PETALING JAYA: The real test for Malaysia is today when they go up against Belgium in the Junior Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India.
The second Group A encounter against the 2016 runners-up will likely decide whether the national side make it into the quarter-finals (top eight) stage or the classification rounds (bottom eight).
Malaysia have three points in hand after beating South American champions Chile 2-1 on Wednesday and will inch closer to making it to the top eight if they can hold the fancied Belgium to a draw.
Malaysia wrap up their group fixtures against South Africa tomorrow.
Belgium made a perfect start to the tournament by beating South Africa 5-1 on Wednesday, indicating they will be Malaysia’s strongest opposition in the group.
Team manager I. Vikneswaran said the players have to quickly regroup after the superb opening match against Chile.
“There is no time for celebration as the focus is on the crunch match against Belgium,” said Vikneswaran.
“Belgium play at a fast-paced game and are the strongest team in the group but our side will be ready.
The team went through a light training yesterday.
“They players have gone through proper recovery after the opener, which is important, as they have two matches within the next two days.
“I’m optimistic that the team will be in a good frame of mind after securing our first win. The win has boosted their confidence and reduced their stress.”
Vikneswaran said the team would improve on their weaknesses, which saw them missing many goal chances.
“We should have scored more goals in the first half but we did not, so we definitely need to look at how we can improve in this area,” he said.
The man of the match award went to Malaysia’s Amirul Azahar and he has promised to deliver again. “We have a lot of respect for Belgium because they were the runners-up at the last edition in 2016. We will study their game and be ready,” said Amirul.
Meanwhile, France had a dream start to the tournament when they edged title holders India 5-4 in their opening Group B match while another title favourites Holland thumped South Korea 12-5 in Group C.
Group B: France bt India 5-4, Poland bt Canada 1-0.
Group C: Holland bt South Korea 12-5.
Group D: Argentina bt Egypt 14-0.