KUALA LUMPUR: The national hockey team need to improve their fitness level and penalty corner conversions if they hope to get the better of world champions Germany in the Olympic qualifier in Japan next April.
National coach Sarjit Singh said this after Malaysia’s match against Germany in the Champions Trophy tournament at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Thursday.
Malaysia were trailing 0-3 but staged a magnificent fightback in the second-half before losing 2-3.
Malaysia and Germany, who won back-to-back world titles in 2002 (Kuala Lumpur) and 2006 (Moenchengladbach), are drawn in the same qualifier tournament in Japan.
Sarjit said he was happy with his players’ fighting spirit in the match against Germany but felt that they needed to focus more on their fitness level.
“If we were much fitter, we could have even snatched a point. We have five months to improve our fitness level,” said Sarjit.
However, the former national skipper was not pleased with the team’s poor penalty corner conversion rate in the tournament.
Malaysia have scored just one penalty corner goal in six matches. In the match against Germany, Malaysia earned three penalty corners but all came to nought.
To make matters worse, the national team will not have the services of top flicker Zulkifli Rejab for the qualifiers.
He will be undergoing a knee operation on Tuesday and is expected to be out of action for a year.
Sarjit hopes that defender Baljit Singh Sarjab and midfielder Jiwa Mohan would be able to improve on their flicks for the qualifiers.
“I might even get the services of S. Kuhan (former skipper and penalty corner specialist) to feature in the qualifiers.
“However, it depends on whether he will be fit for the tournament,” said Sarjit, who guided Malaysia to their first-ever bronze medal in the Asia Cup in Chennai in September.
Defender Kuhan, who was dropped after the Doha Asian Games, was called up to join the national team training last month and is now with the Malaysian team for the Korat SEA Games.
Malaysia, who are lying at the bottom of the standings with just one point from six matches in the ongoing Champions Trophy tournament, will wrap up their fixtures against Spain today.