HANGZHOU: The Malaysian hockey team's sixth-place finish at the Hangzhou Asian Games is unacceptable for a squad ranked second in Asia.
Their failure to secure the gold medal target has left them in a position where they need to compete in next year's qualifiers to earn a spot in the Paris Olympics.
National coach Arul Selvaraj said he and his players have no one to blame but themselves for the poor outing at the Asiad.
"We need to bounce back; there is no other option.
"We cannot hold anyone else responsible for our poor performance here — not the Malaysian Hockey Confederation, not the National Sports Council, or the National Sport Institute.
"They have provided us with everything we needed. It is on us, the players, and me as their coach.
"Improvement is within our control, and it depends on how much we want to qualify for the Olympics.
"We must rise to the occasion. This very team was in the Asian Champions Trophy final just five weeks ago."
"The players need to improve, which means we need to train really hard," said Arul after Malaysia went down 5-2 to Pakistan in the fifth-sixth playoff on Friday.
Captain Marhan Jalil, while disappointed, remains hopeful that his team can still qualify for the Paris Games.
"We still have a chance. We just need to reduce our mistakes and work harder.
"We need to learn from this tournament and be sharp in every department when we play," said Marhan.
Having failed to clear the group stage, Malaysia had one chance to safe their face.
Instead, they ended their campaign poorly, with several quarters now suggesting the team should be removed from the Road to Gold (RTG) programme.
At the Gongshu Canal Park Stadium on Friday, Malaysia opened the scoring through Aminuddin Zain via a penalty corner in the fifth minute.
Pakistan equalised just three minutes later through Ahmad Arbaz, also from a penalty corner.
In the 37th minute, Abdul Rehman put Pakistan ahead, before inflicting more damage on the Speedy Tigers in the 51st and 53rd minutes through Abdul Rana and Ammad Muhammad.
Razie Rahim pulled one back for Malaysia in the 58th minute but it was too late.
Pakistan completed the rout one minute later from an Afraz field goal.