Friday, 21 March 2014 | MYT 7:43 PM
Australia give rookie goalkeeper Hafizudin the jitters
Mohd Hafizuddin Othman expects a torrid time, especially after having played against Australia during Malaysia’s tour of Perth last month and ending up losing 9-0.
IPOH: Rookie goalkeeper Mohd Hafizuddin Othman is getting the jitters even before Malaysia face world champions Australia in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Kuala Terengganu lad expects a torrid time, especially after having played against the Kookaburras during Malaysia’s tour of Perth last month and ending up losing 9-0.
“It was really demoralising to let in nine goals in one match,” confessed Hafizuddin on Friday.
“I am already feeling nervous. It is going to be a tough task to stop the Australian strikers from scoring. They also have powerful penalty corner drag flickers like Nicholas (Budgeon). He has scored six goals in four matches.”
The Australians’ statistics certainly strike fear in Hafizuddin. They have scored 25 goals, averaging about 6.25 per game, and are assured of a place in Sunday’s final after topping the six-team tournament with the maximum 12 points.
“Australia also have the psychological advantage as we have not beaten them for more than a decade,” said Hafizuddin, who played in all Malaysia’s four matches and conceded eight goals.
“I have to be on my toes throughout the match because Australia will be going all out to stay unbeaten. I hope I will be able to rise to the occasion to stop their attempts. I don’t want to be blamed for letting the team down by conceding too many goals and missing the final,” said Hafizuddin.
Malaysia are second on 10 points going into their last group match and are favourites to qualify for the final as they have a seven-goal advantage over third-placed South Korea, who have seven points.
The Koreans, the 1999 and 2010 champions, are expected to pile on the goals in their last match against bottom side South Africa on Saturday.
The good news for Malaysia is that Australia’s top striker Jamie Dwyer is a doubtful starter after he suffered a hamstring injury in the 5-1 win over South Korea on Thursday.
Australian skipper Mark Knowles said they would not take Malaysia lightly.
“We are wary as some of the Malaysian players are skilful and fast on the counter attacks,” said Knowles.
“It’s going to be tough to play them in their own backyard as they get very strong support from their fans.
“The fans also make a lot of noise and this can affect our game.
“However, we are looking forward to playing against Malaysia as we will face them in the opening match of the World Cup (in The Hague on May 31),” said Knowles.
Malaysia played Australia twice in the same tournament last year. In the group stage, the match ended 1-1. Australia, however, edged Malaysia 3-2 in the final.