By Jugjet Singh
AFTER two matches in the 25th Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup, Malaysia have scored seven goals but let in six, three of which went in, in the final five minutes of both matches.
During the New Zealand match on Wednesday, Malaysia were leading 3-2 but allowed the Kiwis to steal a point by letting in equaliser in the 55th minute.
And against Japan, the national players took a 4-1 lead but still, let in two penalty corner goals in the 54th and 59th minutes and escaped with full points because the clock ran out on the Japanese.
The tournament is being played on a 15-minutes each four-quarters format, with only 60 minutes of action.
This 'Malaysian' syndrome saw the country lose out on the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and also the Junior World Cup.
In the World League Semi-finals last eight match in Antwerp, Belgium, Malaysia were leading India 2-1 and were on the way to Brazil, but allowed India to score two goals and win 3-2. India double qualified for the Olympics as they also won the Asian Games gold.
And in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan, the juniors were leading South Korea 3-1 in the quarter-finals with two minutes to end. But coach Arul Selvaraj's boys collapsed and allowed the Koreans to score two goals and take the match to a penalty shoot-out.
The Koreans won the shoot-out and qualified for the Junior World Cup, Malaysia missed the boat by two minutes.
There are another dozen incidences where Malaysia lost because of lapses during the first five minutes, or the last five minutes -- something which the late Sultan Azlan Shah had reminded the players back in 2005 before sending off the Junior World Cup team to Rotterdam.
"Over the years we have lost out of playing in major tournaments, or medals, because of our lackadaisical attitude in the first five minutes as well as the last five minutes," said Azlan Shah then.
Shukri Mutalib was among the 2005 Junior World Cup players and he is still in action at the 25th Edition of the Azlan Shah Cup -- where Malaysia are still making the same mistakes.
Coach Stephen van Huizen has inherited a problem which was prevalent even during his playing days -- and it looks like Malaysia will never make progress in the hockey world if they can't overcome this mental block.
One can expect this syndrome to sneak in during four remaining pool matches in Ipoh as well.