PALEMBANG - There was over-exuberant shouting, much taunting at the net, even mocking laughter at Jakabaring Sport City's Ranau Hall on Monday (Aug 28).
Trash-talking and mind games are par for the course in sepak takraw, and it was in full swing at the Asian Games men's regu semi-final between Singapore and Malaysia - almost all of it, from the men north of the Causeway.
Malaysia cruised past Singapore 21-8, 21-8 to earn their spot in Tuesday's final against hosts Indonesia.
The event does not have a third-place play-off, with Singapore and the other losing semi-finalists South Korea being awarded a joint bronze.
Singapore also won bronze (in the men's doubles) at the 2014 Games in Incheon, but coach Padzli Othman was disappointed.
He believes his charges were out-psyched by the mere presence of Malaysia in this event.
"Each country is only allowed to take part in two events, and Malaysia wasn't registered for the regu. We only found out that they were taking part when we arrived in Palembang," he said. "I think the (team) tried hard, but it played on their minds."
Padzli believes Singapore's takraw standard is perhaps fourth in South-east Asia, behind powerhouses Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. But, with Thailand and Malaysia's presumed absence, there had been hopes of a gold medal in the event.
"We were quite disturbed when we heard that Malaysia were competing, because we had prepared ourselves for the competition based on who we knew were taking part," said captain Farhan Amran. "We tried our best, but it wasn't good enough."
The Games are not over for the takraw men who will compete in the quadrant event, a modified four-man version of the sport that kicks off on Tuesday with a group match match against unheralded Pakistan.
Singapore will later face Nepal, Vietnam and Iran. And they believe they can strike Asiad gold, in what will be a first for the Republic in the sport.
"We are expecting to make the final, and maybe a gold medal in the quadrant, but first, we are looking to top the group," said the Padzli.
Takraw's second consecutive Asian Games medal sandwiches a silver at the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, suggesting an upward trajectory.
But Padzli was quick to tamper expectations.
"We are getting better, and we are getting more young players into the system as we look to the 2019 SEA Games, but we cannot expect too much," he said.
"Many teams in South-east Asia train full-time - Thailand, Malaysia and even Vietnam and now Laos. We can't afford to do that in our country. We train three times a week, the boys come to training tired and it's hard to push them.
"But I think we can still get gold here (in Palembang) - we just have to fight."