HAVING finished fourth three times in the Junior World Cup, Malaysia will have high expectations when their battle begins at Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru tomorrow.
But after that, Malaysia failed to make it to the medal stages, and even with a talented squad, could only manage 10th placing in 2005 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The Rotterdam squad were one of the best assembled for decades, and were plain unlucky because they lost 1-0 to Argentina, and drew 3-3 with Australia. Argentina became the champions when they beat Australia 2-1 in the final.
And 10 players from that squad were promoted to the senior side, and played in the recent Asia Cup in Kuantan.
Many coaches and former players, when asked their opinion, were frank in saying that not more than two players from this batch can be drafted to the senior side after the Junior World Cup.
"I have heard about it too, but that is their opinion. Everybody is entitled to one. Personally speaking, I see promise in this squad, as they have discipline and their willingness to-learn attitude as a plus point," said coach K. Rajan.
Rajan is no rookie, having handled clubside Tenaga Nasional, juniors and seniors, for many years, and even with a handful of talented players, he has taken Tenaga Nasional to the champions podium.
"I have had a great time coaching these boys because they are always looking to improve themselves.
"All they need to do right now is to keep their composure against England (their opening match) and a winning start would, I believe, take them all the way to the semi-finals."
Yesterday, Singapore hosted the opening ceremony at their Sengkang Hockey Stadium. Malaysia will host the closing ceremony as well as the final on June 21.
GROUPINGS: Group A: Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia; Group B: Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan, South Africa; Group C: Malaysia, South Korea, US, Spain, England; Group D: India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sin gapore.
FIXTURES -- Tomorrow: Group A: Belgium v Egypt (5pm, Johor), Pakistan v Russia (5.30pm, Johor); Group B: Japan v South Africa (5pm, Singapore), Germany v Chile (7.30pm, Singapore); Group C: South Korea v USA (7pm, Johor), England v Malaysia (7.30pm, Johor); Group D: Netherlands v Singapore (5.30pm, Singapore), New Zealand v Poland (7pm, Singapore).
MONDAY: Group A: Russia v Argentina (7pm, Johor); Group B: Chile v Australia (5.30pm, Singapore), Poland v Netherlands (5pm, Singapore); Group C: Egypt v Pakistan (5.30pm, Johor), Malaysia v South Korea (7.30pm, Johor); Group D: South Africa v Germany (7pm, Singapore), Sin gapore v India (7.30pm, Singapore).