Malaysia's Nurul Izzatul Hikmah (right) makes a shot in the ISTAF sepaktakraw Group C match against India on Thursday. Malaysia won 2-0 to top the group. - BERNAMA
KUALA LUMPUR: No way you’re going to win it like that!
Despite taking just 18 minutes to beat France 2-0, it was hardly convincing stuff from hosts Malaysia in their men’s Group B match of the ISTAF SuperSeries Finals 2013/14 at the Titiwangsa Stadium on Thursday.
Malaysia started off with tekong Izurin Refin, feeder Muqlis Borhan and killer Khairol Zaman Hamir Akhbar. However, the trio lacked urgency and committed far too many errors, gifting France easy points.
The introduction of 18-year-old tekong Syahir Rosdi late in the first set did Malaysia a world of good as they were able to kick into gear and win the set 15-7.
They then finished off the European wildcards 15-1 in the second set.
“We were sluggish throughout the game. The pace was slow and we just couldn’t get going. Even the players know they could have played much better ... but sluggish pace, means sluggish play,” said national coach Jamaluddin Hasan.
Malaysia will now face Group D runners-up Japan in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Japan were impressive in fighting back from a set down to beat China 16-17, 15-7, 15-8.
Judging by Japan’s performance on Thursday, the presence of a faultless tekong and first-choice killer Hanafiah Dolah will mean nothing if Malaysia don’t stamp their mark early on.
“The quarter-finals will be the real test. In the knockout stages, there is no place to hide. Japan are a rising threat ... they have lasting power and this is the chance for our boys to rise to the occasion,” said Jamaluddin.
In the other quarter-finals, Thailand will take on Indonesia, South Korea will face India and Brunei will meet Singapore.
In the women’s draw, Malaysia are through to the semi-finals after another 2-0 victory – this time against India – to emerge as winners of Group C.
However, it’s crunch time for the ladies as a stern test awaits them in the form of plucky South Korea. The Koreans advanced after beating Vietnam 2-0 in a crucial Group B tie.
The women’s semi-finals will be played on Saturday in a best-of-five format.