Arul's job on the line as Speedy Tigers face Britain in do-or-die Olympic mission

KUALA LUMPUR: The Speedy Tigers had no business losing to China, who are eight rungs below them, at the Olympic Qualifier in Muscat Oman, on Monday.

World No. 14 Malaysia will play No. 4 Britain in a Group A match on Tuesday.

Britain hammered Pakistan 6-1 on Monday and will be determined to seal their semi-final spot against Malaysia, who lost 3-2 to China.

The outcome of the Malaysia-Britain match holds significant weight as it will determine the future of coach A. Arul Selvaraj and his team, with the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) setting a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for qualifying for the Paris Olympics.

The initial idea was to beat China and Pakistan and advance to the semi-finals, where the three medallists will qualify for the Paris Olympics.

However, Malaysia found themselves in a familiar predicament, controlling the match against China with 22 circle penetrations compared to China's 12 but still lost.

For the record, Malaysia have played China three times in the last 12 months, and the Chinese grew from their 5-2 defeat at the Chennai Asian Champions Trophy.

They then held the Speedy Tigers 4-4 at the Hangzhou Asian Games and finally beat them 3-2 in the Olympic Qualifier.

These encounters highlight that, while China progressed, Malaysia did not learn and regressed.

Arul said the same thing when Malaysia finished sixth at the Asian Games:

"We controlled the match and had 22 circle penetrations compared to China's 12.

"Playing against Britain has been made more complicated due to the defeat. My players have to be mentally positive and give their best in this do-or-die match."

For the record, the last time both teams met was at the two-leg Olympic Qualifier in London in 2019.

Malaysia were hit with 5-2 and 4-1 scorelines, resulting in a 9-3 aggregate loss that saw them eliminated from the competition.

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