MALAYSIA cruised into the semi-finals of the World League Round Two after they whitewashed Mexico 10-1 at the Sengkang Stadium in Singapore yesterday.
Playing under a blazing 9am sun, and witnessed by eight ticket-paying fans, coach Tai Beng Hai's men missed 10 chances, but made the other 10 count to claim the favourites tag in the tournament.
Malaysia will play Japan in the last-four, after players from the Land of the Rising Sun beat Ukraine 5-0 in the other quarters.
And in the other last eight matches, Poland hammered Singapore 8-0; while Oman and Bangladesh played to a 3-3 draw but Oman won 2-0 in a penalty shoot-out.
Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin started the goalcount in the fourth minute and went on to score three more in the 30th, 31st and 48th. The other goals were scored by Faizal Saari (14th), Razie Rahim (16th), Firhan Ashaari (19th), Izwan Firdaus (40th), Izad Jamaluddin (44th) and Haziq Shamsul (54th).
The Mexico consolation was scored by Andres Range in the 24th minute.
For the record, Malaysia's only other match against Mexico was at the 1968 Olympics, where the hosts were beaten 1-0 in the 15th-16th classification match.
"We did miss many chances but that could be due to playing so early in the day as we had to wake up at 5am to prepare for the match. The blazing sun did not help either, as we missed many sitters but still, the scoreline is a big boost ahead of the crucial semi-finals," said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
The national players beat Ukraine 5-1, Oman 7-0, Singapore 16-1 and Mexico 10-1 for an impressive 38 goals scored and three let in.
"It has been a very good tournament so far, but Japan will not be easy as they have a better structure and can be deadly if we do not score early to douse their fire. However, we are here to play in the final, and Japan can be beaten," said Beng Hai.
The only casualty yesterday was Firhan Ashaari who received a cut on his cheeks and was rushed to the hospital, but with a rest day before the semis, he is expected to be back on the pitch to help Malaysia beat Japan.
Three teams from Singapore will qualify for the World League Semi-finals, and Malaysia need to beat Japan and book their ticket early and not wait for the third-fourth placing match to qualify. The WL Semi-finals is the last shot for teams to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Singappore have been a miserable host so far, as teething problems are still persistent for teams even though it has reached the knock-out stage.
Firhan's injury opened another can of worms as the hosts did not have an ambulance on standby and asked for S85 to call one from a nearby hospital: "This is ridiculous as when Malaysia host a tournament we provide medical care and do not charge for teams for an ambulance ride. And when we complained to the tournament director he just shook his head in disbelieve. In the end, the ambulance never came and we took Firhan to the hospital in a taxi," said a Malaysian official.
Another good news yesterday was that Malaysia moved up a notch in the world and are now num 12, while their semis opponents Japan dropped from 14 to 15. The other potential finalist Poland remained at 18th.
Malaysia have the best chance to win gold in Singapore, and advance to the World League Semi-finals at either Belgium or Argentina which offer tickets to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a platform where Malaysia last played in Sydney 2000.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) will hold their Annual General Meeting on Feb 13, with nominations closing on Feb 2.