Malaysia delivered a stunning performance against Spain but were unfortunate to miss the quarterfinals after being edged out 4-3 in the shootout.
Malaysia, having risen to ninth in the FIH world rankings before the match, put on a gallant display against the number 8 ranked Spanish, and it was a dramatic end to a scintillating display by both sides who were tied at 2-2 in regulation time.
The Malaysian defence, marshalled by skipper Marhan Jalil, put on a solid display, denying the waves of Spanish attacks for a scoreless first two quarters.
It looked like the script was set with attack after attack by Spain, while Malaysia were steadfast and disciplined in defence.
At the start of the second half, Malaysia sprung a surprise against the run of play when playing out of defence, Faiz Helmi Jali’s long-range pass found Faizal Saari in acres of space. The Terengganu-born dribbled into the Spanish semi-circle and fired home to put Malaysia in the lead.
A goal down, Spain doubled their efforts in attack and equalised when captain Marc Miralles converted a penalty stroke after Ashran Hamsani was judged to have blocked a goal-bound shot with his body.
A minute later, Spain were in the lead through a field goal by Xavier Gispert.
Being a goal down, Malaysia charged back and began pushing forward in numbers.
It was only in the 46th minute that Malaysia got their only penalty corner of the match, which saw Razie Rahim’s shot blocked.
Malaysia continued to surge forward and finally found an equaliser through Shello Silverius, who knocked in a loose ball after a goalmouth scramble in the 46th minute.
In the final minutes of regulation time, Spain put Malaysia to the sword, looking to settle the score without shootouts, but a series of four penalty corners in the final minute was dealt with successfully by the Malaysian defence.
After Firhan Ashari scored to put Malaysia in the lead, goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman gave Malaysia the advantage after he managed to block the first Spanish shooter Alvaro Iglesias.
Faizal, who had given Malaysia the lead in regulation time, again made no mistake, tricking Spain’s shootout goalkeeper Mario Garin before sounding the board with a shot underneath the diving goalkeeper.
Spain pulled a goal back through Miralles, but then Malaysia’s captain Marhan Jalil saw his shot blocked by Spanish goalkeeper Mario Garin.
Youngster Shahmi Irfan Suhaimi, in only his second appearance for the national team, confidently put in his effort.
Spain scored their next two shootouts, but there was high drama in the final two regulatory shootouts. Shello had dribbled around Garin only to see his shot bounce off the post, and then Hafizuddin blocked Marc Reynee’s effort to keep Malaysia in the hunt and bring the shootout to sudden death.
Miralles fired home Spain’s first shot as Firhan saw his shot denied by Garin to send the Spaniards through to the quarterfinals against Australia.
“I don’t think we failed. We did a lot of things well and we rose above expectations. We wanted to come out of the group stage and we did that. I think we gave Spain a run for their money and we lost in a shootout, which could have gone either way,” said head coach Arul Selvaraj.
“I am proud of our boys. Right now they are frustrated because we came here to win. They came back from 2-1 down because they had the belief that we could win this game. So, now we have to move back to Rourkela for the classification matches and we have to motivate the squad again for that.”
Malaysia will now play for the fifth to eighth place classification matches, while Spain move on to face Australia in the quarterfinals.