THE World League Semi-finals fixtures are so kind to Malaysia, that it would be quite difficult not to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
For, only a total mess up the first two easier matches in Antwerp, Belgium, from June 20 to July 5 will see Malaysia sit out of the Olympics which they last played in Sydney 2000.
The heavens must have been smiling on coach Tai Beng Hai and his men as they play China first on June 21, and after a three-day break they play Ireland on June 25 and wins in both these matches might just see them play against Pakistan or India in the cross-over quarter-finals.
Yes they have a three day break after playing Cina, ranked 31 in the world. Malaysia, for the record, are 12th in the World, while Ireland are 14th.
Beng Hai's men will play the two toughest matches in their Group at the tail end.. as hosts Belgium are on June 26, and Great Britain on June 28.
And for ealy preparations, the team will will head for Belgium on May 28 to play a series of friendly matches.
Team manager Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad said matches have been lined up with Belgium and Germany, as well as club sides in their last Tour before the WL Semifinals.
Malaysia finished last in the Azlan Shah Cup, but there were glimmers of hope as they did not get thrashed by teams ranked much higher than them.
They beat India (ninth) and Canada (15th) 3-2 and 4-1 respectively, and lost narrowly against Australia (number one) 3-2, champions New Zealand (seventh) 4-2 and drew 4-4 with Canada before losing out 3-1 in the fifth-sixth penalty shoot-out.
"Considering the close margins at the Azlan Shah Cup, our preparations for the WL Semi-finals need to focus on our defense and midfield, and so the friendly matches against Belgium and Germany will be very crucial for our aim to qualify for the Olympics," said Nur Azmi.
For the record, the last time Malaysia played Belgium was at the World Cup and and score was an unflattering 6-2.
Malaysia arein Group B of the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp from June 20-July 5. The other rivals are hosts Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland and China.
In Group A are Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland and France.
With today marking 64 days more to the WL Semi-finals, the national team will be back in training after finishing last in Ipoh.
"We also plan to be in Belgium at least two weeks ahead of the Olympic Qualifier, and there could be more matches then. But this tour but me taken seriously as it could be our final chance to play with world class teams in a friendly, before we feel the might of their brunt in the qualifier. The defenders need to learn how to minimise their mistakes, as world class teams don't give you too many chances to score, and they are also clinical when attacking," said Nur Azmi.
On his personal feeling: "I believe we have the players who can take us into the Olympics after missing it for 16 years, so they should not be disheartened with the Azlan Shah Cup scores, and learn from their mistakes instead."