Lucknow (17 Dec, 2016): The Malaysian Juniors received a standing ovation from a section of the fans here after completing their journey in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016 with an 11th finish following a 2-1 victory over Austria in penalty shoot-out today.
It was the remarkable performance from the Terengganu-born 19-year-old goalkeeper Muhammad Zaimi Mat Deris who thwarted the Austrian rise in the second half and than in the penalty shoot-out to give Malaysia, who accepted a late call-up from the International Hockey Federation as replacement for Junior World Cup qualifiers Pakistan, with this well deserved victory.
New Zealand defeated South Africa 4-1 in the 9-10th play-off, with man of the match Mark Wilcox scoring two early goals to help his team to victory. Brad Reid and Dylan Thomas also scored in the first half with Courtney Halle scoring South Africa’s only goal two minutes after half time.
On Friday, Japan edged Asian rivals Korea 2-1 to finish in 13th position while African champions Egypt downed Canada 2-1 to end in 15th spot.
The jubilation in the Malaysian camp was equally shared by Indian fans here who felt that the Malaysians gave a creditable performance against top graded teams despite the late invitation.
“As captain I am very happy as we ended our campaign here with a win. It was a good match. The Austrians came back strongly to find the two goals to equalise. However, we were prepared for the shoot-out as we have been putting in hours of training in it area,” said Muhammad Najib Abu Hassan.
“Considering our situation, it was a great performance from the team as we now go home feeling much better. We defeated Egypt (2-0) and Austria but allowed Netherlands to win big. That defeat was a disappointment though we did our best against Belgium and New Zealand and lost,” he added.
Muhammad Zulhamizan gave Malaysia an early lead with an eighth minute field goal and Nik Muhammad Aiman Nik Rozemi doubled the score by the 14th minute via a brilliant field goal. But Olivier Binder, a member of the senior Austrian national team, reduced the deficit nine minute before half time with a powerful drag-flick push from penalty corner to the left of Zaimi to trail 2-1 going into the interval.
The second half, however, turned into a thrilling contest. Austria’s best chance to equalise came in the 40th minute but Florian Steyrer’s penalty corner drive was timely darted away by Zaimi who made a brilliant dive to his right. But the Austrians were back in business in the very next minute as Peter Kaltenbock cracked a fierce shot past Zaimi and left things level at 2-2. It was a free-flowing match after this though the Austrians had an advantage with better ball possession and were denied a Philip Schmidt open goal in the 48th minute much to the relieve of the Malaysians.
The decisive moment arrived in the shoot-out and Zaimi once again stood out like a sore thumb in the eyes of the Austrians as he stopped Marcel Hilbert and Styrer from taking bullet shots while foiling Leon Thornblom and Pit Rudofsky early in the shootout. Philip Schmidt was the only successful Austrian.
For Malaysia, Muhammad Aiman Nik Rosemi and Rafizul Ezry Mustafa scored while Muhammad Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad and Norsyafiq Sumantri missed their targets.
Austria’s Indian coach Cedric D’Souza, however, was full of praise for the Malaysians as well as his players for bringing out the best in this 11-12th position encounter.
“The Malaysians played a great game today. They had the ball well under control to go 2-0 up early in the game but I am also happy with the performance of my players. They did a good job to score two goals. But in penalty shoot-outs it is always anybody’s game. The goalkeeper (Zaimi) did an excellent job,” said D’s Souza.
“Our focus now is on qualifying for the 2020 Olympics and I am proud of my players who have shown they have the pedigree to play at the highest level against very good teams. We will move forward from here and get into more training and matches in Europe,” said D’Souza.
But for now, the accolades are reserved for Wallace Tan’s juniors who won the hearts of hockey fans here in Lucknow.
Meanwhile, Argentina were in excellent form in the first of the 5-8th placing play-off matches, cruising to a 3-0 win over England and Spain defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in the second play-off match.
Sunday’s action starts with England versus the Netherlands in the 7-8th position play-off and Argentina goes into battle with Spain for 5th place while Germany and Australia will compete in the bronze medal match ahead of the final between India and Belgium for the title.