Hockey World Cup 2018: Malaysia has come a long way

Malaysia will look to feed off its silver medal success at the 2018 Asian Games, and upstage the more fancied teams in it's pool at the Hockey World Cup.

Malaysia placed at the bottom, 12th, at the 2014 World Cup, but the team has come a long way since then and emerged as one of the top teams from Asia.   -  AFP

On home soil in 1975, Malaysia was headed for the ninth-place playoff after losing to Pakistan in its penultimate group game. But the South-East Asian nation stunned defending champion Netherlands 2-1 and made it to semifinals. The Tigers finished fourth after losing 4-0 to West Germany in the bronze medal match.

Malaysia’s next appearance was only in 2002, again, when it hosted the showpiece event and finished eighth above heavyweights India and Spain. It’s third appearance came in the last edition, where it placed at the bottom in 12th. But the team has come a long way since then and emerged as one of the top teams from Asia. It finished fourth at the 27th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March, where it famously beat Olympic champion Argentina, and followed it up with a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games, beating defending champion India in the semifinals. After Roelant Oltmans took over as head coach in October, Malaysia won the bronze medal in the recently concluded Asian Champions Trophy held in Muscat.

The return of chief drag-flicker Razie Rahim from a hamstring injury will be a big boost for Malaysia, as it was the 31-year-old who secured its World Cup qualification with two goals in a 3-2 win over India at the World Hockey League Semifinals. Striker Faizal Saari has been in good touch ahead of the tournament, finishing as the top-scorer at the Asian Champions Trophy with eight goals.

But veteran goalkeeper Kumar Subramaniam’s place is doubtful. The 38-year-old has been overlooked by the coaches after returning from a doping suspension in April. Newcomer Hairi Abdul Rahman is most likely to keep his place as the team’s No. 1 after impressing in Muscat.

Squad: Norsyafiq Sumantri, Muhamad Ramadan Rosli, Muhammad Marhan Jalil, Mohd Fitri Saari, Joel Samuel van Huizen, Faizal Saari, Syed Muhd Syafiq Syed Cholan, Sukri Mutalib, Muhammad Firhan Ashari, Muhammad Amirol Aideed Mohd Arshad, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, Kumar Subramiam, Muhammad Razie Abd Rahim, Faiz Helmi Jali, Muhammad Azri Hassan, Meor Muhamad Azuan Hasan, Muhammad Hafizuddin Othman, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Nik Muhammad Aiman Nik Rozemi and Mohammad Hairi Abd Rahman.