Friday, November 20, 2015
THE Junior Asia Cup is officially over for Malaysia, and the process of picking up the bits and pieces will need at least another two years.
Two minutes of madness was all it took to send defending champions Malaysia to the abyss of the tournament, and from fourth placed in the last Junior World Cup, to non-participants.
Many officials, coaches, fans and even the cook at the team hotel still can't come to grips on how Malaysia blew a two-goal lead twice and then collapsed in the penalty shoot-out to hand South Korea the World Cup ticket on a golden platter.
Leading 2-0 at half-time, and then 3-1 with two minutes to go, and eventually losing the shoot-out 4-1 has equaled the worse performance ever from a Malaysian side.
The senior side were in the same situation when playing for the Olympics ticket in the Belgium World League. Malaysia lead India 2-1 in the quarter-finals, but a total collapse saw them lose 3-2.
Then the seniors went on to lose the fifth spot 4-1 to Ireland, a team which they beat 4-2 in the pool match. Fifth placed Ireland qualified for the Olympics as well.
And with the senior team failing to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on a same script, Malaysia can look forward to a two-year rest from international tournaments.
A team official said they did everything for the last 18 months, except touch the players feet to prepare them for this tournament.
"Right now I do not want to discuss the future of Project 2016, as we still have two more matches to play and finish fifth to ease some pain. Not qualifying for the world cup is a disaster, but we have to pick ourselves up to make sure we finish the best (among the rest)," said juniors coach Arul Selvaraj.
Japan, South Korea, India and Pakistan will be playing in New Delhi in December 2016, and the other teams will be from Europe (six), Oceania (two), Africa (two) and Pan-American (two).
Postmortems are ongoing at every turn, and the social media has been unkind and even abusive towards the coaching staff and players.
The reality is that Malaysia lack thinking players, and the team became dreamers in the last two minutes.
"I had a chat with the players, and the conclusion is that they did not use their head to defend in the last two minutes, but started dreaming about winning (and the celebrations that come with it) when the (huge and colourful) scoreboard showed two minutes to end and Malaysia 3 Korea 1," said Arul.
The dream turned into a nightmare, as South Korea celebrated wildly and the Malaysian players were rudely shaken out of their slumber.
It will be another two years of nightmare for for Malaysian hockey, a price they paid for a two-minute dream.
A parting shot came from the team hotel cook during breakfast: "They should have thrown the ball forward and kept it there for two minutes, and the match would have been well-cooked, and ready to serve."
As easy as cooking two-minute instant noodles, but they burned their future to ashes.
SATURDAY: 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).