NATIONAL coach Arul Selvaraj let his team loose for 24 hours, and they dished out a much better performance to beat Pakistan 3-1 to finish fifth in the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium yesterday.
After a 2-2 draw against Pakistan in the pool match on Saturday, the coach asked his players to hold their own discussions and formulate their own plans to face Pakistan again in the Fifth-Sixth classification.
"Summing up the tournament, we had two draws (2-2 against Pakistan and 1-1 against New Zealand) and one win today (yesterday) and considering that we did not lose by big margins to finalists Britain (2-1) and India (4-2) I feel the it was not a bad outing," said Arul.
If Malaysia had beaten Pakistan in the last pool match, just by a goal, they would have played in the Third-Fourth classification against Australia.
"Considering how close we were to playing in the bronze medal playoff, I told the boys that they must now plan on their won on how to beat Pakistan and finish fifth. They held their own meeting, and even during the game, I let they loose and did not coach them much today (yesterday) they showed that they can play hockey," said Arul.
Malaysia took a 3-0 lead against Pakistan with goals from skipper Haziq Samsul (sixth), Najmi Farizal (24th) and Shahril Saabah (32nd). The Pakistan goal was scored by Mohamed Naveed in the 45th minute.
Skipper Haziq summed up the tournament: "We did not do as well as the coach and the public expected from us in the SOJC, but I believe if this team is also given as much exposure as the previous Junior World Cup team in overseas tournaments as well as training matches, we will also make the country proud in 2016.
"I believe the coach must select more players from the MHL (Malaysia Hockey League) and inject into the 2016 training squad as this will be healthy competition for the present batch and nobody will take their positions for granted," said Haziq.
Meanwhile, Malaysia will play in Round Two of the World Hockey League in Singapore in Jan 17-25 next year and must finish among the top three to qualify for the World League Semi-finals.
The tournament in Singapore will see Malaysia battling against Bangladesh, Japan, Oman, Poland, Singapore, Ukraine and either Papua New Guinea or Fiji.
RESULTS: Fifth-Sixth: Malaysia 3 Pakistan 1; Third-Fourth: Australia 6 New Zealand 2; Final: Great Britain 1 India 2.