Monday, June 15, 2015
MALAYSIA left for Netherlands Sunday night to play their final friendlies before heading for Belgium for a shot at the Olympics.
And their only route to Rio de Janeiro next year is to finish among the top-four in the Belgium Qualifier.
This change came about when the Argentina World League Semifinals concluded with Germany, Argentina and Netherlands grabbing three tickets to the Olympics.
Canada were the surprise package when they finished fourth, while Spain fifth and New Zealand sixth. Asian teams South Korea and Japan could only finish seventh and eighth.
In simple terms, if Malaysia enter the semi-finals, by virtue of being ranked higher than fourth placed Canada they will be the first choice to the Olympics when double qualification from continental tournaments occur.
But if they finish fifth or sixth, the first and second choices would be Spain (11th) and New Zealand (7th) who are higher ranked than Malaysia (12th).
Coach Tai Beng Hai's men will play low-key matches against Brazil and the Netherlands Under-21 team as warm-ups for the World League Semi-finals which starts on June 20 to July 5.
Malaysia are in Group B of the World League with Belgium, Great Britain, China and Ireland. In Group A are Australia, India, Pakistan, Poland and France.
A top-three finish will automatically see Malaysia play at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year. But the World League format allows the fourth placed team to play in the Olympics, provided there are double qualifications.
While Malaysia play low ranked Brazil; India, Belgium, Australia and Great Britain are involved in high stakes friendlies.
Belgium beat India 2-1, while Great Britain shocked world no 1 Australia 3-1.
"We will be gunning for the semi-finals, which will not be easy, but not impossible as well," said Beng Hai.
Canada showed that impossible is nothing when they held New Zealand 0-0 and then beat the Kiwis in the penalty shoot-out to play in the semi-finals of the World League in Argentina.
"Canada did the unthinkable and even though they finished fourth in the Argentina World League they still have a chance to qualify for the Olympics. We need to be in the semi-finals and then our higher ranking than Canada will see us through," said Beng Hai.
Malaysia are ranked 12th in the world while Canada are 15th.
In Belgium, Malaysia play China followed by Ireland after a three-day rest, and if they win both the matches, the quarter-finals is secured even before playing Belgium and Great Britain.
"We need to beat China and Ireland, to be placed in the middle of the group leading into the quarter-finals. We have selected the best players in the country, and we will be leaving past behaviour of all the players back home to start afresh in our quest to play in the Olympics."
For the record, Malaysia last played at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
FIXTURES: June 20 -- Group A: India v France, Pakistan v Poland.
June 21 -- Group A: Australia v France; Group B: Malaysia v China (6pm Malaysian time), Great Britain v Belgium.
June 22: REST DAY
June 23: Group A: India v Poland; Group B: Great Britain v Ireland, Belgium v China.
June 24: Group A: Poland v France, Pakistan v Australia.
June 25: Group B: Malaysia v Ireland (8pm Malaysian time), Great Britain v China.
June 26: Group A: Pakistan v India, Australia v Poland; Group B: Ireland v China, Malaysia v Belgium (12 midnight Malaysian time).
June 27: REST DAY
June 28: Group A: Pakistan v France, India v Australia; Group B: Malaysia v Great Britain (8pm Malaysian time), Belgium v Ireland.
June 29: REST DAY.
June 30: REST DAY.
July 1: quarter-finals.
July 2: REST DAY.
July 3: Semi-finals.
July 4: REST DAY.
July 5: Final, Third-Fourth and Fifth-Sixth.