World Cup: First-half collapse ends Speedy Tigers’ dream of top-10 finish

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s hopes of finishing ninth in the 2023 Hockey World Cup were dashed after they fell 6-3 to South Africa in the ninth-16th placing classification match at the Birsa Munda Stadium in Rourkela, India today.

Head coach A. Arul Selvaraj’s men conceded three first-half goals and found it hard to claw their way back, with Bradley Sherwood opening the accounts for South Africa with a field goal as early as in the eighth minute.

A Guy Morgan 16th-minute penalty corner goal and a Nqobile Ntuli 25th-minute field goal meant the Speedy Tigers had a mountain to climb to get back on equal terms after the break.

Although fullback Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim managed to nick a goal for the Speedy Tigers off a penalty corner in the 34th minute, South Africa pulled away for a 5-1 lead through Keenan Horne’s field goal in the 42nd minute and Mustaphaa Cassiem’s 43rd-minute penalty stroke.

Undaunted, Muhammad Razie netted goal number two for the Speedy Tigers when he converted a penalty stroke in the 44th minute.

But South Africa were not done yet and they made 6-2 in the 56th minute through a Sherwood field goal,  his second of the match.

A minute later Malaysia narrowed the deficit to 3-6 with a field goal by Muhammad Firhan Ashari but South Africa were already home and dry by then.

“My players and I are very disappointed with the result because we lost focus in the first two quarters.

“We tried to stage a fightback in the third and fourth quarters but South Africa played way better than us,” Arul Selvaraj said in a video clip the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) shared with the local media today.

The defeat means Malaysia will meet either Japan or India in the 13th-16th placing match on Saturday (Jan 28). – Bernama