Wednesday, November 28, 2012


It is the day of reckoning for Malaysian hockey as they line up to face South Africa in the knockout stage of the Champions Challenge 1 in Argentina today.

Three wins in as many matches has got many to sit up and take notice, with many even claiming that it is a welcome relief to what badminton and football has dished out in the past week.

The three wins, 4-0 v Poland, 4-2 v Korea and Canada will just remain historical facts should the team fail to get past the South Africans. A win will give them a place in the semis, and a possible rematch against South Korea or Japan.

But the first thing to do is get past South Africa, a team that has played inconsistently in the preliminary round. Even South Korea, once a feared team were in shambles as they struggled through the group stage, losing even to Poland.

"The most important thing at the moment is to ensure that the winning mentality continues. Its a case of having confidence in your ability and that is what i want from these players," said Malaysian coach Paul Revington.

"We are on the verge of a place in the semis and the players realize the importance of the next match. I am confident in their ability. This is a long process towards achieving our targets and the journey has just started.

Due to the nature of the format of competition, the first three matches are meaningless as its the next three, quarters, semis and final that matter the most. And while it is okay to feel elated that Malaysia won three matches on the trot, a feat last achieved in the Olympic Qualifiers last March in Dublin.

But it is the next match, against South Africa that will prove if Malaysia has returned into the international arena.

For far too long Malaysian hockey has been in doldrums, promising so much yet far from delivering and all that could change in one match, as a semis will better their achievements in all the Champions Challenge Malaysia has played in, dating back to 2003, ironically in Randburg, South Africa, when current national coach Paul Revington was watched to South Africa.

And to add more spice to that is the fact that current South African coach Gregg Clark was a member of the team that Revington took to the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"I had some seriously great times in South Africa and have wonderful memories from my times there. I always appreciate these memories and the value and opportunities given to me as a coach.," said Revington.,

"The team must keep following a process and building internal confidence through doing things correctly all the time - this is the best recipe for dealing with any knock-out stage in any sport.

Revington has been rotating the goalkeepers, giving S. Kumar and Roslan Jamaluddin a match each and it will interesting to see if he carries on with this trend.

And he makes almost all changes in between the 7th and 10th minutes of the last three matches, at times injecting as many as four fresh players onto the pitch a one go.

Malaysia had initially set a target of a top four finish, but Revington took that as a challenge and boldly said that making the final was his ultimate target. And he takes the first step towards that in the knockout stage.

For South Africa, they are well aware of the fact that Malaysia utilizes their speed to maximum effect. They started the tournament with a 4-4 draw against Japan after leading 4-1 with a quarter of the match to go, and then went down 2-1 to Argentina.

The South Africans are awakened side, missing as many as nine players from the 2012 London Olympics squad.

"Malaysia is a speedy team, and we will make the match as difficult as possible for them," said South African coach Gregg Clark.



1930H - Malaysia v South Africa

2230H - Japan v Korea


0130H- Poland v Ireland

0430H - Argentina v Canada

(Malaysian times)