My article on Saturday: Malaysian hockey team - Considered "no hopers" make it to World Cup qualifier's final, i stated that in the hour of need the players have to be aware that the nation is standing with them and therefore they must give more than their best for the final. On Sunday, Malaysia took on New Zealand to decide who shall make to the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi.
Those who were watching the direct telecast of the match must have been surprised that Malaysia took an early lead and were able to sustain that lead to half time. Although surprise the sense of joy and jubilant could not be hidden notwithstanding the fact that this team was categorised as "no hopers". As the match progressed the tag of "no hopers" was obliterated from most of our minds. The Malaysian team seem to be serious and were actually trying their best. They may not be very skillful nor highly tactical but they had the "mati mati" spirit of wanting to succeed.
Although most played in the Test matches with Australia but the way the team played in the final seem to reflect that they had a new "zest" of life. It cannot be the cold weather or the Kiwi food, rather i believe it must be the sheer determination of the players wanting to win. The coaches and the team management must be congratulated in transforming the team in such a short spell.
As the game progressed we seem to be missing our penalty corners especially as we had 3 in a stretch. Something we have to look into for the future. Up to 81% of the game we had been leading New Zealand with the solitary goal and in a deadly 3 minutes the Kiwis netted 2 goals off penalty corners. This seem to have taken off the "air" from our boys as their fight back seem to have lost the character they had in the first 81% of the game.
At the final whistle Malaysia was defeated 2-1 by New Zealand. Obviously the players must be sad but they can walk with their heads high up. As "no hopers" they were 13 minutes away from making it into the World Cup. That is how close they came to achieve a dream that has been eluding Malaysian hockey. Some dignity and pride has been restored but the key question is: "Would we be as consistent or better in our future performances". Something that MHF has to look into immediately.
For the moment lets praise our players for their good performance and the coaches plus team management for preparing the team for this tournament. What is important is that we must built on the momentum we have gathered in New Zealand rather than allowing it to fizzle out. Maybe the failure to qualify for the World Cup is a "stepping stone" for future success.