Singapore's hockey boys humiliated 16-1 by Malaysia
They were slow to start against Oman, but were better the next match against Ukraine, although they lacked a cutting edge.
But neither match gave any sort of indication of what was to come.
In their final World League Round 2 (WLR2) group fixture against Malaysia last night at the Sengkang Stadium, the Republic's men's hockey team were shown up, beaten down, and dragged through the dirt, in a game that seemed to pit men against boys.
The scoreboard read more like a rugby scoreline: Singapore 1 Malaysia 16 - the biggest margin of defeat in history at the hands of our Causeway rivals.
With an eye on providing defending champions Malaysia a tough challenge at June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games here, the WLR2 tournament presented the Republic's men an opportunity to play against quality international opposition.
But Solomon Casoojee's side gave the 500-odd fans little to shout about, with some muttering concern over the hosts' SEA Games hopes as they trudged out of Sengkang.
But Casoojee is keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the prize.
"I'm not fearing for my job. I firmly believe we're working towards a longer-term goal. Some might disagree and they're entitled to their opinion," said the South African, who has helmed the side for the last four years.
"I'm just going to keep my head down and keep doing what we're doing the best I can; and hope that the boys do they best they can.
"We definitely won't see such a scoreline at the SEA Games."
Pointing to the return of a handful of senior players and others completing their full-time National Service obligations by the time the SEA Games rolls around, Casoojee believes the national team will be much improved in five months. He even spotted positives in last night's drubbing.
"We gave the Malaysians far too much space, but the style of hockey we played in the first half was good and the pace of the hockey we played was about 15 per cent faster than it was at the Asian Games," he said.
At South Korea's Asiad last September, Singapore did fall to Malaysia, but by a far smaller margin - 8-2. The coach pointed to the fact that it was two different Malaysian teams, in two different situations.
Malaysia were going through a rough patch last year, with the team in a state of flux after a poor Commonwealth Games months earlier and changes in the coaching staff.
Last night, Malaysia head coach, Tai Beng Hai, made a plea for the Singapore boys to be spared a roasting in the aftermath of the rout.
He said: "The score maybe didn't reflect everything in the game. We really just made use of all our chances (from open play) and even from penalty corners.
"We didn't expect such a score. Singapore have improved over the years and, in this team, there are players who are able to play, have good technical skills and tactical understanding - maybe if they were fitter, they would've done better."
Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) president, Mathavan Devadas, insisted that the association will stick with Casoojee.
"Casoojee's job is not in jeopardy, we don't judge a coach's performance on a single game," he said.
"The result is hardly encouraging, but I spoke to other coaches who were watching the game and they were quite unanimous in agreement: Malaysia happened to click and played really well today, while we had an off-day.
"We will prepare the boys to face Poland in the quarter-final."
The result sees Singapore finish last in Pool A after losing all three games, against Oman (3-2), Ukraine (2-1) and Malaysia. They will play Pool B winners, Poland, in a cross-over quarter-final tomorrow.
The top-three teams here will make the cut for the World League semi-final rounds, in a tournament that acts as a qualifier for both the 2016 Olympics and the International Hockey Federation World Cup.
Leonard Thomas: Singapore hockey needs major surgery after new low
I actually thought the days when a Singapore sports team would be massacred by a South-east Asian rival were over.
Then comes this 16-1 humiliation, on home soil no less.
Singapore hockey must be at one of its lowest points today and the sport's rulers here need to come up with answers to some tough questions.
Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) president Mathavan Devadas needs to address where exactly the sport is at right now and what is the blueprint to move forward.
Our men were beaten by their Malaysian counterparts 8-2 at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and, with just five months to go before the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil, our Causeway rivals have put us to the sword in even more emphatic fashion in a World League Round 2 mismatch at the Sengkang Stadium yesterday.
When asked last year why the national team should be given the nod by the selectors to go to the Asian Games, where there was little chance they would make any sort of impression, coach Solomon Casoojee said the matches against top quality opposition would give the players invaluable experience and improve the play, both individually and as a team.
Instead, the Singapore men's national team seem to have gone backwards.
Speaking after the match last night, Casoojee claimed the result was a one-off and that he was still up to the job.
The SHF must surely decide if the South African has taken the team as far as he can.
There seems to be a deep malaise in Singapore hockey.
Yesterday, The New Paper reported that Dutchman Coen van Putten had quit as coach of the Singapore women's team after he claimed he had had enough of the "bureaucratic decision-making" at the SHF.
The women failed to come home with a medal at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, going down to the hosts who turned in a spirited display to claim bronze in the play-off for third spot.
The men finished second two years ago but, if the mission is to push perennial gold medallists Malaysia very hard at this year's SEA Games in front of a partisan crowd, then that goal seems to be far-fetched.
Last November, lawyer Mathavan won his bid to become president of the SHF, pipping Sinderpal Singh by 20 votes to 11 at the national sport association's annual general meeting.
Mathavan was vice-president to the previous hockey chief, K Ramamoorthy, and had been involved in the sport in the 1990s.
He has vast experience as a hockey administrator and his margin of victory at last year's AGM suggests he has healthy support within the fraternity.
It means the current Singapore hockey chief has the power to institute major changes.
Only six of the 19 players in the current men's squad are over 24 years of age and Sport Singapore's The Final Push programme has been helping fund some players to go full-time ahead of this year's SEA Games.
A once proud Singapore sport clearly requires major surgery and this is an opportune moment for Mathavan and his team to begin the work to haul hockey out of a trough.