Following months of fiasco in the national team and the disappointing performance at the Test matches with Australia, many including myself felt that the national team are going to New Zealand just to make up the "numbers" for the World Cup qualifier. The believe was we would probably be positioned 3rd to 5th at the qualifier. This would mean at the worst case we would be behind New Zealand, China, Austria and Scotland. In a way this would signify the demise of Malaysian hockey.
The bigger picture of national interest and not wanting to provide a "damning" prediction prior to the departure of the team or while the qualifier was on going, made me refrain from writing about the national team. After the 1st match against Austria, where Malaysia drew with a minnow team, confirmed my initial views. Thereafter pulling through with Wales and Scotland by one goal margin, did not in anyway change my sentiments especially taking account of our 4-2 defeat by New Zealand.
Today, taking on China and defeating them 3-0 and making it into the final of the qualifiers, has rekindled a bit of hope in the Malaysia team. Part of the reason is probably that they are going to be 1st or 2nd, which in a way has messed up my prediction and i am pretty happy about it. It is probably the team is "peaking" at the right time and kudos must go to the players, coaches and team management.
Tomorrow they take on New Zealand and that game would determine whether we make it to New Delhi for the 2010 World Cup. I do not want to make a prediction for it is important we all stand and support the team. We may have certain views but it must be forgotten tomorrow, for the most important aspect is for the team to be aware that the whole nation is with them. The players must give more than their best and everything is possible. The show of grit determination combined with passion and intelligent tactics must surely get the Kiwis to become guarded. That "mati mati" spirit would rattle the best of teams in the world.
So Good Luck Malaysia.