Rashid strongly feels an improved Malaysia can reach the Thomas Cup semis
MACAU: NATIONAL singles chief coach Rashid Sidek believes it is not impossible for Malaysia, who struggled in the qualifying rounds in Macau, to reach the last four of the Thomas Cup Finals in Wuhan, China in May.
This is because there is no team with a balanced squad except for China, and Rashid feels that the next three months, with proper preparations, can make the current squad stronger.
The improvement shown by doubles pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong is the main reason why Rashid feels Malaysia will have a realistic chance to reach the semi-finals.
Lee Chong Wei is expected to give Malaysia a good start and if Kien Keat-Boon Heong can provide the second point, Rashid feels this is enough to put any team under pressure.
However, Rashid acknowledged the fact that second singles Hafiz Hashim and Arif Latif must improve while Liew Daren, who showed some progress, must produce better results more consistently to give Malaysia a genuine chance in Wuhan.
"The improvement by the doubles has given us hope again. We can look forward to the Thomas Cup Finals with more confidence now as our team will be better prepared in the three months," said Rashid.
"Kien Keat-Boon Heong will be a much improved pair during the final rounds while we can hope for Chong Wei in the first singles. Second doubles Goh V Shem-Lim Khim Wah also showed a lot of heart here and they can contribute.
"But our main concern is still the second and third singles where Daren or Hafiz must also improve.
"Daren has shown maturity and played with quality but he must keep improving. If he can build his world ranking and move above Hafiz, the latter will be a good bet as the third singles.
"Hafiz needs to improve on his fitness and can benefit if he is given permission to continue training with the back-up players until the Thomas Cup.
"Arif has not shown much initiative simply because he has resigned himself to being a reserve and this attitude is not going to help him."
Rashid added that he will keep tabs on Chong Wei Feng and if the player shows progress, he will also be considered.
The coach felt that Malaysia's biggest threat is South Korea who will be formidable, once Jung Jae Sung, who missed the qualifying rounds in Macau due to shoulder injury, is back to partner Lee Yong Dae.
But Rashid urged the players to keep faith and they can look forward to reaching the semi-finals in Wuhan.
Thomas Cup Qualifying Final: China 3 Japan 0; 5th-8th
Playoff:South Korea 3 India 2; Taiwan 5 Thailand 0.
Uber Cup 5th-8th Playoff:Indonesia 4 Hong Kong 1; Singapore 3 Malaysia 2 (Gu Juan lost to Tee Jing Yi 21-13, 10-21, 21-15; Yao Lei-Shinta Mulia Sari bt Goh Liu Ying-Lim Yin Loo 21-13, 21-16; Fu Mingtian bt Sannatasah Saniru 21-12, 21-15; Chen Jiayuan-Thng Ting Ting lost to Wong Pei Tty-Vivian Hoo 21-14, 21-14; Liang Xiaoyu bt Yang Li Lian 21-14, 21-17).