PIC: Malaysia v Australia. Down but not out...
KUALA LUMPUR: Juniors coach Nor Saiful Zaini admitted Monday half his team is far from ready to play at the international level.
This came about after Malaysia were humiliated 6-1 by Australia in the Eighth Edition of the Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on Sunday.
The hammering came at the back of a 2-1 defeat to India, and Malaysia will square off against New Zealand today.
"Not ready. Nine of my players are making their international debut, and even though they played well in the recent China Tour, they could not cope with what Australia dished out," said the former Olympian.
Malaysia, like India and Australia, had to send their best Under-18 players for the ongoing Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires but it looks like the other two teams have depth on the bench.
"Yes, we sorely miss the eight players who are in Buenos Aires, and even though I don't want to use that as an excuse, it did weaken our team.
"Those included for SOJC are not ready," stressed Nor Saiful.
The Youth Olympics is a Hockey 5s event, and Malaysia hammered minnows Vanuatu 14-0 in their opening match and will play Mexico next.
The SOJC team is part of Malaysia's Junior World Cup Qualifier side, with the other half in Argentina.
"However, looking at the bright side, I hope my players will use the SOJC as a learning curve and understand that they must put in what they practised or get hammered.
"We played open hockey against Australia because I did not want to hold back the boys at the juniors stage.
"Now we are left with no option but to beat New Zealand and then Japan to finish among the top-four."
For the record, the last time Malaysian juniors played the Kiwis was at the Uttar Pradesh Junior World Cup in 2016. Malaysia held them to a 1-1 draw at halt-time, but lost 3-1 in the 9th-12th placing match.
As for Japan, they have been on fire in the SOJC beating defending champions Australia and silver medallists Britain by 2-1 margins, and Malaysia will face another uphill match against them.
TUESDAY: Australia v Britain (4.05pm); India v Japan (6.05pm); New Zealand v Malaysia (8.35pm).
NOTE: All matches at Taman Daya Hockey Stadium and telecast live over RTM.
P W D L F A pts
INDIA 2 2 0 0 9 2 6
JAPAN 2 2 0 0 4 2 6
AUSTRALIA 2 1 0 1 7 3 3
BRITAIN 2 1 0 1 4 4 3
MALAYSIA 2 0 0 2 2 8 0
NEW ZEALAND 2 0 0 2 3 10 0