The Malaysian hockey squad renewed hopes to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics after defeating France 4-1 in the 5th-8th placing playoffs in the Hockey World League (HWL) at KHC Dragons Stadium, in Antwerp, Belgium tonight.
The ‘Speedy Tigers’ will meet Ireland, who defeated Pakistan 1-0 in the playoffs earlier today, on Sunday in the 5th-6th placing fixture before catching their return flight home.
Tai Beng Hai’s side were held goalless till the second quarter when France took the lead in the 18th minute through Jean-Laurent Kieffer but Malaysia managed to equalise a minute later through Muhammad Haziq Shamsul.
Malaysia then took the lead in the third quarter through Meor Muhammad Azuan Hasan in the 37th minute before Faizal Saari netted another ten minutes later through a penalty corner.
Malaysia confirmed their passage to the 5th-6th playoff when they received a penalty stroke after France’s goalkeeper, Martin Zylbermann fouled Faizal Saari in 57th minute. Martin was also yellow carded for the foul.
Malaysia’s skipper Razie Rahim brilliantly netted the penalty stroke to give Malaysia a comfortable 4-1 lead against the 18th ranked side.
Malaysia lost the chance to qualify for Rio automatically after a narrow defeat of 2-3 to India in the quarterfinals on Wednesday and now need to go through a difficult path, whereby they must finish in fifth place in the tournament.
Finishing fifth alone is not enough to secure their ticket to Rio, the national squad must also put up their prayers high, hoping for Australia to become the Oceania Cup champions besides Argentina or Canada to win the Pan American title for fifth placed Malaysia in Antwerp to qualify.
If Germany, Netherlands, Britain or Belgium emerge as European champion and South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) continue their stand to not let the African continent champions to take part, another two spots would be available, therefore the chances are high for the ‘Speedy Tigers’. – BERNAMA