Mohamed Shahril Saabah (left) and Mohd Fitri Saari during training before the Champions Challenge I began. Shahril scored two goals against Canada on April 29, 2014, and another two in the quarter-final match against New Zealand. – Bernama Photo
KUANTAN: Mohd Shahril Saabah is fast losing his greenhorn tag in only his second tournament with the national senior hockey team.
Instead, the 20-year-old striker is now very much a marked man after emerging as Malaysia’s top scorer with four goals in the Champions Challenge I tournament.
Last December, Shahril helped Malaysia emerge fourth in the Junior World Cup. And he was just as impressive in his first stint with the senior squad during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March.
On Saturday, Shahril will be earning his 11th cap and he hopes to score to help Malaysia beat Canada in the semi-finals.
He scored two goals against Canada in a group match on Tuesday and another two in the quarter-final match against New Zealand.
Shahril said he will try to keep up his scoring rate, admitting that his priority has always been to learn from all the outings.
“I’m happy to have contributed to our win over New Zealand in the quarter-finals. It was a tough match and I don’t think anyone gave us a chance of winning,” he said.
“But we proved them wrong. We must not stop there. Canada are next and we will have to play harder as they will be looking for revenge.
“For me, the main thing is to learn from each match. In fact, all the players are working hard at their game. I have been given the task of taking the penalty corners for now and I want to keep scoring.”
While forward Faizal Saari has been the main penalty corner taker in the absence of the injured Mohd Razie Rahim, Shahril has stepped forward and showed that he too is capable of taking drag flicks. This is certainly good news for the national team as they have yet another option in set-pieces.
National coach K. Dharmaraj said that although Shahril, one of the drag flickers when he was in the junior team, has yet to be groomed as a flicker he has the hallmarks of a good penalty corner taker.
“I am happy that he has scored some very crucial goals for us. He will have to work harder to establish himself in that particular department,” he said.