The Malaysian fans do not have much to celebrate at the hockey World Cup at The Hague as the national team have lost all four of their matches so far. Their last Group A match is against Spain on Monday. - SS KANESAN/ The Star
THE HAGUE: There will be more pain for Malaysia if they fall to Spain in Sunday’s final Group A clash at the hockey World Cup here in Holland.
Malaysia, last in the group with no points after four matches, need to win the match if they want to realise their target of a 10th placing.
Coach K. Dhamaraj now needs to get the players mentally prepared for the game against Spain as it is a do-or-die battle.
“Spain are also in the same boat as Malaysia. They will end up last if they lose to us.
“Our players are down (after the 3-2 defeat to India on Saturday). We will talk to them and try and get them back on their feet and be prepared for this crunch match as it’s the last match of the group,” said Dharmaraj yesterday.
Australia have qualified for the semi-finals after winning all their four matches in the six-team group. Second-placed Belgium, on nine points, and third-placed England, who have seven points, will meet each other on Sunday for the other spot in the last four.
Fourth-placed India, who have four points, have a monumental task against Australia. If India lose, fifth-placed Spain have the chance to pip them to fourth in the group if they beat Malaysia.
“The India-Australia match will affect the outcome of the group. If India win, then Spain know that they cannot pip them and that may well make it a little easier for us.
“But we are not looking for favours. Our play has been erratic to say the least and we have to go back and stick to our structure.
“There is a need for the players to complement each other. There are some good play and individual performances. But the whole team need to rise and show their true capabilities,” said Dharmaraj.
Malaysia have not played Spain in any recent tournaments. But the Spaniards have several good and experienced players like Edward Tubau, Santi Freixa, Ramon Alegre, Sergi Enrique and goalkeeper Quico Cortes. All of them have more than 100 caps each.
Malaysia, however, can take heart that the Spanish penalty corner conversion rate has not been good. They only managed to convert one of 14 awarded to them.
In contrast, Malaysia were awarded 12 and managed to score three through Mohamed Razie Rahim.
“I think the statistics don’t matter for now. If we defend badly, then they can score. What we need to do is to make sure our chances count.
“If you miss the goals at this level, then winning is a tough task. We have had plenty of chances but our finishing has been bad. We need to overcome that,” added Dharmaraj.