* Faizal Saari scores his 10th goal
* Japan in the way in the semis
IT was another double digit performance by Malaysia as they marched into the semi-finals in the World League Hockey Second Round with a 10-1 rout of Mexico in a quarter-final match at the Sengkang Stadium in Singapore on Thursday.
However, Malaysia are expected to face their toughest match yet in Singapore when they face a tough and disciplined Japan for a place in the final on Saturday.
Japan outplayed Ukraine 5-0 in their quarter-final encounter with goals by Shunya Miyazaki (12th minute), Kazuma Murata (14th), Kenta Tanka (19th), Ippei Fujimoto (28th) and Koji Kayukawa (34th).
The 10-1 win over the Mexicans was Malaysia’s second highest score in the tournament, having beaten Singapore 16-1 in their final Group A match on Tuesday. Malaysia’s other wins were over Ukraine (5-1) and Oman (7-0).
Coach Tai Beng Hai while pleased with the big win over Mexico reminded his players that the real battle is against Japan in the semi-finals – a match they can ill afford to “take their eyes off” as the Japanese have shown discipline and character in all their matches.
“This is a good run to the semis but all that will not count if we do not win against Japan. Our focus now is on the semi-finals and we have to be totally committed, disciplined and focused. We need to go for an early goal to boost our confidence and get into the rhythm against Japan,” said Beng Hai.
The top three teams in Singapore will advance to the World League Hockey semi-final which will be played either in Belgium or Argentina in June.Based on current FIH rankings, Malaysia should be the favourites to lift the title in Singapore, Malaysia are now ranked 12th from their previous 13th while Japan are ranked No 15.
The match against Mexico also saw Malaysia’s Azlan Misron reach the magical figure of 350 caps – the highest ever by a Malaysian hockey player while striker Faizal Saari took his personal tally in the tournament to 10.
Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin was the toast of the Malaysians with four goals – opening the scoring from a penalty corner as early as the 4th minute before completing his tally with field goals in the 30th, 31st and 48th minutes. Faizal, who hit a sixer against Singapore, scored his in the 14th minute while Firhan Ashari (19th), Razie Abdul Rahim (16th) Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin (40th), Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin (44th) and Haziq Samsul (54th) completed the scoring.