Malaysia, as expected, lost 3-1 to Australia at the Perth Hockey Stadium, the first of their four match series against the hosts in preparation for the Olympic Qualifiers that will be held in Dublin in March.
However it was not the top Australian team that Malaysia lost against as the hosts fielded players from their Australian A side, which as a matter of fact comprises of players that are not amongst the top 28 currently preparing for the London Olympics.
Only four players that are in the squad of 28 players named by Australian coach Ric Charlesworth took the field against Malaysia. They are Eddie Ockenden, Rob Hammond, Matthew Swann and keeper Nathan Burgers.
It was Ockenden that gave Australia the lead before Malaysia equalized through Izwan Firdaus as the two teams were tied 1-1 at halftime.
Two goals by Tim Bates, in the 37th and 57th minutes sealed the win for the Australian A side and the next match is scheduled for tomorrow (Monday).
“Malaysia did relatively well in the match and they can only get better. It was a good performance and I expect them to improve in the coming matches,”
commented former Malaysian coach Paul Lissek who is now a consultant with the Australian squad.
“They created many goal scoring chances but failed to make them count. And although they had 3 penalty corners, they failed to make them count.”
While Malaysia are preparing against second rung players from Australia, Ireland who their biggest threats besides South Korea played two matches against Great Britain and came of with draws (1-1 and 2-2) in both clashes over the weekend.
Great Britain opened the scoring in the second minute when Barry Middleton tapped in at the back post from a by-line. Ireland drew level 7 minutes later with a Timothy Cockram drag flick.
Great Britain took the lead again in the 41st minute with a Simon Mantell goal from a penalty corner drag flick. Ireland piled on the pressure and were awarded a number of short corners but failed to take their opportunities and it was not until after the final hooter that they scored their equalising goal once again from a Timothy Cockram drag flick.
Going by statistics, Malaysia has a fairly decent chance of making it to the Olympics for the first time since Sydney 2000. South Korea who won silver in 2000 have played in 5 Olympics while Malaysia has played in 9, their last being in Sydney.
But it is pertinent to note that the last time Malaysia safely negotiated their way past an Olympic Qualifier was in 1999 in Japan and it has been two consecutive failures since then, 2004 in Madrid and 2008 in Japan.
And the script was the same for the World Cup as Malaysia made the 1998 World Cup on merit, making it through from the qualifiers they hosted in 1997.
While they played as hosts in the 2002 edition, Malaysia failed to make it to the 2006 German and 2010 New Delhi World Cups.