scoring four goals in the first 27 minutes.
Defender Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim was the toast for Malaysia after netting two penalty corner goals in the 19th and 27th minutes.
Faizal Saari (second minute), Muhd Najmi Farizal Jazlan (12th) and Fitri Saari (51st) added a goal apiece.
Du Talake scored China’s consolation goal in the 43rd minute.
“We knew before coming to London that the first two matches – against Argentina and England – would be tough. I am happy that my boys bounced back to win the next two,” said Stephen in a telephone interview from London yesterday.
“We struggled against the Koreans, but played well against China for a convincing win.”
Stephen expects another tough time against India as “they have a solid team”.
“They also have a penalty corner specialist in Harmanpreet Singh, who has scored three goals in this tournament,” said Stephen.
“India will also be seeking to avenge their 1-0 loss to us in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (in Ipoh last month).
“My players are in high spirits and ready to give their best. We want to go beyond the quarter-final stage, which was our initial target.”
image: http://www.thestar.com.my/sport/hockey/2017/06/22/stick-with-it-guys-stephen-salutes-players-character-after-sealing-world-cup-spot/~/media/545b08b647734646b34affcb81a5cda2.ashx

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Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/sport/hockey/2017/06/22/stick-with-it-guys-stephen-salutes-players-character-after-sealing-world-cup-spot/#IWY8sRw8Cgz8cmGX.99

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