Mohd Shahril Saabah (right) in a file photo. He has already netted two goals in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
IPOH: Rookie Mohd Shahril Saabah has been in top form in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, scoring two goals in the first two matches against South Africa and South Korea.
And now the 20-year-old forward from Kuala Terengganu will have to deliver the penalty corner goals in the absence of experienced striker Faizal Saari, who faces a one-match suspension for breaking a chair in the match against Canada on Monday.
Shahril, who made his international debut in the tournament, netted the opening field goal against South Africa last Thursday to guide Malaysia to 3-2 win. He also converted a penalty corner in the match against the Koreans on Sunday, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Nippy Faizal is the top scorer in the national team for netting four of the eight goals in three matches. He scored in all three matches – the winning goal against South Africa, the equalising goal against South Korea and two goals against Canada.
Malaysia have seven points from two wins and a draw and they will have to collect full points against China on Wednesday to stay in contention for a place in the final.
Debutants China, who are ranked 25th in the world and are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, are in fourth spot in the standings with one win and two defeats.
Shahril, a penalty corner drag flicker, said that they definitely would miss the services of Faizal, who was the top scorer with six goals in the same tournament last year.
“Faizal is the toast of the team as he is a very hardworking player who has delivered goals in every match.
“It will be difficult for me to fill his shoes and score both field and penalty corner goals, but I will try my best,” said Shahril, who netted three goals in the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last December.
Shahril said that they can expect a daunting time against China, who have been playing exceptionally well.
“China did superbly to outplay South Africa (ranked 12th in the world) 5-0 and give Asia Cup champions South Korea a torrid time before losing 2-3. And they definitely will be going all out against us to finish in a good position.
“The challenge will be for us to beat them as they are very fast with their counter attacks,” said Shahril, who is pleased with his performance in the tournament so far.
The other forwards in the national team are Tengku Ahmad Tajudin, Mohd Firhan Ashaari and Mohd Rashid Baharom.
Tengku Ahmad and Firhan have yet to put their name on the score sheet while Rashid scored a goal against South Africa.
Malaysia last played China in the Asian Champions Trophy in Kakamigahara, Japan, last November, where they won 3-0 in the playoff for the bronze medal.