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FIH Series in KL was a thriller (5/7/2019)
--s2h Team
Entertaining Canada and Malaysia ensure OQ After witnessing twists and turns that made the event exciting, Canada and Malaysia ensured their passage to Olympic Qualifiers to be held in the year end. Kuala Lumpur witnessed glorious moments coming from Austria and Italy while the hosts huffed and buffed before making it to the finals in the last week end. The way the matches went down the wire, it augurs well for the sport of field hockey.

Canada beat a prodigal Malaysia 3-2 in the final of the FIH Hockey Series Finals in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. Both nations booked berths in the Olympic qualifiers later this year.

Italy, the lowest ranked nation in the competition, ended a heartening campaign beating Austria 2-1 to take third place. Wales beat China 3-2 to finish fifth and Brazil beat Belarus 4-3 to take seventh.

Four more teams from two other Hockey Series Finals at Bhubaneswar, India, and Le Touquet, France, in June, will also make the Olympic qualifiers.

Four teams from the FIH Pro League and four other from best ranked nations who haven’t qualified from either route or as continental champions complete the field for the qualifiers to be held in November.

Canada could qualify directly for Tokyo 2020 should they win the Pan American Games title.

Malaysia, who came within a whisker of qualifying directly from the Asian Games last year, wasted two penalty strokes against the Red Caribou.

The Malaysians who lost to Japan in the Asiad final in Jakarta in a shootout heaved a sigh of relief after crossing their semifinal hurdle.

In a nerve-wracking campaign that saw them lose to tournament revelations Italy 2-4 after drawing with China 4-4, the Speedy Tigers beat Austria 3-1 in an ill-tempered semifinal on Friday.

Canada ended Italy’s dream run that comprised three wins out of three in the pool comprising China, Malaysia and Brazil.

The Canadians beat the Italians 3-1 in the semifinals to set a date with the host nation at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.

Victory in the final contrasted Canada’s stuttering start when they lost to Wales 1-3. The North Americans bounced back with a 2-1 win over Austria and a 6-2 over Belarus.

Finishing second in the pool, Canada were taken all the way to the shootout by China after a 3-3 draw in the crossover. They won the tiebreaker 3-1 to make the semifinals.

Malaysia made the last four with a 2-1 win over Wales in the other crossover.

The final conformed to the world rankings with Canada (10th) and Malaysia (13th) squaring up to each other. Italy, the lowest ranked at No. 32, will reflect on a memorable tournament while Austria the fourth highest ranked in the event at No. 19 doing no more, nor less than expected.

Wales at No. 24 did likewise at fifth but China endured bitter disappointment finishing sixth after starting third highest ranked at No. 14.

Brazil, ranked No. 31, finished a rung lower than pre-tournament status. The South Americans beat No. 32 Belarus 4-3 to grab seventh spot.

Malaysia’s Tengku Tajuddin was voted best player of the tournament and the final and won a third honour as top scorer of the tournament with four goals.

The best junior player award went to Francois Sior of Italy with Canada’s David Carter being adjudged the best goalkeeper.

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