Nations Cup: Hattrick hero Faizal steers Speedy Tigers to win over Austria

NATIONAL striker Faizal Saari scored a hattrick to steer Malaysia to a 5-4 win over Austria and finish seventh out of nine countries in the 2024 Nations Cup in Gniezno, Poland today.

The Speedy Tigers shot into a second-minute lead in the seventh-eighth placing playoff through a Muhammad Azrai Aizad Abu Kamal field goal before Faizal doubled their lead with a penalty corner goal in the 18th minute.

World number 19 Austria narrowed the gap to 2-1 when Fulop Losonci scored with a penalty stroke in the 21st minute but Mohammad Fitri Saari restored Malaysia’s two-goal lead when he converted a stroke two minutes later.

His elder brother, Faizal then completed his hattrick with two field goals in two minutes (32nd, 33rd) to put the Speedy Tigers 5-1 up.

Instead of coasting to victory, world number 13 Malaysia allowed Austria to fight back with goals from Maximilian Scholz (34th, 51st) and Arthur Kucera (49th) before holding on for the slim win.

Malaysian head coach Sarjit Singh, though pleased with the five goals they scored, was clearly annoyed with his team for conceding three goals in the second half.

“Quite disappointing to let in three goals when leading 5-1. This malaise needs to be stopped immediately. Our two young players, Muhamad Faris Harizan and Azimuddin Syakir Kamaruddin, shone and were consistent throughout this tournament, they played very well.

“Overall, we managed to score many goals and always started well. We look forward to working on improving our weaknesses,” he said.

The Speedy Tigers finished third in Group B after drawing 4-4 with Pakistan, losing 3-1 to France and beating Canada 4-2 to miss out on the semi-finals.

The national team then lost 4-3 to South Korea in the fifth-eighth classification match.

Sarjit’s men’s next assignment will be the Asian Champions Trophy in Inner Mongolia, China from Sept 8-17.