The difference between Malaysia and New Zealand is that while the latter has successfully blended youth and experience, Malaysia are still experimenting.
Malaysia has three players who featured in the in Johor Baru. They are Faisal Saari, Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil and Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin. Except for Faisal who comes on as a substitute, the remaining two warm the bench most of the time.
In contrast New Zealand have four players from the JWC in the squad. Hugo Inglis and Simon Child are in the starting XI while four goal hero against Scotland Nicholas Wilson and Arun Panchia have made an impact in the matches they played.
Coach Tai Beng Hai is well aware that a defeat at the hand of the hosts could well knock Malaysia out of contention for a place in the final this Sunday, and effectively shutting the door on our World Cup aspirations.
Malaysia lost three and drew two matches when the team played New Zealand in the 5 Kiwis this time around. last August and Beng Hai is optimistic that Malaysia can match the
But above all he needs to find a solution to get the team to perform to their true capability. And most of all he has to get the team to be consistent throughout the match and prevent a second half switch off, as was the case in the two matches.
“It is make or break for us and the players realize how important the match is,” said Beng Hai.
“We have yet to play to our capabilities and are running out of matches, and the dropped points against Austria has put a dent in our hopes.
“Still I believe we have what it takes to beat the Kiwis and stay in the hunt for a place in the World Cup.
The fact that as hosts New Zealand opted to play this match so late in the evening, (6.00pm local time) shows that there is an element of fear for the Malaysians. But going by the Malaysian performances in their two matches thus far, a 2-2 draw with Austria and 2-1 win over Wales, the Kiwis should win hands down.
Especially since the Black Sticks have scored an awesome 14 goals in two matches.
Malaysia are a pale shadow of the team that played in the Asia Cup and the Test Matches against Australia three weeks ago. The sudden transformation has the Black Sticks coach puzzled as well.
“Malaysia has the uncanny nature of raising their game when playing with tougher opponents,” said the Black Sticks coach Shane McLeod.
“When they play teams like Austria and Wales, the Malaysian players seem lost as they have to take the game to their opponents.
“And this is why Malaysia finds it difficult to play teams that in the lower rankings. I believe that Malaysia has yet to display their best form and we are wary that they might just get it right against us.”
“They are technically sound when defending and it will take a huge effort to break them down. But I believe we should be able to get all three points.”
The next 70 minutes will determine if Beng Hai and his boys have a further role to play in the qualifiers or join the ranks of Wales and Scotland as the also rans.