Tigers wary of Japan’s comeback

By October 22, 2016 November 1st, 2016 Blog, Newsroom
National Team coach, Stephen Van Huizen (right) and captain, Sukri Mutalib during the Pre-Match Press Conference in Kuantan, today.

Kuantan (22 Oct, 2016): Stephen van Huizen has warned his Malaysia Tigers not to take their foot off the pedal against Japan in Sunday’s QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy match at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan.

The Malaysian team head coach said that it would be suicidal to falsely conclude that Japan is the weakest of the six teams here after a 10-2 drubbing by India in their opening match on Thursday.

“I believe tomorrow’s game against Japan is as important as our first two matches against Pakistan and China. There is no letting down more so against Japan who is definitely coming back hard after their 10-2 defeat against India,” said Van Huizen at a pre-match press conference here today.

“We did not fare that well against Japan in our tour there few months back but with an almost full force side in the team now, I hope we can carry on our winning ways without any flaws. They (Japan) do have experience players in the team but mostly are youngsters with few international caps,” he added.

The Malaysian Tigers defeated two-times, 2012 and 2013 champions Pakistan 4-2 on Thursday and followed up with a 5-1 victory over China on Friday.

The return of drag-flick specialist Muhammad Razie Rahim and midfielder Nabil Fiqri and Faizal Saari has given Van Huizen more options upfront and in penalty corner conversions.

“It was Japan’s first match in the tournament and India‘s quick forwards went on the oppressive to rattle them in quick succession in the big win. We will be wrong to assume Japan is a weak side from that defeat. They will be back as wounded tigers and we have to be cautious,” said van Huizen.

“Our mission is to qualify for the semi-finals and we have not reached there yet. A top four finish is what we aim to advance to the semi-finals. The games are going to be very tight. Even Pakistan struggled against Korea before winning with a very late goal, 28 seconds remaining to the end,” said the Malaysian coach.

Japanese head coach, Yamasori Takahiko said his players have been told to leave the 10-2 defeat behind and focus on the upcoming encounters against the Malaysians, India, China and Korea.

As far as Takahiko is concerned, the door is still open for all six teams to gain entry into the semi-finals of this fourth edition of the Champions Trophy.

“It was only our first match and we have to put that defeat at the back of our minds. The players are equally upset with their own performance against India and it is this kind of attitude that I want them to adopt,” he added.

“We watched Malaysia play China yesterday. They have changed the side that played against us in their tour of Japan and we are prepared for them,” added the former Japan forward.

However, Takahiko admitted that Malaysia’s biggest strength lies in penalty corners and they have shown this against Pakistan and China.

“Minimizing Malaysia’s attempt in getting as many penalty corners is also in our plans. The less we give them this kind of opportunities would be better. On the opposite end our forwards will do their best to score,” he said.

Sunday (23 Oct, 2016): India v Pakistan (6,30pm); Malaysia v Japan (8.30pm).