MALAYSIA only have nine more weeks left to get their act ready before the World League Semi-finals begins in Antwerp, Belgium, on June 20 to July 5.
Antwerp is the last door for Malaysia to play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a feat which was last achieved in Sydney 2000.
The World League format is very friendly, where three slots are available to Rio, but with double qualifications, the fifth placing in Belgium is just as valuable as the gold medal.
Malaysia are in Group B with Great Britain, Belgium, Ireland and China. In Group A are Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland and France.
And judging from Malaysia's performance at the ongoing Azlan, coach Tai Beng Hai has a team which is only 60 per cent ready to make a charge into the last four in Belgium.
Beng Hai admitted that fitness and formation was still not ready yet: "The Azlan Shah Cup has seen Malaysia start slow in two matches, but then again, the team has shown fighting spirit to come back from two goals down and play good hockey.
"However, we need to improve a little on the fitness as well as our defense formation," said Beng Hai.
Malaysia went down 0-2 to New Zealand but clawed back to 2-2, before collapsing 4-2. Next were Australia, and after a gallant fight, the World No 1 could only beat Malaysia 3-2.
India were shocked 3-2 by Malaysia, while South Korea took a 2-0 lead, but Malaysia fought back to level the score only to lose 3-2.
"You can see from the scoreline that we are not far off form higher ranked teams, but we need to cut off the mistakes at the back, to be more consistent," said Beng Hai.
Three players have not been performing up to the mark in this tournament, and Azlan Misron, Ahmad Kazamirul and Shukri Mutalib only have nine weeks to improve their attitude.
All three are experienced players, with Azlan the most cappped Malaysian right now, and he would be earning his 342nd cap against Canada today. But he has had horrible outings in his namesake tournament, while Kazamirul is too robust and makes too many mistakes when defending in his own semi-circle.
As for Shukri, he missed the Australian Tour due to studies, and has been almost invincible in the last three matches.
In the temper test, Faizal Shaari, Razie Rahim and Firhan Ashari have failed miserably, and should take their former coach K. Dharmaraj's advise seriously.
"In any high-stake international tournament, the opponents will try to make you lose your temper by poking from behind, pushing and elbowing off the ball and even saying nasty things near your ear. But a good player will never retaliate physically or verbally because that could earn him a card and when he's sitting in the sin bin, the team suffers and could even lose the match due to less members on the pitch.
"The right attitude is to retaliate by playing even better hockey when provoked, and that is what our players need to learn from this tournament and take it to Belgium," said Dharmaraj, who is now the National Sports Council development coach.
Today Malaysia play Canada in a must-win situation, and hope that Australia beat India, to qualify for the bronze battle.
Australia have already checked into the final, and their opponents would either be New Zealand or South Korea. The Kiwis only need a draw, while Korea a win to play in the final.
Australia, for the record, will be gunning for their ninth straight Azlan Shah Cup on Sunday.
P W D L F A Pts
AUSTRALIA 4 4 0 0 18 5 12
N ZEALAND 4 3 0 1 12 6 9
S KOREA 4 2 1 1 10 10 7
INDIA 4 1 1 2 10 10 4
MALAYSIA 4 1 0 3 9 12 3
CANADA 4 0 0 4 4 20 0
April 10: REST DAY.
April 11: Australia v India (4pm), South Korea v New Zealand (6pm), Malaysia v Canada (8pm).