With an eye on the Asian Under-22 Championship qualifiers in June, national youth coach Ong Kim Swee opted for exposure over experience in the 4-0 Olympic qualifying defeat to Japan at Bukit Jalil on Wednesday.
Eight players in the first XI of the Asian zone third round Group C match at the National Stadium are eligible for the new continental age-group championship where Malaysia have been drawn with South Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines and Taiwan in Group G.
Kim Swee relegated defender Muslim Ahmad to the bench and restored Fadhli Shas to play alongside Amer Saidin while Irfan Fazail and Nazmi Faiz Mansor patrolled the midfield in the absence of the injured K. Gurusamy and the benched Ahmad Fakri Saarani.
Along with starters Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, Mahalli Jasuli and Fandi Othman, Muslim, Gurusamy and Fakri are all aged 23 and are ineligible for the Under-22 qualifiers.
"Before the game, we knew we were not going to qualify (for the Olympics) and we thought this was the best moment to test some of our players.
"Out of the 11, eight players can still play in the Under-22 Championship qualifiers. It was a good time to learn where we stand and for me, I think the players have learned a lot," said Kim Swee after the match.
Japan, who scored through Hiroki Sakai (35th), Yuya Osako (45th), Genki Haraguchi (55th) and Manabu Saito (60th), certainly gave Malaysia the run-around with their decisive passing and clinical finishing.
Malaysia were bereft of ideas going forward although pint-sized Nazmi held up well against bigger opponents and was the source of Malaysia's only gilt-edged chance when he played A. Thamil Arasu through on goal.
Defeat left Malaysia anchored to the bottom of Group C with just one match against Syria in Jordan remaining on March 14 while Japan need just a draw against Bahrain in Tokyo to qualify for the London Olympics.