MALAYSIA blew away a golden chance to play in the Junior World Cup when they were held to a 3-3 draw, and then beaten 4-1 by South Korea in the quarter-finals of the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan yesterday.
Coach Arul Selvaraj's boys held a 3-1 lead until the 68th minute, but lost their head and allowed Korea to score two quick goals to equalise and take the match to penalty shoot-out.
Only Shahril Saabah scored in the shoot-out while goalkeeper Ridzwan Azmi failed to stop a single attempt.
"I take full responsibility for this defeat, and the entire set up is devastated. We were not smart enough to hold the ball in the final two minutes even though the boys had been drilled time and again on how to hold onto a good lead," said Arul.
Korean coach Jang Jung Min revealed what motivated his charges till the last seconds of the match.
"Before the match I told them that if we lose against Malaysia the shame will be so big, that we can never return to Korean soil again. They played their hearts out, and now we can go home with our heads held high," said Jang.
On the Malaysian side, everybody from Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal to the ball-boys shed tears, but in vain.
This team will now be known as the lost generation, as they only have their Singapore Sea Games gold medal to display.
This is only the second time Malaysia has failed to play in the Junior World Cup incepted in 1979, the first was when former skipper S. Kuhan and his mates failed in the 1996 qualifier for the 1997 Junior World Cup.
"All is not lost for this generation, as they must now push harder and try to break into the senior squad. I believe we have good players, but they lack the thinking power," said Arul.
Shahril Saabah scored his fifth goal of the tournament to give Malaysia the lead in the sixth minute, and South Korea knew they were already in trouble even though the match had just started.
It was a powerful penalty corner drive from Shahril, which was impossible to stop as it went crashing into the netting.
Malaysia went forward in numbers and were rewarded in the 31st minute when Sufi Ismat scored a field attempt. Sufi's first shot hit goalkeeper Kim Giim Yung but the ball came back to him, and while lying on the turf, Sufi sliced the ball over the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
Korea's fight-back come off Kim Ho Min in the 61st minute, but a fast goal from Haziq Samsul in the 63rd made it 3-1 and Malaysia were on cruise mode to the World Cup.
Korea had other plans, and two quick goals from Sim Jae Won (68th) and Yoo HanYoung (70th) took the match to a shoot-out and the rest will be remembered with tears of blood in the hockey history books.
Junior World Cup hosts India qualified for the semi-finals in sytle when seven players scored in their 9-0 win over Oman.
Japan qualified for their third Junior World Cup when they beat Bangladesh 3-0 in their other quarter-finals.
RESULTS: Quarter-finals: India 9 Oman 0; Bangladesh 0 Japan 3; Malaysia 3 South Korea 3 (Korea win 4-1 in shoot-out), Pakistan 4 China 1.
TODAY: REST DAY
TOMORROW: 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).
Thursday, November 19, 2015
By Jugjet Singh
THE ASIAN Hockey Federation (AHF) conducts daily urine tests on selected players, but there is no test done to ascertain the age of players in the Under-21 Junior Asia Cup.
Players, officials and coaches have over the last 20 years urged the AHF and also the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to conduct age-test for junior tournaments, because many of them have noticed that some players seem to remain young forever in a magical manner.
In Kuantan, yet again, many of those who are close to hockey have noticed many anomalies but checks with passports have shocked them to silence.
A hockey true-blood claimed that some players have seen action with him in the junior level, but while he is now well over the junior age, they are still actively playing in age-group tournaments.
The Junior Asia Cup is a World Cup qualifier, and the stakes are very high and age becoming a magical number has seen some impressive results and some disappointing outcomes.
Teams take great pain in preparing their juniors, and when there are alleges elements of unfair play, sportsmanship is thrown out the window and replaced by result-oriented cheats.
Malaysia's preparations, among others, is a great example of how much time and effort is placed to groom youth to become matured players.
Coach Arul Selvaraj and his team of social-science scientists have practically left no stone unturned to nurture the 18 who are in Kuantan to defend their Junior Asia Cup title.
Arul is not only a coach, but acts and rules the brood like a fatherly figure using scientific methods to check their heart-rate, their food (energy) intake and urine tests are conducted twice a day to check the level of water and other minerals in the body.
And he waits at the door to hand them the amount of liquid (one or two bottles of mineral water) when they attend briefings and makes sure they finish their quota of drinks before they exit the briefing.
Arul also pulls the occasional ear, gives the fatherly shelling, and praises players and its a family affair with one objective -- to bring out the best in his boys.
Many other coaches are doing the same to their junior charges, but some are only interested in results and do not care the method used to achieve it.
This is what the AHF and the FIH need to weed out of junior tournaments to give more credibility and accountability to their sanctioned tournaments.
If the parent bodies don't care, don't change, don't give a hoot -- then those who take the right path will always fall victims to scam artists.
NOTE -- WIKIPEDIA ON AGE TEST: The most commonly used method is based on a single x-ray of the left hand, fingers, and wrist.
MALAYSIA have a better record than South Korea in the ongoing Junior Asia Cup, and coach Arul Selvaraj and his men are not afraid or taken aback with their opponents in the quarter-finals in Kuantan today.
After Bangladesh upset South Korea 3-0, Malaysia believe they are made of better stuff and their target of qualifying for the semi-finals and grabbing a ticket to the Junior World Cup in December 2016 is still in sight.
The tournament offers four places, and with India claiming one as World Cup hosts, the other three semi-finalists are also assured of playing in New Delhi next year.
India are sure bets to demolish Oman in the first quarter-finals of the day, Bangladesh play Japan in the second quarters and if the Bengali pull off another upset -- they will play in their maiden Junior World Cup.
Pakistan look the better side against China, while Malaysia only need to polish on their accuracy and South Korea will become history.
Korea team manager Yoo Moon-Ki believes his charges are better prepared after three matches.
"We never played any matches before this tournament and so the Group B outings were good practice. We started with a 5-2 win against Oman, but hit a bad patch against Pakistan (3-0) and Bangladesh (2-0).
"But my players are much more experienced and composed now, and I expect them to give Malaysia a tough time and eventually qualify for the World Cup," said Moon-Ki.
Malaysian coach Arul Selvaraj and his boys are not afraid of the challenge today.
"The fourth match is what matters most in this tournament and we are ready for any team. Past records at junior or even senior level invincibility does not come into account in this match.
"We came with a single objective which is to qualify for the semi-finals and I know we will achieve it regardless our opponents," said Arul.
Some believe South Korea are a better side than Malaysia and were not their true self in Group B, but lest we forget, Malaysia beat them in the last encounter -- 2-1 in the Junior World Cup quarter-finals and both the goals were scored by Shahril Saabah.
Shahril is still with the Malaysian team, as he is 21 and eligible for the qualifier but not the next World Cup.
Skipper Najib Abu Hassan rounded it up by saying: "This is the most important match of our lives as it will determine our future in hockey. So believe me, we will not blow up this chance of a life-time."