Speedy Tigers gunning for full points against China

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia team manager Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi is confident his men will start their Olympic Qualifier against China in Muscat, Oman, tomorrow on a good note.

The Speedy Tigers were held 4-4 by China at last year's Hangzhou Asian Games and lost 5-2 to Pakistan. The other team in Group A are Britain.

Malaysia need to beat both the Asian teams to qualify for the semi-finals, where three of the medallists will go to the Paris Olympics Games.

"Everybody in camp knows that beating China is the first step towards Paris, and we can't bungle the first match. We must collect three points from China and then plan for Pakistan and Britain," said Mirnawan.

Malaysia played two friendlies, against Canada and Chile, both from Group B, and drew 2-2 and won 2-1.

"Both matches were played for three quarters and we did not push to avoid injuries as the Qualifier only allows 18 players to be registered and we can't replace injured ones.

"The good news is that all the 18 were given playing time and none picked up any injuries leading to the China match," said Mirnawan.

Shahril Saabah, who last played in a tournament at the Bhubaneswar World Cup, was tested against Canada and Chile, and he received the thumbs up from coaches.

China played a friendly against New Zealand and lost 5-2, but nothing can be concluded from the warm-up matches leading to a tournament.

"Like our matches, China also played behind closed doors and we did not watch the match. But then we played China twice last year and know what to do for a winning start to the Qualifier," said triple Olympian Mirnawan.

The weather in Oman is hot during the day but after 6pm it becomes cool and conducive to play hockey. And Malaysia's matches are all late fixtures.

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