The scene couldn’t be set any better heading into the semi final at the 2014 Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Malaysia.
After a nearly flawless pool stage for Canada (ranked no.16) was stymied by host Malaysia (ranked no.13), which is the only team to beat the Canadians so far, the red and white have a chance to exact some revenge in Saturday’s semi final.
“We are very much looking forward to the rematch with Malaysia,” says Canadian head coach Anthony Farry. “It’s fair to say that we created many opportunities in that match and the loss left a sour taste in our mouth.”
The sour taste didn’t have time to fester though, as Canada’s focus quickly shifted to the quarter final, where they faced world no. 18 Poland.
Poland had two leads in the game, but Canada responded both times, the second of which was in the fifty-sixth minute when Matthew Guest (Calgary, Alb.) tied the game at two.
It was the second time in the tournament Guest tied a game late, the first being in a 3-3 tie with Korea to open the tournament.
“There has never been any doubt from within our group that we have the ability to fight in tough matches,” says Guest. “Against Poland was no different, we went behind twice and it showed a lot of character to come back late in the second half.”
Guest has been one of the leaders for Canada up front, where they have shown a keen ability to score in big moments.
“We certainly look for Matt to provide direction up front and one of the reasons he’s playing well is that the guys around him are all producing good performances,” adds Farry. “Our group is working hard for each other and that’s transferring into results.”
Philip Wright (Vancouver, B.C.) scored the game-winning goal in the sixtieth minute to lift Canada past the Poles and into the semi final versus Malaysia.
In addition to the 4-3 victory for the hosts in the pool stage, the Malaysians defeated Canada 3-1 in March at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.
“We recognize that they are a quality side and will be extremely tough to beat,” says Farry. “But we are confident in our ability and what we can produce.”
Having secured a finish of fourth place or better, the Canadian Men’s National Team has already produced its best result at the Champions Challenge 1 (previous best was sixth place in 2012 in Argentina) and with a victory in the semi final and a berth in the final, would tie its best result ever (second at 1996 Inter Nations Cup in Cagliari, Italy; second at 1989 Intercontinental Cup in Madison, USA) at a major international event.
Guest and the Canadians are confident they have what it takes to succeed against Malaysia on their home turf.
“There has never been any doubt from within our group that we have the ability to fight in tough matches,” he says. “They are a very fast team and will have a large crowd supporting them on Saturday. I think we will be able to use the energy from the crowd to our advantage and get the win.”
Canada faces host Malaysia in the semi final Saturday, May 3 at 4:15amPST/7:15am EST. Live updates available on FIH Twitter feed.
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