Malaysia's Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (centre) goes past two Canadians in the Champions Challenge I group match on April 29, 2014. Malaysia won 4-3. Malaysia will be hoping to repeat that outcome in their semi-final match against Canada. – Bernama Photo
KUANTAN: This will be the sixth meeting between Malaysia and Canada within a two-month period.
Saturday’s encounter will be very significant as the winners go through to the final of the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament.
Both teams want to win and they know that the familiarity between them will prove useful.
Canada coach Anthony Farry said that although they are familiar with each other the main issue will be to find the other team’s weaknesses.
“It is not going to be an easy match. It will be our sixth meeting in less than two months. But this time the stakes are higher.
“Malaysia have done well in the last two matches and we are well aware of their potential. But we do believe that we can win this tie and thus we will go into the game prepared to walk off as winners,” he said.
In the three friendly matches that the two teams played in Malacca before the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia won two of the matches 6-1 and 5-1 and lost one 3-4.
At the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March, Malaysia beat Canada 3-0 and in an earlier Group B match here, the Malaysians also triumphed 4-3.
Based on recent records, the Malaysians look to have an advantage, but upsets do happen.
Canadian skipper Scott Tupper said that it is a match that could go all the way. A lot will depend on who has a better reading of the other team’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We are familiar with Malaysia’s game. We will be looking at the videos of those games and the one Malaysia played with New Zealand to look for answers. I am sure we can find something that can be used to our advantage,” he said.
“With (favourites) New Zealand out of the picture for the title, I am sure that all four teams will fancy their chances of winning. But for us, it is one step at a time and, for now, our focus is on Malaysia,” said Tupper.
Canada’s coach Farry added that they want to win the match in the 70 minutes of play and not take it to a penalty shootout.
“Why worry about the shootout. We need to come up with a strategy to beat them in the 70 minutes. We don’t want to go there (shootout),” he added.
The second semi-final match is between Ireland and South Korea.
“We are looking forward to the match as we don’t play against Asian opponents very often. This will be a different style of play that we need to get used to,” said Ireland skipper John Jackson.
The Green Machine reached the top four thanks to a 3-0-shootout victory over European rivals France (2-2 at regulation time). The match winner was goalkeeper David Harte who kept a clean sheet in the one-on-one competition.
The South Koreans are also well aware of Harte’s potential and view him as a world class player.
South Korea coach Shin Seok-kyu said they would not take Ireland for granted although they are ranked 15th in the world.
“Ireland have a strong defence. David Harte is one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” said Seok-kyu.
“But hopefully we can win this match and make the final. The team are playing well and the goals are starting to flow. But at this stage every team have a chance and we must be alert at all times,” he said.