MALAYSIA learnt a bitter Indian lesson in the quarter- finals of the Champions Challenge I in South Africa, and now have three months to add the missing spice in their game.
It was evident that after bouncing back from being down 2- 0, to leading 4-2 with six minutes remaining in the match, that Malaysia lacked a captain’s presence to control the match tempo.
Even India were surprised with the ease they scored the two goals to take the match into extra-time, and then nail the winner off a last minute penalty corner.
Malaysia were skippered by Radzi Rahim when they lost to Canada 3-1, and then the arm-band went to Madzli Ikmar in the Japan (drew 2-2), Argentina (lost 502) and India (lost 5-4) matches.
But it looked like Malaysia only gave their best when playing against India, but in the end, it still boiled down to missing a strong player to control and dictate the pace as the match warrants.
“It was heartbreak in the end as we failed to take control of the match after leading 4-2. The pace should have been slowed down, with Malaysia taking control of the match and dictating the pace, but that did not happen.
“However, all is not lost as we have three months to rectify some of the problems that were spotted in South Africa, and be better prepared for the Olympic Qualifiers next year,” said Malaysian team manager George Koshy.
Malaysia will first play in the Azlan Shah Cup in February, and then the Olympic Qualifier on March 11-18 in Dublin.
Dublin will offer a single ticket to London 2012, and Malaysia ranked 14th, must beat world No 6 South Korea, Ireland (17th), Russia (20th), Chile (24th) and Ukraine (31st).
In South Africa, Malaysia scored a total of nine goals and three were from Amin Rahim, two from Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, three from Azlan Misron, and one from Izwan Firdaus.
Strikers Hafifi Hafiz, Faizal Saari and Firhan Ashari all had their moments, but wasted a handful of sitters which could have turned the tide for Malaysia.
The only golden lining is that the team management has three months to rectify the chinks, or Malaysia are going to loose another Olympic moment, which the hockey team last tasted in Sydney 2000.
In the Fifth-Eighth playoff yesterday, Malaysia beat Japan 2-1 with both goals scored by Faizal Saari.
SATURDAY: Semi-finals -- Belgium v Argentina, South Africa v India.