ANTWERP (Belgium): “We are not going to fail.”
National skipper Mohamed Razie Rahim sounded a clear warning that he and his team-mates will not falter in their Group B opening match of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals.
Malaysia need to finish among the top three to qualify for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We came here on a mission to qualify for the Olympics. Beating China is a must to reach the quarter-finals and there are no two ways about it. All our preparations have been geared towards beating China as well as our second match against Ireland (on June 25),” said Razie after the team’s training session.
Malaysia are No. 12 in the world, but Razie said they would not be fooled by China’s 31st ranking.
“China’s low ranking is no indication of their abilities. Our matches against China have always been close and we expect another close encounter,” added Razie.
Malaysia last played China at the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea in September. Malaysia won 3-1.
“We have been watching China’s recent matches on video and we know their strengths and weaknesses.
“I have never felt better executing penalty corners and will try to give the team an early boost. We need to douse the Chinese fire by scoring early goals,” said Razie.
The only concern for the Malaysians is the unpredictable weather. It has been chilly with a slight drizzle and the temperature hovering around 17°C.
Weather aside, Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai is also confident that China can be beaten.
“It will be a close match, but we can win it. My players have been giving their best and although we were hit by a tragedy and goalkeeper S. Kumar had to fly home, the target still remains the same. We need to beat China and then Ireland to qualify for the quarter-finals,” said Beng Hai.
Veteran goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, 37, will be the first choice goalkeeper with youngster Mohamed Hafizuddin Othman the replacement for Kumar.
Malaysia’s path in the tournament is clear cut. They cannot afford to mess up the first two matches.