ANTWERP: They have been far from convincing.
Yet, Malaysia have made the last eight of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals.
They face familiar foes India in a quarter-final match on Wednesday knowing that a spot in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics awaits.
The top three teams from this tournament will be assured of a place in next year’s Olympics while the fourth-placed team could still sneak in.
Although Malaysia lost their last two group matches to Belgium and Britain, national coach Tai Beng Hai believes his team can bounce back if they can put in a herculean effort against India.
“It’s in our own hands (to win the match). We knew that making the quarter-finals was the key ... and we’ve done it,” he said after a morning training session at the Royal Herakles Hockey Club on Tuesday.
“Now India are the ones we have to beat. We are familiar with each other’s game, so there’s no reason not to be optimistic.
“At this stage, we just have to lift our game with one supreme effort ... and go all out.”
Malaysia are injury-free and goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin has done well since replacing S. Kumar, who had to return home following the death of his son before the tournament began.
But if there’s one area of concern, then it has to be the backline.
The defenders are not clearing the rebounds fast enough, and this has resulted in Malaysia conceding four of nine goals in the group matches.
The backline of Mohd Razie Rahim, Baljit Singh, Azlan Misron and Mohd Shukri Mutalib will have to cut down on their mistakes and tighten up against India.
“All the players know what this match means... it all boils down to whether we can play to our true form, not make mistakes and take our chances,” said Beng Hai.
Forward Faizal Saari, with one goal thus far, has also issued a clarion call to his team-mates.
“I’m good to play. The quarter-final match has been our main target. Now, we’re just 60 minutes away from making the top four – and achieving our dream,” said Faizal, who needed stitches to his forehead after being injured in the match against Britain on Sunday.
“I hope I can score against India and help Malaysia qualify for the semi-finals.”