Malaysia is on the verge of a historic gold medal in the Asian Games. Are they up to the task?
That question would certainly rankle hockey fans. The expectations will also be high considering they are playing world number 16 ranked Japan.
The Malaysians at number 12 have surprised everyone by making the final at the expense of world number five India.
Two teams – Malaysia and Japan – that have not won the gold medal at the Asian Games will go up against each other in the men’s final on Saturday at the GBK Hockey Stadium.
For Malaysia the stakes are high.
At stake for the Malaysians is a place in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The gold medal is an added bonus.
For Japan, their Olympic berth is confirmed as host. Thus, they will have no pressure and will go all out for the gold medal.
National skipper Mohamed Shukri Mutalib said they will be ready for the crunch match.
“It is the most important match of the tournament. The pressure is greater for us because of the Olympic berth. We must stay focused and be ready tactically for the game.
“We will review the video and work on our game. Japan must be good to mare confident nut we need to prove that in the game on Saturday,” he said.
“Japan must be good to have made the final. There is no way we will take them lightly. Past records and statistics do not matter at this stage. We need to focus on our game and plan accordingly.” he said.
Malaysia’s only appearance in the final in 2010.
Eight years on they are back in the final.
But Shukri promised that the antics of 2010 will not happen again.
“That was a huge mistake. This time the players know better and we are fully committed to the final game. Any celebrations will only be after the final. Make no mistake we want to win this game. Yes, there will be pressure and even to the extent of making us the favorites. I do not see it that way and the players must understand that it is anybody’s game.
“The mistakes must be kept to few and finishing up front have to be better.
“There must be all-round commitment. We are just 60 minutes from a dream,” he added.
Yes, the final will certainly be a historic moment, not just for Malaysia but Japan as well.