The opening day of the FIH Men Series Final in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, saw both the Asian teams starting off in contrasting fashions.
China who are ranked 15 in the FIH World Rankings lost 2-1 to Italy who are ranked a lowly 37 in the world.
On the other hand hosts Malaysia who have a world ranking of 13 had no problems easing past Brazil 6-0 at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
It was a good opening day for fans as there were a total of 18 goals scored in the four matches.
And the home fans would particularly be in happier mood as after a rather listless opening 30 minutes, the Malaysian team went on to score six goals in the next 30 minutes.
“ It is always good to score early goals but today the team showed that they had plenty of patience,” said skipper Shukri Mutalib.
“ Our opponents virtually parked the bus by defending in numbers so we had to be more imaginative to prise open their defence.
“ China on Sunday will be a different proposition altogether and we need to make use of the chances we create.”
Malaysia were awarded two penalty corners in the first half but both Faizal Saari and Razie Rahim failed to get the better of the Brazilian defence.
After a scoreless first half. Malaysia needed only two minutes into the third quarter to take the lead through Norsyafiq Sumantri after being put through by Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tg Jalil.
Najmi Farizal made good Malaysia’s third penalty corner from a set piece to give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute.
Fitri Saari ( 48th minute), Meor Azuan Hassan ( 53rd minute) , Azrai Abu Kamal (54th minute) and Razie ( 56th minute) completed the rout.
For China it was a case of overconfidence and lack of knowledge on their opponents that caused them the match against Italy.
“ We played poorly both in terms of basic skills and tactics,” said China coach Kim Sang Rul.
“ It is my mistake really as I had no knowledge of how Italy plays and that largely contributed to our defeat.
“ Perhaps we were guilty of being over confident and need to lift our game against Malaysia.
“ Of course I know all about Malaysia and I will something planned for the match in Sunday against Malaysia.”
It was a memorable win for Italy who made use their chances to dispatch China who played well under par.
China struggled for long periods of the match and went a goal down as early as the 9th minute when Italy’s Julian Montone was the first to react from a penalty corner rebound to put the ball past a fallen Chinese custodian Yan Rong Yao.
China failed to make full use of their first penalty corner but from the second, Tu Yuan Lin sent his drag flick into the roof of the net in the 29th minute for a halftime score of 1-1.
Italian skipper Augustin Nunez showed brilliant individual skills to ghost in on the left and slide the ball past an inrushing Rong to give Italy a 2-1 lead in the 49th minutes.
China were shocked but could not string passes together to trouble the Italians who defended stoutly .
“ We defended well and took our chances. Credit to the players who ran throughout the match,” said Italy coach Roberto Da Gai.
“ The win is important and we have a days break before we play Brazil and another win will give us a chance to finish higher.”
In the second match of the day , Wales pulled off the first upset as they defeated 9th ranked Canada 3-1.
The Welsh ranked 24 were clinical as they converted two out of the three penalty corners to register the win.
“ It was a huge win for us and this result surely will give us a boost for the tournament,” said Gareth Furlong of Wakes who won his 100 international cap in the match.
Wales took the lead in the 39th minute off their second penalty corner converted by James Carson.
And in the 33rd minute Luke Hawker doubled the advantage of the Welsh.
Canada reduced the deficit in the 42nd minute through Iain Smythe.
But Wales, despite playing with 10, scored their third goal in the 57th minute with Joseph Naughalty converting a penalty corner for a 3-1 lead.
The game was littered with yellow cards as Canada had Taylor Currant ( 37th minute) and James Wallace ( 45th minute) while Wales had Jonathan Gooch ( 40th minute) and Owain Dolan Gray ( 56th minute) in the sun bin.
The first match of the day saw a 90 minute delay due to poor weather conditions.
But once Austria got into the pitch against Belarus, they were all business and took a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Goals by Franz Lindengrun ( 10th minute) and Dominic Uher ( 11th minute) gave Austria the early boost.
Though Belarus tried to reduce the deficit , they could not muster a shit to trouble Austria keeper Mateusz Szymczyx.
Robert Bele made it 3-0 in the 41st minute before goals by Fabian Ircher ( 48th minute) and Jeon Blom ( 57th minute) sealed the 5-0 win for the 19th ranked Austrian team.
“ It was a decent performance considering it was our first match. Playing under these conditions is never easy and we just have to take it one match at a time,” said Austria captain Xaver Hasun.