The national hockey team to the 17th Asian Games in Incheon has been far from impressive despite registering two big wins – a 8-2 win over Singapore in the first match on Saturday followed by a 5-1 thrashing of Bangladesh on Sunday.
If there is any consolation for Asian Games coach A. Arulselvaraj and company it is achieving first of the five targets he has set for the team including winning the gold medal which will get Malaysia an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Just like against Singapore who held the Malaysians to 2-2 before succumbing to defeat, Bangladesh also drew level at 1-1 after Malaysia had gone ahead from a 21st minute penalty corner converted by Razie Rahim. Krishno Kumar stunned the Malaysians with the equaliser for Bangladesh in the 30th minute through a field goal.
But Malaysia, who seem to warm up late in Incheon, made sure of full points with Marhan Jalil (45th), Izwan Firdaus (52nd), Shahrun Nabil (56th) before Razie got his brace just before the final whistle for a 5-1 win.
Arulselvaraj’s first target in Incheon was to get full points against Singapore and Bangladesh. However, the overall performance has not been pleasing and this is a worrying factor for Arulselvaraj as Thursday’s match against hosts South Korea will be the “real test” and things don’t really look good for the Malaysians in achieving the second target – to get a point or full points against the Koreans. This target also includes getting a win against Japan on Sept 26.
“We won big against Singapore and Bangladesh but we also made things difficult for ourselves,” said Arulselvaraj, adding that character of passion of the players was a soothing effect.
The fourth target is to qualify for the semi-finals if the first three targets go according to plans while the fifth and final target is the final.
Malaysia are using the Asian Games to redeem their battered pride after finishing 12th and last in the World Cup in The Hague. Malaysia ended their World Cup campaign without a win to show. In the Commonwealth Games, Malaysia took a beating, including a 4-1 defeat to hockey minnows Trinidad and Tobago.
Malaysia won the silver medal at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.