Malaysia hope to enter Olympics through Muscat door

KUALA LUMPUR: The Speedy Tigers received a second lifeline to qualify for the Paris Olympics when they were placed in Group A of the Oman Qualifiers in Muscat on Jan 15-21.

Malaysia fared miserably at the Asian Games and ended up sixth, but the Muscat mission is their last chance to be called Olympians

The other teams in Group A are Britain, Pakistan and China. In Group B are Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Chile.

The top two teams from each group qualify for the semi-finals, and the three medallists will make the cut for Paris next year.

"We had played Pakistan and China at the Chennai ACT (Asian Champions Trophy) and then again at the Asian Games, and even though the scores were totally contrasting, statistics paint a different picture.

"In the Asian Games we had better circle penetration and control against Pakistan and China but we did not score as many as we should have. This is the matter I need to look into when we play New Zealand in friendlies soon," said Malaysia coach Arul Selvaraj.

In the ACT, Malaysia beat Pakistan 3-1 and China 5-1 to romp into the final, but a month later the Speedy Tigers drew with China 4-4 at the Asiad, and the semis door was shut, while in the 5th-6th classification, Malaysia lost to Pakistan 5-2.

"We have no choice but to play friendlies against New Zealand before the qualifier because all the other European teams, as well as India, have their pre-arranged programmes and could not accommodate us.

"I know the possibility of meeting New Zealand in the semi-finals is large, but if they size us during the Tour, we will also be able to know their strengths and weaknesses.

"This second door to the Olympics is a golden chance, and my players can't waste this opportunity in Muscat," said Arul.

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