THE mighty charge came to an end, but it’s only a battle lost. The war is still there to be won.
That was the rallying cry by Malaysia hockey team manager Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi as the Speedy Tigers prepare to take on host nation China in a do-or-die match.
Malaysia need to win their final Pool B game in the Asian Games at the Gongshu Canal Park Stadium today to get into the semi-final.
They had started in grand style, thrashing Thailand (8-0), Oman (11-1) and Indonesia (9-2) but the run came to a shuddering halt when they lost 3-4 to South Korea.
China currently top the standings with 12 points, while Malaysia are second with nine points, similar to South Korea, but with a better goal difference.
Beating China would confirm Malaysia’s spot in the semi-final. If they have a better goal difference than the host nation or South Korea, they will finish top.
But first, they have to win.
“Our first aim is to beat China,” said Mirnawan. “We have to qualify for the next round. Finishing first or second in the group is secondary. Our mission is to beat China,” said Mirnawan, who won a bronze medal with Malaysia in the 1990 Beijing SEA Games.
“What Arul (coach A. Arulselvaraj) said is true – we have to keep calm. We want to win every match but sometimes, defeats happen.
“The boys were disappointed after the defeat against South Korea, there was frustration too. They are human but we can manage it.
“The mood during meetings yesterday was good. We just have to rebuild our confidence and focus on beating China.”
It won’t be an easy task, though, with the home fans behind the Chinese.
In every one of their matches, the stadium was packed with vociferous fans and China remain unbeaten in Pool B.
“One of China’s strengths is their fans. We just need to be mentally prepared, especially with the noise.
“They also have some top players especially their penalty corner taker (Gao Jisheng). We have to find ways to frustrate him.
“Most importantly, we must focus on our strength.
‘‘Arul always demands that we focus on our strengths, concepts and structure. Why do we need to worry about their strength?”