ANTWERP: Malaysia’s Olympic hockey qualifying campaign that promised so much has ended with a whimper.
Malaysia lost 3-2 to India in the quarter-finals of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals at the KHC Dragons Stadium here on Wednesday – and thus ending their chance of an automatic berth to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year.
Yes, Malaysia can still beat France on Friday and finish fifth – and stay in the fray as one of the reserves for a place in Rio.
But, the truth is, that they should have beaten India and wrap up the Olympic berth on Wednesday.
Leading 2-1 at half time, Malaysia were looking good for a place in the semi-finals.
Alas, the same old malaise struck Malaysia again in the last quarter as they conceded two penalty corners, which rookie flicker Jasjit Singh Kullar converted with aplomb.
Skipper Mohd Razie Rahim admitted that they knew nothing about Jasjit’s penalty corner prowess.
“We usually study the opposing penalty corner flickers and see how they execute their moves ... but we had nothing on Jasjit,” he said.
“That is no excuse for our loss though ... we simply failed to control the game and were guilty for conceding the two penalty corners.
“The players tried very hard and I don’t think we can fault their determination.
“We were found wanting in the last quarter and we failed to keep up the tempo. We need to review our performance and bounce back.”
There are a few weaknesses that the team needs to look into. Among them are the players’ lack of fitness, inability to stay focused for the full 60 minutes and making the same mistakes.
The midfielders – Mohd Shahrun Nabil, Faiz Helmi, Mohd Marhan Jalil, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor – also failed to keep possession and that heaped a lot of pressure on the defence.
In goal Roslan Jamaluddin did a good job in the absence of S. Kumar.
Tactically, Malaysia need to spend a little more time studying their opponents’ game.
India did not play their usual game this time. They are playing a more European style under new coach Paul van Ass.
They attack and defend in numbers.
They chased every ball and harassed the Malaysians at every turn. They didn’t give any room for the Malaysians to plan their attacks.
India’s assistant coach Jude Felix described it as “a 10-on-10 style”.
“We’re still learning and the players are slowly adapting to the new style. The players are learning to take on different roles and play as a unit. It’s still in its early stages,” said Jude.
While other teams, including Ireland and France, have evolved and improved, there’s nothing new in the Malaysian game.
Malaysia definitely have the talents. All the coaches who have seen the Malaysians in action agree with that.
So what’s missing, then?
Well, that’s for the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) to find the answer.