The Malaysian Thomas Cup team led by Lee Chong Wei (centre) at the briefing on the eve of the final. – Azhar Mahfof /THE STAR
NEW DELHI:What was touted to be the weakest Malaysian team for a Thomas Cup campaign are now on the brink of achieving history and their project leader Rashid Sidek is hoping those who will be playing against surprise finalist Japan on Sunday will stay calm under intense pressure.
The shuttlers gathered as usual at the Shangri-La Hotel garden for a short briefing where they sang the national anthem together before adjourning for breakfast.
The mood was relaxed on the eve of the final as they went through their daily routine.
Rashid said it was important to share with them his experiences when he featured as the first singles player in the 1992 Thomas Cup winning team.
Malaysia managed to reach three subsequent finals in 1994, 1998 and 2002 but fell to Indonesia each time.
The psychological barrier is gone now after Malaysia sent Indonesia packing with a convincing 3-0 margin in the semi-finals on Friday.
Malaysia overcame South Korea (3-2) to go into the knockout stage as the group winner and they booked their spot in the last-four after beating Denmark 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
”No one expected this team to go into the final. Many people have said this team have no chance but I think they have proven what they are capable of by beating three strong teams.
”As the coaches, we advised them to just focus on preparing well for the challenges.
”We have taken things one at a time and it’s going to be the same approach tomorrow.
”They must stay focused and be willing to fight till the last point.
”There is not much difference between the level of our players and the Japanese.
”It is more of a mental battle and how our players handle the pressure tomorrow.
”I hope our players remain cool,” said Rashid, who added it is crucial for Lee Chong Wei to take the first point against world number four Kenichi Tago.
”Chong Wei needs to win the first singles to get the momentum going for us.
”We have to win the tie from the first four matches as Japan will be dangerous for us if it comes to the deciding third singles.”
If it goes down to the wire, Japan have the upper hand as they have a more stable third singles player in the experienced Sho Sasaki compared to Malaysia, who will be relying on captain Liew Daren.
It remains to be seen if Daren can seal the tie for Malaysia with his confidence in question after losing the third singles matches against India and Germany.