National hockey captain Azlan Misron hopes the team will beat South Korea in memory of the late Chua Boon Huat, who scored the winning goal against the same side in last year's edition of the tournament. - Filepic
IPOH: With an inexperienced goalkeeper and poor penalty corner conversion rate, Malaysia face a daunting task against four-time Asia Cup champions South Korea in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup match at the Azlan Shah Stadium on Sunday.
National chief coach K. Dharmaraj fielded five newcomers in Malaysia’s 3-2 win over South Africa in their opening match on Thursday.
Goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin Othman, who earned his first international cap against South Africa, conceded two low penalty corner flicks taken by South Africa’s Jethro Eustice in each half.
The other Malaysians who made their international debuts were defender Shazril Irwan Nazli, midfielder Mohd Azri Hassan and strikers Mohd Shahril Saabah and Mohd Rashid Baharom. Reserve goalkeeper Mohd Hazrul Faiz Ahmad Sobri is the only player who has yet to make his international debut.
Malaysia are also missing the services of defender and penalty corner specialist Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
The national team wasted 11 penalty corners against South Africa but striker Faizal Saari saved the day for Malaysia by converting their 12th penalty corner.
Malaysia’s real challenge will be against the speedy Koreans, who also have a solid penalty corner conversion rate.
The Koreans netted two penalty corner goals to beat Canada 3-0 in their first match on Friday.
The Malaysian defence led by skipper Azlan Misron will have to be wary of Korea’s Jang Jong-hyun, who is deadly with his powerful drag flicks.
The 31-year-old Azlan said Malaysia would be the underdogs.
“It will be tough for us with six new faces in the team to stop the skilful Koreans. They play a fast attacking game.
“We cannot afford to make any silly mistakes in the semi-circle as they have lethal forwards,” said Azlan, who will play as the last man against the Koreans.
“They also have a calibre penalty corner flicker in Jung-hyun. I hope Hafizuddin, who did reasonably well in the first match, will be able to play much better against the Koreans.
“We also need to make full use of our penalty corners after missing 11 in the match against South Africa.
“However, nothing is impossible as we defeated Korea 3-2 in the opening match of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year. I believe we can do it again.
“We just need to have faith in ourselves and stay on our toes throughout the match,” said Azlan, who is the most capped player in the tournament with 324 international appearances.
Last year in the tournament, Faizal gave Malaysia the lead against the Koreans. But the hero of the match was the late Chua Boon Huat, who netted two goals in the last three minutes of the match to give Malaysia a 3-2 win.
“We want to win the match in memory of Boon Huat (who died in a car accident last August).
“We want the fans to come in droves to cheer us. Our hopes of reaching the final will depend on the outcome against the Koreans,” said Azlan.
Malaysia reached last year’s final before losing 3-2 to Australia.