It is not the perfect scenario, but as crazy as it may sound, having to defeat Australia tomorrow afternoon to qualify for the men’s hockey Junior World Cup quarterfinals suits the Malaysian team.
Team consultant Stephen van Huizen said the team knew going into the tournament that it would have to beat either Argentina or Australia to qualify for the last eight.
That has come to pass, with the South American team guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals from Pool A after collecting maximum points ahead of its encounter with Chile.
After two matches, Australia and Malaysia have three points each, but the Aussies have a better goal difference as they lost 1-0 to Argentina, while the Young Tigers fell 4-0.
Australia and Malaysia each defeated Chile 7-1.
“Playing for a draw is dangerous as sometimes teams can become too defensive knowing they can afford to get a point instead of three. One mistake can cost us a place in the quarterfinals,” said van Huizen, Malaysia’s former national captain and coach.
“But now that we know only a win will do, we can plan accordingly. Australia, of course, is the favourite based on its world ranking, but I believe playing on home turf will give us a slight edge.”
Van Huizen said the boys have put the loss to Argentina behind them, and know the margin of defeat did not reflect the true story of the match.
“We had four penalty corners early on and failed to capitalise once. Our forwards also had chances to score but failed to find the target,” he said.
“At the other end, we gave away two soft goals. That shook our confidence, but the boys have regrouped and are ready for Australia.
“I am confident we can surprise many tomorrow afternoon.”
Van Huizen, roped in to help the team in May, said several players are carrying minor knocks but should be fit for the showdown at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
“The boys have trained hard for this tournament, and now it is up to them to grab their shot at glory,” he said.
“It does not matter if it is 1-0 or 4-3. What is important is the three points.
“The boys have to be smart and not force the issue. They must play to their strengths and not give Australia space,” he added.
Argentina vs Chile (Noon)
Australia vs Malaysia (2pm)
South Africa vs France (8am)
Germany vs Egypt (10am)