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Wednesday November 14, 2012

A must-win for Malaysia but Australia won’t be easy to crack

Going for the ball: New Zealand’s Ben Radovonich (centre) in action against Malaysia’s Dedy Aryadi
(left) and Muhammad Firhan Ashari (second from right) during their Sultan of Johor Cup match at Taman
Daya Hockey Stadium, Johor Baru, on Monday. — ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG / The Star Going for the ball: New Zealand’s Ben Radovonich (centre) in action against Malaysia’s Dedy Aryadi (left) and Muhammad Firhan Ashari (second from right) during their Sultan of Johor Cup match at Taman Daya Hockey Stadium, Johor Baru, on Monday. — ABDUL RAHMAN EMBONG / The Star

JOHOR BARU: It was bound to happen. The Malaysians have found themselves backed against the wall after losing 5-2 to New Zealand in their second Sultan of Johor Cup match at the Taman Daya Stadium here on Monday.

The Malaysians now find themselves facing a must-win situation against Australia today – or, at the very least, a draw.

But it won’t be easy as the Aussies too need a win against Malaysia.

Coach K. Dharmaraj’s boys should have collected full points against the Kiwis, having gone into the game with a morale-boasting 3-2 win over Germany.

They even led 2-1 at half-time before capitulating after the break.

Dharmaraj admitted the speed and fitness level of the Kiwis caught his team by surprise.

“Their fast game surprised us. Our players were also a little tired after the hard game against Germany,” he said.

“Now we have to get a result against Australia. Losing is not an option ... the players know what is at stake.”

Malaysia, as defending champions, began well when they came back from two goals down to beat Germany.

It was their second-half performance in that game which caught the attention of many. Unfortunately, they could not reproduce that form against New Zealand.

Malaysia have the experience and players to win any match. After all, they are the defending champions and champions of Asia as well.

Dharmaraj has time and again called on the team to adopt a winning mentality.

“Yes, having a winning mentality has been my objective all along. We need not fear any team. The players have to play like champions to be one. So, against Australia, we will go for a win and nothing else.

“Both teams are looking for a win and, if the boys can play to instructions, we stand a good chance,” he said.

Australia are familiar foes for Malaysia, who know the kind of damage the Aussies can do if given too much space.

We all know how the national team tend to crumble at crucial times. One can only hope that this junior team are made of sterner stuff.

Meanwhile, Australian coach Paul Gaudoin acknowledged that Malaysia have the advantage but “we have the material to beat the home team”.

“You learn from every match and we will continue to push for a final place. Beating Pakistan has given the players greater confidence. I am sure we can match the Malaysians,” he said.

India lead the six-team standings with six points while New Zealand are second with four points. Malaysia and Australia have three points each while Pakistan have just one point. Germany prop up the table with no points.

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