IPOH: Malaysia cannot expect to beat Pakistan in a Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament match here tonight.
Instead, coach Paul Lissek is hoping that his team can give a fighting display and avoid being buried under an avalanche of goals.
Malaysia have lost to South Korea (0-2) and New Zealand (2-4) and they are doomed to finish last in the five-nation tournament at the Azlan Shah Stadium. After the match against Pakistan, they will wrap up their fixture against world champions Germany tomorrow.
Pakistan started their campaign with a 6-1 rout of New Zealand before going down narrowly 3-4 to Germany on Sunday. The Germans, who beat South Korea 2-0 on Monday, are tipped to play against Pakistan again in the final on Sunday.
“Pakistan are one of the top teams n the world. They are skilful, can hit very hard and can score many goals on their day,” said Lissek.
“We certainly do not want to be beaten badly. If we should go down, it should be a reasonable and respectable scoreline.”
Lissek is surprised over the inconsistency in performance of his team in playing a match.
He said that with the recall of several senior players, the current Malaysian side was much stronger than the one who beat Pakistan in the playoff for the bronze medal in the Asian Games in Busan last October.
Then, Malaysia beat Pakistan 4-2 on penalty flicks after a 0-0 deadlock at the end of normal time.
“I do not know why they have been so erratic of late. The win over Pakistan in Busan cannot be seen as an advantage for us. It is going to be very, very tough for us this time ... much, much tougher (than in the Asian Games),” said Lissek.
However, he said that the team would not be under as much pressure against the Pakistanis than they were against the Kiwis.
“Against New Zealand, the players were under tremendous pressure to win to avoid last place,” said Lissek.
“We are not expected to beat Pakistan and Germany. There is nothing much to lose in these two matches except pride. With the pressure off, the team will be able to give a better fight. And with determination, fighting spirit and luck, we may even turn the tables on them.”
Lissek said that he would make changes to the team and senior goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, who did not play against South Korea and New Zealand, is set to start in place of S. Kumar.
“There will also be some tactical changes. We have to play a tight game because we cannot afford to give the Pakistanis too much space,” he said.
Pakistan team manager Shahid Jaffery said that they needed to win to stay in the race to finish among the top two, who will play in the final on Sunday.
“We want to win the tournament and we always play to win. There will be no holding back against Malaysia. We expect another thrilling and exciting clash and my players are expected to give their best,” he said.
Pakistan go into the pitch with two recent wins over Malaysia. In Test matches prior to the tournament, Pakistan beat Malaysia 5-3 and 4-1 at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.