Lucknow (11 Dec, 2016): Late-entry Malaysia scored a goal in each half to beat African continental champions Egypt 2-0 in the Uttar Pradesh Hockey Junior World Cup Men, Lucknow 2016 at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Sunday.
The win has certainly boosted Malaysia’s morale here after going through a rough and unsavoury patch following the 2-7 defeat against Netherlands in Friday’s Group B opening match and the now prepare for the next difficult wave against Belgium on Monday.
Jeroen Baart’s Belgium surprised all with a 3-2 victory over the Dutch. The result puts Belgium top of Pool B, while Malaysia’s 2-0 victory over Egypt moved them level on points with the Netherlands with one round of matches remaining.
However, the Malaysians will need to beat the Belgians at all cost for any chance of moving into the last eight.
But that alone will not be enough as Malaysia must also hope of a gigantic effort from the Egyptians in coming out at full force to upset the Netherlands tomorrow, which is wishful thinking going by the reputation of the former European junior champions here who are one of the top ranked teams.
The Malaysians started the match without midfielder Syed Mohamad Syafiq Syed Cholan who is recovering from a shin injury and will not likely go into action against Belgium.
Egypt, who lost 4-0 to Belgium, got off on a fast pace and earned the first penalty corner in the 11th minute but were denied by the heroic effort of goalkeeper Muhammad Zaimi Mat Deris who was in his element despite the fog returning slowly into the stadium making visibility or the lack of it, a worry factor.
However, man of the match, Zulhamizan Awang Abas shot Malaysia ahead two minutes later from open play after collecting a through pass from Rafizul Ezry Mustafa outside the D and tapped the ball past goalkeeper Ahmed Ezzat while Abdul Khaliq Hamirin struck the final blow on the Egyptians with a 61st minute open play goal.
While the players did all the hard work on the field, today’s win was well orchestrated by strategies planned by Malaysian Hockey Confederation Technical Director Terry Walsh, National senior team coach Stephen van Huizen whom alongside juniors coach Wallace Tan, assistant coach Muhammad Amin Rahim and goalkeeper coach Mohd Nasihin Nubli Ibrahim put the pieces together to chart Egypt’s downfall.
Malaysia had only one penalty corner throughout the match while Egypt had two opportunities but it was Wallace Tan’s juniors who had better control and ball possession compared to the Egyptians as they strolled to victory much to the cheers from the Indian fans who had always respected the strength of Malaysian hockey teams.
“It was a good and timely win for us today and we are happy. Belgium defeated Netherlands and that means we have to go all out against the Belgians on Monday. The door for the quarterfinals is still open and there is every chance for us but we need to play a much better game to turn the situation around,” said Wallace.
“We took off slowly and once we got going we just kept moving forward. Unfortunately we did miss a couple of chances otherwise the score would have been higher. Nevertheless, it was a good game that gave the players confidence here,” he added.
Germany made it three wins from three matches to guarantee a top spot in Pool C following a convincing 6-1 triumph over Japan. The reigning champions produced their best performance of the competition with Constantin Staib opening the scoring before Anton Boeckel scored either side of half time to make it 3-0.
Thies Ole Prinz, Timm Herzbruch and Lukas Windfeder completed Germany’s scoring before Japan captain Ryo Ozawa grabbed a consolation.
“We were not so happy with our first two performances against Spain and New Zealand, and this was our last test to get ourselves ready for the quarter-finals,” said Boeckel, who leads the scorer’s chart with four goals.
“We really wanted a better atmosphere on the pitch, and that is what we did today.”
Germany were joined in the quarter-finals by Spain, who claimed a second place finish in Pool C in dramatic circumstances – a last minute draw against New Zealand that denied the junior Black Sticks a place in the knock-out stages. A 66th minute strike from Dylan Thomas gave New Zealand a 3-2 lead and a step closer in the quarter-finals, but Jan Lara Rosell netted two minutes from full time to give Spain the draw that they needed to progress.
Spain will face a quarter-final match against the team that finishes top of Pool D, a position currently held by host nation India. The Indians had on Saturday demolished England 5-3 while South Africa downed Canada 3-1 and in Group A Australia defeated Argentina 2-1whilst Austria edged Korea 5-2.
A fortuitous goal from Terrance Pieters gave the Netherlands the lead against Belgium three minutes after half time, but Thomas Verheijen levelled the scores before Quentin van Lierde showed quick reflexes to move the Red Cougars ahead with a close range finish.
Parity was restored thanks to Bram van Groesen’s penalty stroke, but a deflection from Henri Raes in the closing stages sealed the win for Belgium.
“It is always nice to beat the Dutch and it was a really important pool match”, said Belgium captain Victor Wegnez after the match. “Maybe the last goal was a bit lucky as I think he (Henri Raes) had his eyes closed, but I think we deserved it.”
Monday’s final group matches will decide the five more teams that will qualify for the quarterfinals on Wednesday. The top two teams in each group advance into the last eight.