THE Five-Series Friendlies against Japan proved an in valuable insight into the Malaysian hockey team as they prepare to qualify for the Olympics after a lapse of 12 years.
The last time Malaysia played at that level was in Sydney 2000, where they ended 11th after beating Poland 3-2 in the 11th-12th classification match.
Amazingly, in the five Group A matches, Malaysia drew four and lost only one.
In the Japan friendlies, Japan won 2-1 in the first two matches, before Malaysia won 4-1 and 3-2. The last match ended 2-2, and the series ended in a draw.
“I tried out many combinations, especially in the forward- line and some of the pairings produced results while others still need work.
“In the end, the series had shown some promise in the team and we need to improve further when we play against Asia’s best in Ordos next month,” said Malaysian chief coach Tai Beng Hai.
Prolific striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin was rested for the five matches, after he picked up an injury during the Razak Cup in Malacca -- and that made a big difference in sharpness up-front.
Ordos will host the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy on Sept 3-11, and Malaysia will be up against Asian Games champions Pakistan, South Korea, India, China and Japan.
The two glaring mistakes which have yet to be rectified are the inability of our forwards to nail sitters, and then the mentality of losing matches in the last 10 minutes of a match.
The most evident was in the fifth friendly, where Malaysia took a 2-0 lead and then allowed in two soft goals in the last 10 minutes of play to allow Japan to share the series.
“I used the friendlies to test some new players, and when we took a 2-0 lead, I fielded some of the hopefuls to give them a fair chance.
“Also, after we took the lead, Faizal Saari had a bad fall and I thought he twisted his knee and rested him and also a few seniors so that they do not get injured in a friendly.
“I need the players to be ready and fit for not only the Asian Champions Trophy, but also the Champions Challenge (in November) and the qualifier, so three was no need to push them too hard against Japan,” said Beng Hai
Malaysia will most likely play in the Belgium Qualifier and would have to beat the hosts, as well as likely opponents Poland and Ireland.
However, if India fail to solve their domestic problem involving two hockey bodies, the International Hockey Fed eration (FIH) will take away their Qualifier hosting rights and Malaysia is highly touted to be the replacement venue.