MALAYSIAN juniors lost 4-2 to World Cup hosts India at the Mejar Dhyan Chand Hockey Stadium in New Delhi on Friday night, but there was an overall improvement in their approach and attitude.
The juniors, in Group D with New Zealand, South Africa and England, are on a three-match tour of India to familiarise themselves with the World Cup venue, which will see 16 teams battle from Dec 6-15.
According to team manager Mirnawan Nawawi, there was vast improvement from the final of the Sultan of Johor Cup, where Malaysia were beaten 3-0 by India.
“Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity for us not only to get a feel of the World Cup venue, but also spar with India who might just be our opponents if we make the quarter-finals,” said Mirnawan.
The other likely last-eight opponents, from Group C, are the Netherlands. Also in Group C are South Korea and Canada.
India fielded 90 per cent of the players who won gold in in the Sultan of Johor Cup and took a 3-0 lead off Gurjinder Singh (second minute), Talwinder Singh (11th) and Amir Khan (35th).
Malaysia narrowed the gap off Shahril Saabah (40th) before India nailed their fourth off Gurjinder (45th).
The second Malaysian goal, also off a penalty corner attempt, was scored by Zulhairi Hashim in the 51st minute.
“The players struggled to get used to the field conditions as it was slippery and a little bumpy. The players controlled the match well but India were more deadly in the semi-circle.
“And after India took the early lead, off their first penalty corner, Syamin Yusof and Rashid Baharom created very good chances to equalise in 10th and 18th minutes but their shots were well saved by the Indian goalkeeper,” said Mirnawan.
The juniors will play their second match today, and wrap-up the series on Monday.