PIC: Malaysian players celebrate their second goal against India during the field hockey semi-final at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou. But they went on to lose the gold 0-2 to Pakistan.
THE national players seem to be peaking nicely for the Dublin Olympics Qualifier on March 10-18, with only consistency being a thorn to be wary off.
Coach Tai Beng Hai will have to rally his men to beat Chile, Ukraine and Russia first before locking horns with Ireland and then South Korea.
The stakes are high, as only the gold medallists will advance to the Olympics, and Malaysia last made the cut for the Sydney 2000 Games.
Consistency was a big problem during the Asian Games, where they could only beat Singapore 2-0, but then went on to hold South Korea 2-2 before hammering Oman 12-2.
They then beat China 4-2 and India 4-3 in the semi-finals, and were one step away from the London Olympics but fell tamely 2-0 to Pakistan in the final.
“The team management has been working on improving the side and have identified the weak areas and placed extra emphasis to rectify the problems since,” said team manager Stephen van Huizen.
And in the Perth friendlies, Malaysia again proved their yo-yo form when they won the third friendly 5-2, but were pummeled 8-1 by Australia in the very next match.
But the players bounced back like a rubber ball to beat World No 3 Netherlands in their last friendly in Perth.
“We beat World No 1 and No 3 teams in the friendlies, because the team is shaping up nicely for the Qualifiers, but then, we have warned them not to take matters for granted, and the 8-1 defeat was a timely reminder for them that things can get very messy if they do not stick to the game plan,” said van Huizen.
The fact that Malaysia have always struggled against weaker sides should also be taken into consideration, as a sucker punch from one of the minnows Chile, Ukraine and Russia could end their campaign prematurely.