Glenn Turner scores the first goal for Australia against Malaysia in the Group A World Cup match at The Hague on Saturday. Australia went on to win 4-0. - EPA
THE HAGUE: Malaysia’s first match back in the hockey World Cup fold, after a 12-year absence, ended with a 4-0 bashing by world No. 1 and defending champions Australia at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Holland.
Malaysia did well to restrict Australia to just a one-goal lead in the first half of their Group A match – courtesy of a Glenn Turner solo effort in the 26th minute.
But the floodgates opened after the breather as the Australians added three more goals in a four-minute blitz – through Eddie Ockenden (50th), Jamie Dwyer (52nd) and Turner (54th).
After finding themselves in the wilderness for 12 years, the defeat clearly illustrates the wide gulf that separates the boys from the men.
The first 11 who started the match – S. Kumar, Mohd Razie Rahim, Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Azlan Misron, Faiz Helmi, Fitri Saari, Faizal Saari, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Ismail Abu, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor, Mohd Firhan Azhaari – were all making their World Cup debut.
Just before the match began, a minute’s silence was observed in honour of the late Sultan Azlan Shah, who passed away on Wednesday.
The late Sultan Azlan was widely acknowledged as the “Father of Malaysian hockey”. He was the longest-serving president of the then Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF), having taken over as president in 1976 from former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. He remained at the helm until 2005.
The Malaysian players also wore black armbands in the match against Australia.
It may have been a losing start, but the national players were certainly not overawed.
Defender Shukri said that they were confident of doing well, “although we knew it would be tough against the Australians”.
“We did not fear them and the first half was good for us. We showed that we were up to the task. But we let out guard down in the second half,” he said.
“You cannot do that against such a good team. We conceded the goals through our own mistakes and made them look good. Let this be a lesson to all of us.”
National coach K. Dharmaraj hopes that his men will learn from their mistakes as well.
“We stopped their penalty corners (seven) but let in field goals. I’m proud of the way my men performed out there, considering it was their first World Cup match,” he said.
“Izad (Hakimi Jamaluddin) was also okay despite having just arrived here from the airport. I played him in the forward line to let him get used to the atmosphere. He will need to rest properly first.”
Izad was flown in to replace defender Kevin Lim, who has been ruled out of the tournament after pulling a hamstring during a friendly on Thursday.
Izad arrived at The Hague from Kuala Lumpur at 7.30am and rushed straight to the stadium for the opening tie.
But the way Australia played, not even the presence of Kevin could have made much difference.
Australian coach Ric Charlesworth said that they were relieved to get the match out of the way.
“It was not a top-class show from us but we got the job done. We took too long to score and were not able to get it right at the start,” he said.
“Malaysia are always a difficult team to play against and they have good counter attacks. So, we’re pleased to have got three points and start off on a positive note.”
Malaysia’s second group match is against Belgium tomorrow.