Speedy Tigers edge Japan to finish 13th in Hockey World Cup

28/01/2023 04:49 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 (Bernama) -- Shello Silverius notched a brace to inspire Malaysia to a 3-2 win over Japan and a 13th placing in the 2023 Hockey World Cup at the Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, India today.

The Sabahan’s goals - through a penalty corner in the seventh minute and a field goal in the 32nd minute - and Shahmie Irfan Suhaimi’s field goal in the 33rd minute ensured the Speedy Tigers end their World Cup campaign this time two spots better than the 15th placing they earned in the 2018 edition, also in India.

Japan, meanwhile, scored through two field goals by Kaito Tanaka (23rd minute) and Seren Tanaka (31st minute).

The Speedy Tigers, under the guidance of coach A. Arul Selvaraj, began aggressively to stun the reigning Asian Games champions when Shello hammered home from a penalty corner setpiece in the seventh minute. 

Malaysia have only themselves to blame in the second quarter when they inadvertently had 12 players on the field, resulting in the umpire ordering the 12th player to leave the pitch and punishing Malaysia by flashing the yellow card to skipper Muhammad Marhan Mohd Jalil in the 19th minute, leaving the Speedy Tigers a man short.

With Muhammad Marhan forced to sit out the game for 10 minutes, Japan quickly used their numerical advantage to draw level in the 23rd minute through a field goal by Kaito Tanaka before the team from the Land of the Rising Sun went 2-1 up a minute into the third quarter through another field goal, this time by Seren Tanaka.

But their joy lasted just one minute as Shello struck again with a field goal this time to draw Malaysia level before the 20-year-old Shahmie Irfan restored the Speedy Tigers’ lead with a field goal in the 33rd minute.

The final quarter saw Malaysia almost doubling their lead through Ramadan Rosli but his attempt was thwarted by Takashi Yoshikawa in the 53rd minute, although it did not matter as the Speedy Tigers held on to their lead until the final whistle.

Malaysia began their Group C campaign with a 4-0 loss to three-time champions the Netherlands before defeating Chile 3-2 and stunning New Zealand also 3-2 to finish second in the group.

The Speedy Tigers, however, failed to keep their momentum going and were prevented from advancing into the quarter-finals when they lost 3-4 in a sudden death penalty shootout to Spain after both teams were tied at 2-2 in regulation time in the crossover match on Sunday (Jan 22).

Then in the ninth-16th placing classification match on Thursday (Jan 26), Malaysia again fell 6-3 to South Africa, thus dashing their hopes of a top-10 finish.

Meanwhile, Arul Selvaraj praised his men for their spirited and committed performance to bounce back from the defeat by South Africa and finish their campaign in 13th spot.

He hoped that the win over Japan would motivate them to attend training sessions again when they return home to prepare for the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China from Sept 23-Oct 8.

He was also pleased with the hard work put in by man-of-the-match Shello for constantly pressuring the Japanese players to regain possession, in addition to praising Shahmie Irfan for scoring his first goal for the country despite being a newcomer to the team in the World Cup.

Arul Selvaraj also hailed his team for performing with a high level of discipline in 22 quarters, compared to just two dismal quarters against South Africa, of all the six matches they played in at the 2023 World Cup.


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