Lucknow (10 December, 2016): Malaysian Juniors are eager to get back to winning ways against Egypt on Sunday in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016.
Wallace Tan’s juniors got off to a stuttering start here with a 7-2 defeat against Netherlands in the Group B match but a late surge in the second half saw the Malaysians take the bull by the horn with a great fightback by scoring two goals and also kept the European 2014 Junior Nations Championships winners under pressure with two more penalty corners only to be denied by Dutch goalkeeper Maurits Visser.
A quick-fire blast of three goals by the Netherlands in each half respectively saw the Malaysians back paddling but worked hard enough to find the rhythm and space which only came 25 minutes towards the end of the match though it was simply too late.
However, the brave but vain effort by the Malaysians who took some time to regroup and bounce back was much appreciated and enjoyed by the sparsely crowd at the Major Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium here on a cold evening.
Even the Indian fans that saw what the Malaysians are capable of doing going by the strong push against the Dutch are bracing for Wallace Tan’s juniors to get back on track against the Egyptians on Sunday and Belgium on Monday. The top two teams in each group qualify for Wednesday’s (14 Dec) quarterfinals.
“We will focus on the match against Egypt. Yesterday (Friday) was our first match and we found the momentum late in the game on a chilly evening. The boys played hard and fought well. The Dutch scored two penalty corner goals from our own mistakes,” said Wallace.
“We have to take each game by itself. Every game is important and all the teams are strong in the World Cup,” he added.
National senior team head coach, Stephen van Huizen, who arrived in Lucknow on Thursday night and was on field with the team against the Dutch, observed that this young Malaysian squad is up for the challenge and looks to an improved performance against the Egyptians and Belgium, who defeated Egypt 4-0 in their opening match on Friday.
“We must realise that our players are good and with the World Cup having started we hope the boys can raise their game against Egypt. The Egyptians are tall and well build but it depends on how tactically we utilise our game plan for a positive result,” said Stephen.
Midfielder and drag-flick specialist Muhammad Syafiq Syed Cholan suffered an injury on his left shin against the Dutch in a penalty corner attempt and may be a doubtful starter when the Malaysians face Egypt. However, his recovery is being assessed by the medical team here.
“As the first runner, I came off the line fast to cut off the Dutch from taking the push but the ball landed just above my shin pads. It’s a little sore now and I hope to recover fast enough to play,” said the 20-year-old Syafiq.
Meanwhile, Egypt head coach, Sayeed Elbediwy, who had 45 days of training with the team prior to arriving here, says his players are equally looking to bounce back from the 4-0 defeat against the Belgians.
“We watched Malaysia play Netherlands. They are fast, very skillful and fought gallantly late in the second half. So we are not looking at the 7-2 Malaysia’s defeat. They just had a bad start and Egypt has to be cautious,” said Sayeed, adding that both teams need to win this match to stay in the hunt for quarterfinals.
The Malaysians can rest be assured that they have a strong support from Indian fans who are clamoring to see this team progress into the next round.