Malaysia are celebrating with their fans in the Stadium Wisma Belia.
Malaysia are celebrating with their fans in the Stadium Wisma Belia.
(Photo: FIH)

The semi-finals of the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan will see host nation Malaysia taking on Canada with Ireland facing Korea. In the 5-8 classification matches New Zealand will play Poland with France meeting Japan.

“We played Malaysia a lot in the past, so we know a lot about them”, says Canada coach Anthony Farry. “This will be a great opportunity for us to play in front of a big crowd.” Team-captain Scott Tupper agrees: “We are so excited to play Malaysia because of the crowd aspect.”  

Both teams have already met in pool B when Malaysia grabbed a 4-3 victory. In March, they also played each other at the Azlan Shah Cup with the host nation winning 3-1. This is the first time in history that Canada reach the top four in a Champions Challenge 1. Before, their best finish was a 6th place in Quilmes 2012.

Although the win over the Black Sticks gave his team a lot of confidence, Malaysia coach Muhammad Dhaarma Raj points out: “We know that we need to fight again to reach the final.” In Thursday’s quarter-finals the Speedy Tigers defeated top seeds New Zealand 3-2 in a penalty shootout. Canada won 3-2 against Poland.

The second semi-final will be played between Ireland and Korea. “We are looking forward to the match as we don’t play against Asian opponents very often. This will be a different style of playing we need to get used to”, says Irish captain John Jackson.

The Green Machine reached the top four thanks to a 3-0 shootout victory over European rivals France. Matchwinner was goalkeeper David Harte who kept a clean sheet in the one-on-one competition.

“Ireland have a strong defence. Their goalie David Harte is one of the best keepers in the world”, admits Korea coach Shin Seok Kyo. “But hopefully we can win this match and make the final.” The Asian champions defeated Japan 5-1 with triple-goalscorer Jang Jong Hyun being the Man of the Match.