WORLD NO 1 Australia started off slowly, but went on to beat South Korea 5-1 to cement their spot in the final of the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh yesterday.
And now, Malaysia need to keep the score low when they play Australia on Saturday, and hope South Korea does not hammer South Africa in their last match to move into the final on goal difference.
The Koreans scored nine and let in nine, while Malaysia have a seven goal cushion going into the Australian match and they must no blow it.
Australia were given the run around by Asian champions South Korea, who defended stoutly until a silly mistake made all the difference in the 10th minute.
Off a goalmouth melee, Trent Mitton slotted in the ball for the lead.
However, the Koreans refused to be intimidated by that goal and kept defending while only moving forward a handful of times in the first half. And if paid off when they won their first penalty corner in the 32nd minute and Jang Jong Hyun nailed the equaliser with a low push which sounded the board.
But the Australians came back strongly into the match again, and just as the clock showed seconds left to the half-time, Nicholas Budgeon scored and made it 2-1.
In the second half, goals by Jeremy Hayward (59th), Matt Gohdes (63rd, 69th) made it a comfortable 5-1 win for the Aussies.
Meanwhile, Malaysia had a well deserved two-day rest period after whipping China 7-3 on Wednesday and will only meet tournament raging favourites Australia on Saturday.
Seasoned striker Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, who is playing in his eigtht Azlan Shah Cup likes the improvement shown by the seven juniors drafted for the tournament, and feels they can only become better is given more exposure.
"Seven players without caps were included by the coach, and they showed some good promise in all the matches, and I believe that with more exposure, Malaysia will have a very strong team as these players mature further," said the 28-year-old who scored his first tournament goal against China.
Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin made his mark in the 2005 Junior World Cup in Rotterdam, and has since been a permanent fixture in the Malaysian strike-force.
With beating Australia almost an impossible dream, the task as hand for Malaysia would be to stop the Aussies from scoring too many goals and have a rematch with the World No 1 in the final on Sunday.
RESULTS: Canada 4 China 3, South Korea 1 Australia 5.
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 4 4 0 0 25 1 12
MALAYSIA 4 3 1 0 15 8 10
S KOREA 4 2 1 1 9 9 7
CHINA 5 1 0 4 13 21 3
CANADA 5 1 0 4 7 18 3
S AFRICA 4 1 0 3 5 17 3
March 21: REST DAY.
March 22: Australia v Malaysia (6pm), South Africa v South Korea (8pm).