India need to start looking for a foreign coach and plan in right earnest for the 2012 Olympic Games. After Malaysia made history, shattering India's hopes of making it to the hockey final, there was despair all around.
To rub salt into India's wounds, Pakistan made it to the final after 20 years beating defending champions South Korea 4-3 via penalty-strokes, and would start favourites against the young Malaysians.
Bad luck comes when least expected. Sandeep Singh's injury, when he suffered a concussion in the second half after being accidentally struck by a Malaysian player's stick, was the last thing India could afford. The young Malaysian team is known to play a nippy brand of hockey. That they have not succeeded much in international events can be attributed to bad luck. But on Tuesday, they simply played to win and India played to lose.
Despite getting chances aplenty in the second half, the Indian forwards were either found lacking the killer punch or were denied by the Malaysian goalkeeper of Indian origin, Kumar Subramaniam.
Malaysia came up with great variations in penalty-corner conversion, which resulted in them scoring three of their four goals through set-pieces. It was the livewire Tengku Abdul Jamil, who gave a glimpse of the things to come when he entered the 'D' solo, browbeating two defenders and scoring the opener, three minutes before half-time.
Time was precious but the Indians did not quite show the urgency in the first half, but a 35th minute penalty-corner conversion put them back on track with Sandeep putting the ball in the net.
If the first half was dominated by the Malaysians, the second session had the stamp of Indian authority, though a concerted effort in attack and defence was still lacking. Shivendra Singh's speedy run down the right and the clinical precision with which the ball was relayed to Tushar Khandekar, had class written all over. Khandekar slammed it into the roof.
But a controversial penalty-corner awarded to Malaysia in the 49th minute, which TV replays showed was an error of judgement on the part of Australian umpire A. Kearns, brought Malaysia at par (2-2).
Bad luck struck India with Sandeep leaving the field injured. India again went ahead five minutes later through a penalty-corner goal, it was Dhananjay Mahadik who stood up for Sandeep. Mahadik's shot was ably saved by Subramaniam, but Rajpal was close at hand to tap in the rebound.
The awesome penalty corner conversion rate of the Malaysians rattled the Indians and it happened again three minutes before close to take the encounter into extra time.
Another penalty corner, five minutes into extra time and Malaysia were celebrating their 4-3 victory as if there was no tomorrow.