KUANTAN: Ranked 16th in the world, not much was expected of the Canadians at the Champions Challenge I, but they have proven critics wrong so far.
A draw with South Korea (3-3) and a win over France (3-2) has put them in second position in Group B, with South Korea in the lead on goal difference.
Canada play Malaysia on Tuesday and they know winning the tie will set them on an easier path in the quarter-finals.
The Canadians are returning to Malaysia for the second time in a month, following their participation in March’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.
The team secured a fourth-placed finish there, their best on record.
In the Ipoh tournament, they lost to fellow Group B rivals South Korea (3-0) and Malaysia (3-1). This time, Canada are much better prepared and seem determined to be taken seriously.
They are bent on improving their performance in the Champions Challenge I. In their last outing in 2012 in Quilmes, Argentina, they finished sixth.
Team coach Anthony Farry said that playing Malaysia is tough as they always have a strong line-up.
“Here in Kuantan they have the home crowd behind them and we are not used to playing under such conditions, not to mention the humidity.
“But we have started off well and the players are responding well to our style. The draw against the South Koreans is noteworthy, as we came back from a 3-1 score line.
“So we do fancy our chances against Malaysia tomorrow,” he said.
The Canadians have brought pretty much the same squad that played in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, with three changes. The three players who came into the team are Richard Hildreth, David Jameson (both 29 years old) and 24-year-old John Smythe, who has just four caps thus far.
The squad selected by head coach Farry contain three players named in the 2013 Pan American Elite Team. They are defender Scott Tupper and strikers Matthew Guest and Mark Pearson.
This is not an inexperienced team, either. Skipper Tupper has 177 caps while Pearson came into the tournament with 144 caps. Three others have more than 100 caps – Philip Wright (132), Hildreth (112) and Jameson (192).
Farry added that his side are thrilled to play Malaysia, despite the home crowd and humid weather.
“The game tomorrow will be tough as Malaysia are looking to win their first match. We have to stay focused and play our normal game.
“The conditions will be a bit better, considering it is a night match,” he added.