THE Malaysian shuttlers inability to live up to expectations when they are given the top billings returned to haunt them on Sunday when they failed in their defence of the mens team gold medal.
At full strength, they were beaten by an Indonesian team made up of fresh faces in the semi-finals.
The pressure has now mounted on singles players Wong Choong Hann and defending champion Roslin Hashim to redeem themselves in the individual mens singles competition, which begins tomorrow at the Tan Binh Sports Centre in Ho Chi Minh City.
Top seeded Malaysia were expected to sail through their semi-final tie against Indonesia but everything that could go wrong happened. In the end, Malaysia succumbed to an embarrassing 2-3 defeat.
Choong Hann went down 10-15, 7-15 to two-time Asian Badminton Championships winner Sony Dwi Kuncoro while Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah also ate humble pie, losing 12-15, 5-15 to Alven Yulianto-Luluk Hadiyanto.
Roslin was next and he failed to save the tie, going down 15-8, 17-14, 15-11 to Simon Santoso.
In the dead matches, Chew Choon Eng-Chang Kim Wai defeated Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan 10-15, 15-8, 15-9 while Lee Chong Wei overcame Wimpie Mahardi 15-10, 15-7.
It was the first time in more than 20 years that Malaysia failed to reach the final. But singles head coach Misbun Sidek kept a brave face upfront.
I had been saying earlier that Indonesia are no pushovers. They did not have the regular campaigners but the youngsters, Sony and Simon, are no easy players to beat, said Misbun.
Sony is already a world-class player and we knew Choong Hann would be stretched.
Simon has beaten the worlds top players, among them Shon Seung-mo, Peter-Gade Christensen and Xia Xuanze.
I noticed that our players were clearly under pressure against the fast improving young Indonesian players.
Misbun still has confident in his charges and believes that they will bounce back in the individual competitions.
The players have experienced the worst and they should be more fired up to make amends. Choong Hanns focus is still as strong and he is aware that he played badly against Sony. Roslin is still a bit down, he said.
Choong Hann and Roslin will have to put their humbling defeats away and concentrate on the task at hand. Besides Sony, the other top contenders for the gold medal are Singapores Ronald Susilo and Thailands Boonsak Polsana.