Saturday, June 25, 2011


The National Under 18 squad participating in the AHF U18 Junior Asia Cup have a chance to create history when they take on South Korea at the Sengkang Sports & Recreational Centre in Singapore on Sunday.

With defending champions Pakistan sent packing by the Koreans, the path to the top of the podium is clear for the young Malaysians who have done well despite not having the best of the U18 players here.

Malaysia defeated Singapore 2-1 in the semifinals on Saturday and were given a tough time by a team that showed tremendous tenacity and good technical skills.

Only their lack of experience and somewhat strange tactical play cost them the opportunity to create an upset.

Malaysia relied solely on the brilliance of skipper Mohd Fitri Saari, who is easily one of the outstanding players in the tournament.

The fact that Malaysia were at sea when Fitri was yellow carded five minutes from time would have given the Singapore bench food for thought as to why they opted not to mark Fitri out of the game in order to stand a fair chance of upsetting the Malaysians.

And going by what Malaysian coach K. Gobinathan had to say after the match, it was clear that Malaysia are over relying on Fitri.

"We may have made the final but we are still way off in performing at the required standard at the international stage," said Gobinathan.

"We lack players that can think while the match is in progress and today was one our worst performances.

"The players just froze as for most of them it was the first time they were playing in a major tournament at such a crucial stage. So they were tensed throughout the match."

Malaysia were awarded four penalty corners but failed to get a single shot on goal from the penalty corners.

"We have players who cannot push, stop or flick properly so how can we take advantage of the set piece situation," was the curt reply from Gobinathan.

"It is obvious that we will have a tough time against the Koreans in the final but I am optimistic that we have what it takes to win the title.

"We drew at the group stage but having played them once, our players will be more confident in the final."

Malaysia scored in 10th minute through Fitri who capitalized on poor clearance by the Singapore defence off an initial penalty corner attempt to send a reverse stick shot into the corner.

And in the 51st minute Malaysia went 2-0 ahead when Muhammad Haziq Samsul went on a darting run on the right before his reverse stick hit went into goal through the pads of Singapore custodian Samudra Ong.

And Singapore reduced the deficit through Nur Ashriq Ferdaus Zulkepli with 45 seconds remaining.

For the record two years ago Malaysia lost 4-3 to Pakistan in the final in Myanmar.