Wednesday, 11 June 2014 | MYT 9:08 PM
Hockey: Last chance to salvage some pride
THE HAGUE: Malaysia will play their final match of the 2014 hockey World Cup today knowing it’s their only chance to avoid finishing last.
They will meet South Africa in the 11th-12th placing playoff match – but nobody knows which Malaysian team will turn up at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Holland on Thursday.
It is as if the Malaysian team have a Jekyll and Hyde personality.
They’ve been known to play good hockey – as in when they beat South Africa in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in March – and downright poor as they have shown at the World Cup here.
Malaysia have never finished last in any of the seven World Cups they’ve taken part in, finishing 11th twice – in 1973 (Amstelveen) and 1998 (Utrecht).
Ironically, both tournaments were held in Holland and each time it was the Dutch who became world champions.
National coach K. Dharmaraj, though disappointed with their performances thus far, hopes that his players will rise to the occasion and show the world the kind of hockey they are capable of playing.
“There is no doubt that we can play better ... I expect the players to do just that against South Africa,” he said.
Dharmaraj has had his hands full in getting the team ready over last two days. But even he knows that there’s nothing much he can do at this stage.
There are just too many weaknesses in the team: repeated mistakes, inability to stay within the structure, missing chances and, more importantly, constantly giving the ball away cheaply to their opponents.
Much has been said about the team’s inexperience as almost all the players have never featured in the World Cup before. On top of that, Malaysia are the lowest ranked team – at No. 13 – at the World Cup.
But does that justify their pathetic displays in The Hague?
“We have to review where it all went wrong or why the players could not maintain their structure in the games?
“For now, we have to stay focused and try as hard as we can. We have beaten South Africa before ... but that doesn’t mean we are the better side.
“However, it does give us a fair chance at beating them and end this tournament with a win,” said Dharmaraj.
The target for Malaysia was just a 10th placing. They’ve failed to achieve it.
All that’s left for them now is to play for their pride. Let’s see if they can salvage even that!