KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian men's hockey team is far from ready to claim their maiden gold at the Jakarta Asian Games on Aug 16-Sept 2.
The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) set a lofty target for coach Stephen van Huzien and his men, to become automatic qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
For the record, Malaysia last played at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Judging by Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the ongoing Six-Test matches against Argentina, Malaysia are in for a fight of their lives in Jakarta.
At the Commonwealth Games, Malaysia lost 7-0 to England, lost to India 2-1 and drew 1-1 with Pakistan. They could only beat Scotland 2-1, and Wales 3-0 to finish fifth.
And in the ongoing Argentina Tests, Malaysia lost all four (1-0, 6-1, 7-2, 2-1) and will play two more matches in the next few days.
One of the weak department is goalkeeping, as the gap between No 1 S. Kumar and Hairi Rahman is huge.
In the fourth Test, it was 1-1 until the fourth quarter: "We substituted Kumar to allow Hairi to play in the the last quarter and we were careless to concede an early penalty corner within 17 secs and they scored of a set-piece. We kept fighting to the end but couldn't get the equaliser. However, it was a much improved performance.," said van Huizen.
When asked is the goalkeeping department is a problematic area when Kumar is on the bench, van Huizens said: "I think the other goalkeepers have improved and need more matches to progress further in decision making during matches.
"Hairi and Hafiz (Hafizuddin Othman, third goalkeeper) have done reasonably well when Kumar was out (on a six-month doping ban) and we will continue to give them as many matches and exposure as possible.
"The goals we conceded here even when Kumar was playing is not entirely the goalkeepers' fault but also the defence and team as a whole."
So what is the problem in Argentina?
"The matches are tough and the tempo, skill level, physical strength and standard makes it hard for our players.
"Their ability to switch quickly and counter attack as well as their combination means that any error in marking or hesitation means they create goals coring chances. They have also scored some good penalty corner goals right at the top corner."
Today, Malaysia will play their Fifth Test against the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympians, who are blooding 10 new players in the series.