Malaysian water polo team heads home empty-handed. Photo: Bernama

NEW CLARK CITY, The Philippines: The 30th SEA Games in the Philippines will only officially open today but the national men’s water polo team will be the first (team) to return home early.

They lost 7-14 to Indonesia in their third preliminary match at the New Clark City Aquatics Centre here yesterday.

This latest defeat has put Malaysia out of contention of at least retaining the bronze medal they won in 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

In their earlier two matches, they had lost 5-19 to Thailand and 5-17 to defending champions Singapore.

Speaking to the media after yesterday’s match, national men’s water polo head coach, Voon Yong Hui said that Indonesia, who currently lead the standings in the preliminary round, are at the top of their game.

Malaysian water polo team heads home empty-handed. Photo: Bernama

“We brought eight new players who are mostly still studying and only retained four players from the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games squad, and generally speaking, our chances of retaining the bronze medal in 2017 is very difficult because we lost all three matches.

“Facing the hosts on Sunday will certainly be a tough job, considering their players are bigger in size compared to our players who are quite small,” Voon said.

He said the national players would return home on Dec 2 (Monday) after the match against the Philippines on Sunday (Dec 1).

Only five teams are taking part in men’s water polo and according to the format, following the round-robin stage, the gold medal will be awarded to the top finisher, silver to the runner-up and bronze to the team that finishes in third place.

Malaysia are not taking part in the women’s competition, which features only three countries — defending champions Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. – Bernama