MALAYSIA blew away a golden chance to play in the Junior World Cup when they were held to a 3-3 draw, and then beaten 4-1 by South Korea in the quarter-finals of the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan yesterday.
Coach Arul Selvaraj's boys held a 3-1 lead until the 68th minute, but lost their head and allowed Korea to score two quick goals to equalise and take the match to penalty shoot-out.
Only Shahril Saabah scored in the shoot-out while goalkeeper Ridzwan Azmi failed to stop a single attempt.
"I take full responsibility for this defeat, and the entire set up is devastated. We were not smart enough to hold the ball in the final two minutes even though the boys had been drilled time and again on how to hold onto a good lead," said Arul.
Korean coach Jang Jung Min revealed what motivated his charges till the last seconds of the match.
"Before the match I told them that if we lose against Malaysia the shame will be so big, that we can never return to Korean soil again. They played their hearts out, and now we can go home with our heads held high," said Jang.
On the Malaysian side, everybody from Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal to the ball-boys shed tears, but in vain.
This team will now be known as the lost generation, as they only have their Singapore Sea Games gold medal to display.
This is only the second time Malaysia has failed to play in the Junior World Cup incepted in 1979, the first was when former skipper S. Kuhan and his mates failed in the 1996 qualifier for the 1997 Junior World Cup.
"All is not lost for this generation, as they must now push harder and try to break into the senior squad. I believe we have good players, but they lack the thinking power," said Arul.
Shahril Saabah scored his fifth goal of the tournament to give Malaysia the lead in the sixth minute, and South Korea knew they were already in trouble even though the match had just started.
It was a powerful penalty corner drive from Shahril, which was impossible to stop as it went crashing into the netting.
Malaysia went forward in numbers and were rewarded in the 31st minute when Sufi Ismat scored a field attempt. Sufi's first shot hit goalkeeper Kim Giim Yung but the ball came back to him, and while lying on the turf, Sufi sliced the ball over the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
Korea's fight-back come off Kim Ho Min in the 61st minute, but a fast goal from Haziq Samsul in the 63rd made it 3-1 and Malaysia were on cruise mode to the World Cup.
Korea had other plans, and two quick goals from Sim Jae Won (68th) and Yoo HanYoung (70th) took the match to a shoot-out and the rest will be remembered with tears of blood in the hockey history books.
Junior World Cup hosts India qualified for the semi-finals in sytle when seven players scored in their 9-0 win over Oman.
Japan qualified for their third Junior World Cup when they beat Bangladesh 3-0 in their other quarter-finals.
RESULTS: Quarter-finals: India 9 Oman 0; Bangladesh 0 Japan 3; Malaysia 3 South Korea 3 (Korea win 4-1 in shoot-out), Pakistan 4 China 1.
TODAY: REST DAY
TOMORROW: Fifth-eighth: Oman v Bangladesh (3.45pm, Pitch II), Malaysia v China (4pm, Pitch I).
Semi-finals: Japan v India (6.15pm, Pitch I), South Korea v Pakistan (8.30pm, Pitch I).