Fight to the end

All clear: Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin (centre) celebrates his goal with Syarman Mat Tee (left) and Mohd Fahmi Khalid against South Africa. — Photo by International Hockey Federation

PETALING JAYA: France’s breathtaking attacking display at the Junior Hockey World Cup has fans purring “Oh la la”.

With 23 goals in just three games, the team led by mercurial skipper Timothee Clement, who scored a hattrick against defending champions India, mean business and Malaysia better take note in their quarter-final clash tomorrow.

But Malaysia manager I. Vikneswaran is unfazed saying that Belgium are also one of the high-scoring side and the national juniors led by Wallace Tan held them 1-1.

“Many deemed we are defensive but in reality we are disciplined in our plays. We defend well and when we attack, it’s quick. Our boys do not fear anyone. They are ready for any team,” he said.

“I believe Belgium are much more potent than France based on their performance over the years. But we cannot underestimate France’s credibility, especially their individual flair.

“We respect them but not too much. We have our game, they have theirs. What we can do right now is just control what’s within us.

“There is a tendency to be afraid of European teams because they have improved tactically and technically but we have the belief. The aim is to minimise our mistakes and take our chances.”

Meanwhile, Wallace is aware of the uphill task that awaits his men and described their opponents as one of the strongest sides in the tournament.

“France are a strong team because, judging from their success of beating India, they seem to have high-quality players but we will give them a run for their money,” Wallace said in a video clip shared with the media.

Malaysia checked into the quarter-finals after securing a dramatic 4-3 victory over South Africa in the final action of Group A on Saturday.

Goalkeeping coach Roslan Jamaluddin said whoever is fielded will have to be at the top of their game to thwart the expected French assault.

“We know France are strong offensively and have some very good poachers. That’s why today we used the opportunity to focus on our goalkeepers and the backline to get them ready,” he said in a video clip shared by the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC).

Che Shahrul Azmi Che Saupi has featured in all three of Malaysia’s Group A matches while the other goalkeeper is Mohd Hamiz Mohd Ahir.

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