|Nigeria’s Bello Buba (center) is sandwiched by two Pakistani players. Pakistan won 15 ½ - 7.|
And now, Pando wants the team to do the same and ride on the win against the Kiwis when they face India on Friday. India beat pre-tournament frontrunners Australia 5 ½ - 5 in their first match.
“It was a great game and great win for Malaysia. The players played to order.They were disciplined and showed tremendous team spirit till the end of the game. Their fighting spirit was another hallmark of Malaysia,” said Pando.
It was the sort of start Malaysia were looking for in the seven-team tournament which also counts as the Zone D Qualifier to this year’s FIP Polo World Cup Finals in San Luis, Argentina from Oct 11-25. The top three teams from this tournament will qualify for the Finals.
“Our hard work and training paid off. We did not fare well in recent tournaments but it was part of our preparations for this World Cup Qualifier. It was a good start to the championships and let us ride on the win over New Zealand.
“We have more obstacles to clear and we have to look forward to the coming matches with confidence. The team morale is high and the players enjoyed the match against New Zealand.”
Pando,who has been with the team since January, did not wish to single out any player for Malaysia’s win but hailed Huzaini Yunos (Handicap 4) for his cool in taking penalties, missing only one out of seven that were awarded to the team and Edham Shaharuddin (Handicap 4) for his inspirational display before his hometown supporters.
“Huzaini showed his class in penalties. It helped the team. Edham had an outstanding game and fought from beginning to end, which inspired the team,” added Pando.
Pando, however, warned the Malaysians to watch out India, who showed great character to stop the Australians.
“We need to keep a tight rein on India’s No 3 (Samir Suhag) who scored four goals against Australia. He is a smart and solid player, who makes the team. He is certainly dangerous.”
The Indian ace (Handicap 5), aged 36, is the most experienced player, having represented India four times at the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, playing with a total handicap of 12 against Nigeria’s 14, and playing with a 1 ½ goal advantage, defeated the African nation . It was Nigeria’s second defeat in as many matches, having lost to South Africa 13-5 in their first match.
Pakistan’s Sami Ullah, a fulltime professional, led the rout with 10 goals, scoring three each in the in the second, third and fifth chukkas and one in the fourth. Temur Nadeen contributed two while Ahmad Tiwada and Saqib Khakwani scored one each.
Nigeria replied through Bello Buba (3 goals) Mohammed Babangida (2) and Ibrahim Mohammed one.