Selangor Journal
Speedy Tigers, Malaysia’s men’s hockey team, lifting the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup for the first time, at Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium, Ipoh, on November 10, 2022. — Picture by BERNAMA

Hockey World Cup: Two-goal hero Faizal inspires Speedy Tigers to win over NZ

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Malaysia can expect a slightly easier path into the 2023 Men’s Hockey World Cup quarter-finals after Faizal Saari scored a brace — including the winner — to inspire the Speedy Tigers to a 3 – 2 win over New Zealand in their final Group C match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, India today.

Faizal scored two field goals in the eighth and 56th minutes while Muhammad Razie Abdul Rahim chipped in with a penalty corner goal in the 42nd minute. New Zealand replied through a Philips Hayden field goal in the 51st minute and a Lane Same penalty corner goal a minute later.

The Speedy Tigers began the match with an early warning when Muhammad Razie’s low penalty corner flick narrowly missed the target on the right side of stopper Dixon Dominic in the seventh minute.

It did not matter because, just one minute later, Malaysia struck.

Faizal, 32, put world number 11 Malaysia ahead of the Back Sticks with a simple touch when following up a Shello Silverius push into the box.

After neither side managed to find the net in the second quarter, penalty corner specialist Muhammad Razie doubled Malaysia’s lead by converting a low penalty corner flick in the 42nd minute.

World number nine New Zealand’s strategy to opt for power play (replacing their goalkeeper with an outfield player) with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter paid dividends when they struck twice in two minutes.

Hayden started the fightback for the Black Sticks with a field goal in the 51st minute before Sam converted a penalty corner a minute later to set up a tense last few minutes.

Thankfully for Malaysia, Faizal rose to the occasion four minutes before the final as he netted the winning goal for the Speedy Tigers.

Malaysia began the campaign with a 4 – 0 loss to three-time champions the Netherlands before bouncing back to beat Chile 3 – 2 and their best outing in the World Cup was a fourth placing in the 1975 edition in Kuala Lumpur.

Head coach A. Arul Selvaraj said the second consecutive group win was crucial in terms of motivation and boosting his men’s self-confidence.

“We played in a calm and patient manner, but with a high degree of confidence to score two early goals as well as the winner. Today, I am proud and happy that we scored a penalty corner goal, especially after spending some extra time working out the set pieces yesterday.

“I want the players to focus on recovery and enjoy the moment, without thinking too much about who we will play next. Tomorrow will be a day off for the players (for them) to go out maybe for coffee and relax their minds before we conduct our post-match meeting at night,” he said in a video clip shared with the media.

Meanwhile, world number three the Netherlands recorded the biggest-ever win in the men’s Hockey World Cup history by thrashing world number 23 Chile 14 – 0 to top Group C with nine points.

Malaysia finished second with six points, followed by New Zealand (three points) and Chile, with not a single point.

By finishing second, Malaysia will play the third-placed team from Group D in the knockout round to earn a slot in the quarter-finals, while group champions the Netherlands will advance straight into the last-eight stage.

Australia’s 12 – 0 win over South Africa in the 2010 edition was the previous biggest victory in the World Cup.

— Bernama

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