Lucknow (12 December, 2016): The Malaysian Juniors took the bull by the horn before falling 3-0 against Belgium in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016 on Monday.
Malaysia finished third in Pool B table standings on three points as Belgium and Netherlands qualified for Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Belgians topped the pool with nine points whilst the Dutch are second on six points following a 7-0 demolition of Egypt earlier in the day. The Egyptians are rocked at the bottom with no points.
The result means Wallace Tan’s juniors will now face New Zealand in the 9-12th classification match on Wednesday. The junior black sticks lost to Spain for a spot in the quarterfinals on Sunday after the Spaniards claimed a second place finish in Pool C in dramatic circumstances – a last minute 3-3 draw against New Zealand.
The Malaysians won four penalty corners throughout the match – two of which came in the first six minutes of play but drag-flick specialist Muhammad Najmi Jazlan could not find the breakthrough against a fortified Red Cougar defence led by Marco Donckx and an in-form goalkeeper in Loic van Doren who made a couple of darting saves along the way.
Gregory Stockbroekx gave Belgium the lead in the 21st minute, an unmarked Quentin van Lierde knocked in the second two minutes before half time with enough space to slam the ball past goalkeeper Muhammad Zaimi Mat Deris and Thomas Verheijen sealed victory with a 55th minute penalty corner after four failed attempts.
“We had a tough time breaking through in penalty corners and also had some chances in open play. Overall it was a good match as we proved the players are capable of giving European teams a good challenge despite the short notice we had in coming here,” said Malaysian juniors head coach Wallace Tan.
Malaysia’s recent record against New Zealand has been exemplary following two straight wins in the Sultan of Johor Cup in early November at Johor Baru but Wallace is not counting much into the past and wants the juniors to stay focus on Wednesday.
“We cannot look into the SOJC performance anymore as New Zealand has been playing exceptionally well here. They had very strong teams in their group and lost out by a whisker of a spot against Spain in the quarterfinals. So we just have to keep improving in our own game.”
“To be able to qualify for the 9-12th classification matches is an achievement by itself based on the limited time we had in our preparation for the Junior World Cup. We only received notification from the FIH less than 10 days ago so let’s be realistic and understand the situation.
“Give the players credit for their courage and performance here. Any other team in our situation would have experienced the same,” said Wallace, adding that the team will train tomorrow and work on penalty corner set pieces to counter the junior Black Sticks.