NATIONAL juniors’ coach V. Muraleedharan has aged 10 years in the last month, as the Poland Four-Nation and European friendlies revealed that our hockey players are a bunch of losers.
And if Malaysia were made to go though a qualifier for next year’s Junior World Cup, we will not make it.
The alarm-bells have started ringing, as Malaysia will co- host the 20-team 2009 Junior World Cup with Singapore, on June 7-21.
Muraleedharan’s boys only won two out of the nine matches they played in Europe recently, and both were 3-2 and 6-0 wins against France.
Their defeats were 4-3 against Austria, 2-1 against Poland, 4-0 against Germany, 5-2 against clubside Frankfurt, 5-2 against club-side Mannheim, 2-1 against Belgium, and 6-1 against Belgium.
"The problem with this team is that they lose possession within seconds, and it is not only when they are attacking, but in midfield and defense as well," said Muraleedharan.
The European Tour has been an eye opener: "This are the best players in the country today, but they do not measure up, because the schools system has failed to hammer the basics in them.
"I have my work cut out, as the (Junior) World Cup is just a year away, and the Asia Cup will indicate where we stand in this region, before I start planning for next year," said Muraleedharan.
Muraleedharan also conceded that, unlike the 2005 Junior World Cup team, none in this present batch are capable of breaking into the senior ranks.
"The 2005 junior team team had about nine players who were knocking on the seniors doors, and then made the cut, but this batch does not show promise."
Malaysia are in Group A of the Junior Asia Cup, in Hyderabad, India on July 11-18. The National Juniors will be up against India, Japan and Singapore. In Group B are Bangladesh, South Korea, Oman and Pakistan. Thailand has withdrawn.
It will be difficult for the team to reach the semi-finals, but losing to Singapore is not an option.
"We open accounts against Singapore on July 11, and I am confident this is one match we will win. And then, we will have to beat Japan to play in the semi-finals," said Muraleedharan.
It is easier said than done, as Malaysia will not field nine 21-year-olds, who are in the ‘senior ranks’ now, in the Junior Asia Cup, as they will not be eligible to play in the Junior World Cup.