Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Touch Wood, England will be in last four


ENGLAND lost 3-0 to Belgium in Singapore before arriving in Malaysia for
the World Cup, but the minute England coach Malcolm Wood stepped into the
official hotel, he announced that they are ready to make the semifinals.
"We are ready for the World Cup and have weighed our chances in Group B
and the early outcome is that we will not have any difficulties in making
the semifinals," said Wood who described the match against Belgium as a
chance to stretch their legs.
There might be a snag in his plans because in Group B, so far Australia,
South Korea, India and Malaysia are all planning to reach the semifinals.
For hockey fans, this is juicy news because Group B was supposed to be
the less exciting one in the World Cup but ambitions seem to be running
high and explosive matches can be expected.
England have spent the past four days in Singapore and Wood has managed
to cram seven practice sessions into the time available, not least because
Singapore offers identical climatic conditions to those they will
experience in Kuala Lumpur.
With temperatures soaring to 35 degrees Celsius and high humidity, the
experience has been essential for acclimatisation.
"The camp went very smoothly and the climatic conditions have been
perfect. We have been able to work on set pieces and patterns as well as
stretching our legs against Belgium. The players are in a good frame of
mind and have a genuine belief that they can do well in this tournament,"
said Wood.
England have a fully fit squad ahead of their first pool match against
Poland on Sunday with Guy Fordham fully recovered from the injury that
prevented him playing in the Test series in South Africa earlier this
So confident is the Englishman of doing well in the World Cup that he
played phases of the match against Belgium with ten men to simulate "sin
bin" scenarios and dismissed as "mildly fanciful" any suggestion that
England expect to play out the last five minutes of extra time in the
World Cup final with ten men, before heading into a penalty shoot-out.
Malaysia meet England on March 2 and the hosts are counting on a win
against the Englishmen for a good finish in the World Cup - but the
English seem to have their own agenda.

Parnham at the helm against all odds


CRAIG Parnham returned to Malaysia after his horrific accident in the
Azlan Shah Cup on Aug 6, and the first thing he did was to personally
thank the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) officials for the care they
provided during the trying time.
His next plan is to visit the Universiti Malaysia Medical Centre to
thank the doctors there for saving his life.
And for the World Cup, he has made another sacrifice - postponing his
wedding so that he can fully concentrate on the sport.
The Cannock club player, 29, nearly died during the Azlan Shah Cup
following a serious injury sustained in the match against Pakistan. The
injury occured during a late corner, when Sohail Abbas went to sweep the
ball home on the reverse and caught Parnham in the process. He needed
oxygen at the scene and an emergency tracheotomy.
"I was really moved by the care and attention given to me after I got
injured and I would like to personally thank the doctors who attended to
me," said Parnham after meeting MHF officials at the Concorde Hotel in
Kuala Lumpur.
Parnham made a courageous comeback from the life-threatening injury and
will captain the English side in the World Cup starting on Sunday.
When asked if he was psychologically ready to play in Malaysia again
after the bad experience: "It has crossed my mind, but I shrugged it off
and since I am physically ready, I see no problem playing in Malaysia
Parnham is a coach by profession and teaches hockey and cricket.
Cricket? "Yes, I was a cricket player before I switched to hockey. I saw
a brighter future in hockey and made the switch and have represented
England in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, so there were no regrets."
Parnham plans to get married after the Manchester Commonwealth Games and
his fiancee, a horticulturist, understands and supports him.
"I have had great support from my family and was up and about two weeks
after I got injured. I started with some light workouts and two weeks
before Christmas, I was able to play my first match.
Parnham fought his way back into the England team and was re-called for
the King's Cup in Spain. England came out tops when they beat Poland and
Spain in the tournament.
Has he ever thought of quitting the sport?:
"The only moment I felt like quitting was when I was lying on the green
turf of the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, but after that, I was
determined to make a comeback into the England squad."
He did, and was named as the skipper for England and he hopes to take
his team into the semifinals on the same pitch that Sohail Abbas's stick
crashed into his windpipe.
Such courage should be admired. He could not speak for several weeks
after the incident and surgeons had to rebuild his larynx and he was
informed that he might never speak again; a skin graft from his thigh was
needed to repair his windpipe, which had been smashed in four places.
Parnham is a talented defender with a low tackling style that makes him
extremely effective, but also puts him at risk.
"But that is part and parcel of hockey," were his parting words.

Malaysians show their mettle


WITH barely two days left for the World Cup, there was a sneak preview of
what the Malaysian side is capable of in hockey's most glamourous event.
Malaysia showed that they are ready to put up a good fight in the World
Cup starting on Sunday while the Germans strongly indicated that they are
ready to lift the World Cup title for the first time since 1971.
Although it was only a friendly match, 20 minutes of each half, there
was a clear indication of what the hosts are made of and how they will
cope in the tournament proper.
The fact that Germany scored two soft goals and won 2-0 does not matter
because the national players did show some promise and gave the Germans
some anxious moments with fluent play in the semicircle.
Rodhanizam Radzi, who only made his debut in top flight hockey last year
in the Azlan Shah Cup in August, looked sharp and Mirnawan Nawawi was his
usual self. But he did miss a few good chances, not because he was off
form but the German defenders are built like the great wall of China and
are ready for the best strikers of the world.
"Although we lost 2-0, I am very happy with the way the team played and
it was excellent practice for the World Cup," said Stephen van Huizen
after the match.
Stephen was especially pleased with the way the Malaysian midfield
worked and fed the forwards with piercing passes which sliced past the
entire German team.
For the past few weeks, those who have been regularly watching the
Malaysian side in action, will know that Paul Lissek had been drilling
them to make long and piercing passes into the opponents semicircle.
Yesterday, they did just that against the Germans but once they got into
the semicircle, Mirnawan and his men froze as the towering Florian Kunz
made sure the Germans kept a clean slate.
Both the teams played the same brand of hockey (lots of square and
backpasses) and there was only one glaring difference. Germany was an
attacking side while Malaysia was a defensive side.
To win matches, Malaysia must go on the offensive more often and not
just rely on accurate passing and wait for long periods for the opponents
to open up and make a dash into the semicircle.
German coach Bernhard Peters summed up the situation when he
said that after taking over the German national side from Paul Lissek, he
changed two things - made them more attack-based, and more adventurous.
Lissek has maintained his style and now the Malaysian side are feared
most when they go into a defensive shell because they are more difficult
to prise open than a live oyster when they are in that mood.
But lapses of concentration was still evident in the Malaysian side and
Stephen blamed it on being "having too much of respect for the Germans."
But on Sunday, there will be no more room for silly mistakes because the
curtain raiser against the Australian side will be anything but easy.
But with the Malaysian side one never really knows what to expect,
because in the Six-Nation in January they held the Aussies to a 2-2 draw,
and on a good day they could well put the brakes on Barry Dancer and his
As for the Germans, they easily have the best team in the world right
now and only a natural calamity or sheer bad luck can deny them their

Malaysia meet favourites


THE national hockey players will meet Germany in a friendly match today,
and the score does not matter - what matters is that they learn a friendly
lesson from the team tipped to lift the World Cup title.
The Germans have had three different stages during their preparation for
the World Cup.
First stop was Leipzig (Jan 8-10), then the team visited Champions
Challenge finalist South Africa fron Jan 15-23 and played five Test
matches. Germany won four and drew one.
Their second last stop was Barcelona where Germany played twice against
hosts Spain, World Cup finalists in 1998, and won both the matches. In
their last stop in Kuantan they lost 3-1 in a friendly match against World
Cup champions Holland.
Today, the Germans will meet the hosts and things could get a little
After coach Bernhard Peters took over the reigns from Paul Lissek,
Germany won 34 of the 36 matches against some of the best hockey teams in
the world.
They won the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and the Champions Trophy in
Rotterdam. They suffered only two defeats, against India in Feb 2001 and
Holland in Oct 2001.
With this successful run, Germany are surely one of the favourites for
the World Cup title in Kuala Lumpur and Bernhard agreed: "Germany has a
good chance to win the title for the first time."
Malaysia, under Lissek, have started playing like the Germans - but they
are still struggling to continue playing like the Germans for the entire
70 minutes.
Lapses in concentration which led to silly goals were evident for all to
see during the Champions Challenge and the Six-Nation. And one can bet his
bottom dollar that that is what the Germans will pounce on during the
friendly today.
But an even bigger problem with Malaysia is that they tend to do the
opposite of what the Germans do - they gladly take risks with daring
passes in their own semicircle but rarely make any daring moves in the
opponent's semicircle.
Also, thir gameplan of defending with ball possession in the first half
and attacking fiercely in the second half is by now well-known among all
the teams in Group B.
The national side have mastered the basics, no doubt about that, because
their square passes are excellent and holding the ball for long periods
while planning an attack is not a problem, but once they enter the
semicircle, discipline flies out the window and silly passes are easily
intercepted by the opposition.
Lissek has taught the Malaysian team the German system well, but today
they will receive a first hand lesson from those who grew up with the
system - and thank god Lissek is not around to watch them play because the
veins in his neck will definitely pop if the national side shame him in
front of his former team.

Cuba awed by facilities


CUBA conducted their first training session at the National Hockey Stadium
in Bukit Jalil yesterday and they were amazed with the facilities
available for the Malaysian team to train for the World Cup.
Back home, the artificial turf was only laid in 1998 and they only have
one for training and playing purposes.
"The stadium is so beautiful and the turf is excellent, the host team
must have had good training sessions here to prepare for the World Cup,"
said coach Guillermo Stakeman yesterday.
After a few minutes of hard running, the Cubans started their training
and they did look a little akward with the hockey stick. But after a
while, as the training got underway, one could see that they were here not
just to make up the numbers.
When asked about how he felt as the Cubans slated to play their first
match of the World Cup on Sunday morning against South Korea, the coach
just shrugged his shoulders and said: "We have not seen the Koreans play
for a long time so I do not know what to expect."
The last time the two teams met was in 1993 and the score was: Korea 2
Cuba 1.
The Cubans spent most of their training time practicing penalty corners,
and their flicker concentrated entirely on the right side of the
After training the Cubans sat and watched Argentina train, and Guillermo
asked some questions about the Malaysian team in his halting Spanish.
"You have been following Malaysia, so tell me a little about them," said
the coach.
When told that Malaysia beat India 2-1 and then drew 2-2 with Australia
in the Six-Nation, Guillermo was shocked.
"It must be a very good team then and we can expect some keen
competition from the hosts in Group B. But then again, they have such good
facilities so they must be very good," he said before hurrying off to
watch South Korea play a friendly against New Zealand at the second pitch.
"I must see how the Koreans play, it will be good for our preparations."
The entire Cuban team watched the Koreans play while Japan, Spain, South
Africa and Australia had their men focused on the match with a video-cam.

India hoping for `deja vu' in KL


IT has been 27 years since India last won the World Cup, but they have
reasons to believe that they can go the distance in the 10th edition
starting on Sunday.
Yesterday the Indian team played a friendly match against the South
Africans to keep themselves match-fit for the big day because they
declined invitation for the January Six-Nation believing that they will be
playing a few friendlies against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
But political unrest in Argentina shelved the plan and India ended up
only training since winning the Champions Challenge in December.
Coach Cedric D'Souza was a busy man yesterday and since he has achieved
two out of three targets he set when taking over the reigns, he has reason
to keep himself busy with the team.
Cedric promised to take India into the World Cup and they qualified in
Edinburgh; his second target was to win the Champions challenge and take
India into the elite Champions Trophy circle - and he achieved that in
But his third target of winning the World Cup in Malaysia will be hard
to achieve, and the critics back home know about it.
"It has been repeatedly said that we have an easy group in the World
Cup, but I am not one to take the opponent lightly just by studying their
previous record. This is the World Cup and every team will automatically
bring out their best so it is too early to predict the outcome of
matches," said Cedric.
Winning the Champions Challenge trophy is not seen as a big achievement
back home in India because the teams they beat were Malaysia, South
Africa, Japan, Belgium and Argentina and not the leading teams chasing for
the World Cup - Holland, Germany, Australia, Pakistan and Korea.
The indians have seen a slide in their performance and the eight time
Olympic gold medallists finished a measly eighth in the 1996 Atlants
Olympics and at the 2000 Sydney Olympics did marginally better by
finishing seventh.
And in the Champions Challenge they were not too impressive as they
squeezed past Belgium 1-0, drew with South Africa 2-2, and then lost 2-1
to Malaysia. It was only a brilliant display by goalkeeper Jude Menezes
that helped India beat Argentina 2-1 in the concluding league match,
before defeating South Africa 2-1 in the final.
Cedric said many are of the opinion that Malaysia is like their second
home with the food and weather ideal to the Indians. But he refused to
share the opinion.
"I don't believe that, and there is no such thing like luck or
favourable ground venue as an advantage. But we must work hard and if the
players put an all out effort no mater in which country they play there is
nothing to stop a team from taking the number one position."
And that is why instead of celebrating the Champions Challenge title,
Cedric put his charges on a gruelling schedule atthe Chennai training camp
to "shake and stir them."
The focus has been on eliminating India's single biggest weakness down
the years, namely an inability to score from penalty-corners, and from
opportunities created inside the circle.
If they can do that, nothing can stop them from lifting the title last
won by Ajitpal Singh and his men.

Minister assures SportExcel of total support


SPORTS Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein yesterday reassured
SportExcel that his Ministry, the National Sports Council (NSC) and sports
associations are solidly behind them.
Hishammuddin, the life patron of SportExcel, said the foundation has
contributed significantly towards the development of a strong grassroots
base in the country.
Speaking at SportExcel's 10th anniversary lunch, the minister said: "Its
focus in the area of junior development and promotion has been central in
ensuring a constant pool of national athletes.
"In effect, SportExcel's involvement in this area has helped fill the
vacuum prevalent in the development of juniors in Malaysia.
"I will like to announce today that the government, through the NSC,
will continue to support and work closely with SportExcel to develop a
bigger base in Malaysia," said Hishammuddin.
SportExcel chairman Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar received a cheque from
its latest sponsor, Magnum, to the tune of RM45,000.
"SportExcel was born with a vision 10 years ago to serve Malaysian sport
and we have done pretty well to assist talented young Malaysians to excel
on the international stage," said Tunku Imran.
Household names like Shalin Zulkifli, Ong Beng Hee, Arul Suppiah, Sarah
Yap, Lisa Kwan, Ben Leong, Ryan Tan, Nicol David have all graduated from
the SportExcel circuits over the years.

Cubans arrive with WWF on their minds


THE Cubans arrived yesterday and finally shed some light on their team's
preparations for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
And if they had shocked the hockey world by qualifying for their first
World Cup, yesterday, they shocked a team of journalists when they said
that they have not played a single match since beating Canada and
Argentina to top the Pan-American World Cup Qualifiers in the year 2000.
All that they have been doing for the past two years is physical
training, and the well toned muscles on the tanned men from the Caribbean
were on prominent display as they stepped into the corridors of the
official hotel, the Concorde Kuala Lumpur.
"We have not played a single match since we qualified for the World Cup.
But we are not worried and since the players are physically fit, we have a
good chance of finishing 10th in the 10th World Cup," said Cuban coach
Juan M. Rios.
Cuba are in the same group as Malaysia and the much-anticipated match
between the two teams will be on March 4. When asked if they know anything
about the Malaysian team, the coach said he has never seen them play - but
Malaysian coach Paul Lissek is a good friend of his.
"We could not arrange for any matches because hockey is not a very
popular sport in Cuba. We are ranked far behind volleyball and boxing as
far as grants from the government are concerned so we could only do
physical training to prepare for the World Cup," said Juan.
There is only one artificial pitch in Cuba, layed three years ago, but
surprisingly, according to the coach, they have 11,000 active hockey
players in all age-groups.
When asked about their playing style: "We play neither the South
American nor the European style. We have our own system which is centred
on fitness."
Malaysia, who have had 50 matches prior to the World Cup, should not
have any problems collecting three points aginst the ill-prepared Cubans.
But the Havana cigar merchants have promised one thing - they are going to
run their opponents breathless in the 70 minutes of play.

False alarm, nothing to fear


Malaysia 2 (S. Kuhan 45th, Maninderjit Singh 67th)
Pakistan 2 (Kashif Jawad 1st, Khalid Saleem 10th)
THERE were anxious moments at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil
last night when Malaysia hosted Pakistan in a friendly match.
First goalkeepr Nasihin Nubli injured his thumb during warm-up and was
seen sitting at the sideline groaning in pain as he squeezed his wrist.
The injured thumb was heavily bandaged.
Then, in the dying minutes of the first half, S. Kuhan received a knock
on his ankle and fell flat on the turf. He took his time to get up and
there was all-round worry that he might have aggravated his old hamstring
Kuhan limped out but in the second half, made a strong return and even
managed to score a penalty corner goal.
On Nasihin, National Sports Institure Director Dr Ramlan Aziz said: "We
can't do an X-ray tonight because the facilities are not available so we
will do one first thing tomorrow morning.
"But from what I see right now, the injury is not too bad and even if he
did fracture his thumb, he can still play in the World Cup because a
goalkeeper is heavily paded."
Malaysia have had a fair share of injury scares in the run-up to the
World Cup. S. Kuhan tore a hamstring muscle before the Six-Nation and was
benched, then Nor Azlan Bakar pulled a hamstring, Mirnawan Nawawi lost
three teeth when a ball hit him during training, S. Shanker pulled a back
muscle and now the goalkeeper has joined the list.
All the rest have recovered and coach Stephen van Huizen, in charge
because Paul Lissek went home to attend his mother's funeral, is planning
to use Shanker in the friendly against Spain today.
On the match against Pakistan, Malaysia played a lousy first half and in
the first minute itself, the top scorer in the Six-Nation Kashif Jawad
sounded the board after dribbling the entire Malaysian defence.
After that, Malaysia went into a defensive shell and were severely
punished by the speedy Pakistani forwards led by Shahbaz Ahmad, but they
stood their ground - until the 10th minute that is.
A stupid mistake in defence was all Khalid Saleem needed to score
Pakistan's second goal.
The first half was a boring affair after that as the Pakistan players
were contented with the two-goal lead.
But the situation changed in the second half when Malaysia came back
charging and in the 345th minute Kuhan flicked home after three
consecutive penalty corners.
Pakistan tried to increase the lead but Malaysia camped in their
semicircle for the remainder of the match and with three minutes left on
the clock, Maninderjit Singh scored a penalty corner goal to share the
spoils with Pakistan.
To their credit, the Malaysian side did play a good game in the second
half, but the way they played in the first half, they would be punished by
at least five goals if it was the World Cup proper.
But since it was only a friendly, both sides took things easy and
decided to just burn the extra calories picked up during lunch.
Stephen then shed some light on their warm-up opponents: "We picked New
Zealand (2-2) because we will be meeting their neighbours Australia in the
opening match of the World Cup. Both the teams have similar playing
"Pakistan was selected because they play, more or less, the same style
as India (in the Malaysian group) and Spain because their European style
is similar to Poland's."
There are plans for a match against Germany on Feb 21.
"We are still negotiating with the Germans on the friendly, and our
reason to play them is simple - they are the best in the world right now
and maybe we can pick up a few tricks from them," said Stephen.

Japan out to play spoilers role in KL


JAPAN, in Group B with Malaysia, dropped three players from the Six-Nation
team and are ready to play the spoilers role in the World Cup starting on
Sunday at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
They did a minor overhaul in defence, midfield and forward towards the
Japan arrived yesterday and according to team manager Nagai Toichi the
three players who were dropped were not consistent in their form.
"We dropped a forward, a midfielder and a striker and in their place we
have named Ryuji Furusato, Kazuyuki Ozawa and Takaya Fukuoka.
"Our target in the World Cup is to finish eighth and it can be achieved
if we manage to upset a few teams in Group B," said Nagai.
The number eight seems to be the favourite of most teams who have arrive
in Malaysia with Spain, Poland, Japan and South Africa all saying that
they would love to finish in that position.
So far, only Malaysia, India and Pakistan have said that they want the
trophy itself.
Japan had training matches in Singapore against Pakistan (where they
lost 3-1) and Belgium (drew 1-1) and Nagai was amazed with the
transformation of the Belgium side.
"They (Belgium) have added a new players to their team and they have a
totally different playing style than the team which played in the
Champions Challenge in December. I won't be surprised if they upset some
better teams in Group A," predicted Nagai.
In their last encounter against Malaysia in the Six-Nation, Japan won by
a golden goal but Nagai was not willing to gloat on the win.
"Malaysia are a tough side and we have always had problems against them.
Then again, we will also have problems beating South Korea, India and
Australia in our group."
So, how did Japan come out with the No 8?
Nagai was all smiles when asked the question but did not answer. When
asked if they are thinking of beating Cuba, Poland and the hosts to reach
the target, nagai said: "That is what we must do to reach our target."
Malaysia meet Japan on Feb 26 and the hosts must bring out their best,
because Japan have formulated special plans to seal three points from the

Pullen: Malaysia can do much better


THE South Africans flew in yesterday and after the traditional kompang
welcome at the Concorde Hotel, their coach Rob Pullen caught everyone
within earshot by surprise when he said: "I am disappointed with the
Malaysian team."
But realising he might be misunderstood, Pullen quickly added that the
reason for his unhappiness is because the Malaysian team has had a bad run
the past two months.
"Malaysia were excellent hosts when we came for the Champions Challenge
(in December) and I would like to see them achieve their best in the World
Cup, but surprisingly, they have had a shaky build-up to the tournament,"
said Pullen.
Malaysia finished fourth in the Champions Challenge and in the recent
Six-Nation, were even beaten by the Japanese and finished last.
"From what I saw during the Champions Challenge, the Malaysians are very
disciplined but didn't look settled. I hope that how they finished in the
earlier tournaments is not an indication of things to come in the World
Cup because I would like to see the hosts do well in their group," said
South Africa are in Group A while Malaysia are in Group B in the World
Cup and the likelihood of the two meeting in the crossover rounds is slim.
On his team's chances, Pullen said they hope to get a respectable middle
South Africa made their World Cup debut in 1994 in Sydney and finished
10th, ahead of Belgium and Belarus. They did not compete in Utrecht, 1998.
"Our realistic target is eighth but even that will be tough because we
have Germany, Pakistan, Spain and Holland in our group.
"But we have had a good build-up for the World Cup and the target is not
too steep for us."
South Africa played five Test matches against Germany, losing four and
drawing one. And from what he saw, Pullen picks Germany to lift the World
Cup come March 9.
"They (Germany) are the best team that I have seen so far and I pick
them to win the title. My second choice from Group A to make the
semifinals are defending champions Holland."
As for Group B, Pullen picked Australia and India to advance.
And as he hurried away to check into his room for a much-needed rest,
Pullen again said: "I hope for the best for the hosts because they have a
good team and if they click during the tournament, anything can happen in
Group B."

Hosts held as Lissek goes for mother's funeral


A PALL of gloom hung over the heads of the national players last night
during their first friendly match against New Zealand at the National
Hockey Stadium.
While they were battling against the Kiwis, chief coach Paul Lissek was
on his way to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for a flight to
Germany to attend the funeral of his aged mother.
Team manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran accompanied Lissek to the airport and
said in a telephone interview: "Paul's mother passed away in Germany and
he is going home to attend the funeral. He will be back as soon as
The World Cup starts on Sunday and Lissek's absence will be a huge blow
to Malaysia's last minute brushing up for the big day.
In Lissek's absence, Stephen van Huizen took charge of the team and in
the first minute, Mohamed Fairuz Ramli found the mark after pouncing on a
Mirnawan Nawawi rebound.
Malaysia played well but in the 11th minute, a lapse in concentration
saw the Kiwis back on level terms. A tame pass from Phillip Burrows found
David Kosoof and he only had to tap in to score.
The hosts were awarded five penalty corners in a spell of 20 minutes but
all were wasted by S. Kuhan.
Malaysia hardly had any decent attempts at the New Zealand goal and the
Kiwis also held back and treated the match as a warm-up for the World Cup.
S. Shanker was the only Malaysian player who did not play yesterday as
he was still recovering from a back muscle strain.
In the second half, Malaysia concentrated on their passing but in the
44th minute were jolted out of their slumber when Alpesh Puna, a late
replacement for the injured Bret Lever, dribbled past four Malaysian
players to score.
But three minutes later, Chairil Anwar equalised after receiving a
through pass from defender Maninderjit Singh.
Halfway into the second half, K. Gobinathan was floored by a ball which
connected his left calf. He limped out and was a spectator for the
reminder of the match.
Malaysia play Pakistan in their friendly match at the National Hockey
Stadium in Bukit Jalil at 6pm.

Lissek: We can take on the Cubans


WHILE busy preparing his side for the first two matches against Australia
and Japan, coach Paul Lissek is silently gathering more information on the
He knows that they are robust and they have flair but technical-wise,
the Cubans are not too good.
"I was their consultant for the duration of the Pan-American World Cup
Qualifiers, and they were really keen to learn everyting about hockey from
me." said Lissek.
Cuba beat Canada and Argentina and topped the table in the Pan-American
World Cup Qualifier to make their debut in the 10th World Cup.
The wide-eyed Cubans listened attentively to Lissek during his seminar
and so interested were they to absorb everything from the German, that
they `forced' him to add another hour into his seminar.
"They are a very intelligent side and they have good individual
dribbling skills just like the Argentines, but as a team, they have yet to
get their act together," said Lissek.
Malaysia play Cuba on March 4 and wrap up their group fixtures against
Poland. The bottom two matches are a must-win for Malaysia if they harbour
any hopes of a good finish in front of their own fans.
And it should not be too difficult for the hosts, because the most
experienced player on the Cuban squad is 35-year-old Juan C. Benavides
Ojeda who has the highest caps of 54.
On the Malaysian team, only Tajol Rosli (18 caps) and Rodhanizam Radzi
(35 caps) have less exposure than the entire Cuban squad.
"Yes, they lack international exposure because there are not many
tournaments to take part in South America. That is where they might just
lose out, experience in international matches do cound in the World Cup,"
said Lissek.
But since Cuba are making their World Cup debut, a good fight can be
expected from them, and teams which take them lightly might just end up on
the wrong end of the stick.

Korea ready to shake the world again


SOUTH Korea made a late entry into the World Cup scene but their rise has
been meteoric, and they shook the world by claiming the silver medal in
the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Making an entry in the 1994 Sydney World Cup, South Korea finished
eighth with a hint of promise that they will soon become world beaters.
But four years later, in the 1998 Utrecth World Cup they again finished
eighth after beating Canada 4-2 with their star striker Seong-tae-Song
scoring all four goals.
Two years later, while hockey giants Australia, Pakistan, Holland and
Germany received intense media attention in the Sydney Olympics, the
robust Asian side made the final only to lose out in the penalty shoot-out
to Holland.
Enroute to the final, Korea drew 1-1 with Spain, 2-2 with Argentina, 2-2
with Poland, beat India 2-0 but lost to Australia 1-2.
South Korea, fired by its versatile striker Song Seung-Tae, emerged from
the shadows of their Asian rivals India and Pakistan to prove that their
third place finish at the 2000 Champions Trophy was no fluke.
"The Koreans will be hard to beat in the next few years," predicted
Pakistan manager Islahuddin Siddiqui after his team's 1-0 defeat to Korea
in the semifinal of the Sydney Olympics.
But the team for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup is a diluted one and
the ginseng team are said to be in the transition of building a side for
the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In Group B with the hosts, Korea have decided to retain most of their
old hands Lee Jeong Seon, Song Seung Tae and skipepr Kang Keon Wook who
has 176 caps under his belt.
And unlike Malaysia who decided to parade a large number of juniors,
Korea only selected Yoon Seong Hoon, Seo Jong Oh and Kim Sam Seok from the
side which took part in the 2001 Junior World Cup in Hobart.
The Koreans meet Malaysia on March 1 and it is not an impossible task
for Malaysia to end up with three points because the Koreans lost some of
their zest after reaching their current all-time high in the Sydney
Their last placing in the recent Champions Trophy in Rotterdam speaks of
their slide, but with the Koreans, one never knows until the regulation 70
minutes are over.
Focus on Korea
World Cup achievements: 1994 (Sydney) - 8th, 1998 (Utrecth) - 8th
World Cup appearance: Third time
Players to watch: Lee Jeong Seon, Song Seung Taw, Kang Keon Wook (pic
Qualified: Sydney 2000 Olympics Silver Medallists/Asian Champion
The Squad: Lim Jong Chun, Kim Yoon, Kang Keon Wook (skipper), Shin Seok
Kyo, Lim Jong Chun, Kim Tong Bae, Yeo Woon Kon, Kim Jung Chul, Song Seung
Tae, Seo Jong Oh, Lee Jeong Seon, Yoon Seong Hoon, Yoo Moon Ki, Kim Kyung
Seok, Kim Sam Seok, Yang Soo Hyuk, Hwang Jong Hyun, Lim Jung Woo.
Coach: Kim Young Kyu
Manager: Jeon Jae Hong

Bad omen was an ang pow after all!


AS the World Cup edges closer and temperatures rise, S. Shanker, Chua Boon
Huat and Tajol Rosli have started feeling the heat.
While Chua and Tajol are only down with minor fever, Shanker was
reported to have injured his spine in training by an evening English
daily. It was reported on Friday that Shanker's injury is seen as a bad
omen for the team.
But a check yesterday found out that it is just a minor strain he picked
up during weights training, and he has been told to rest for a few days.
In fact, instead of gloom, there was reason for all-round joy as team
manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran revealed that they are arranging for
incentives if the team does well in the World Cup.
"As the manager, I have proposed to the Malaysian Hockey Federation
(MHF) that there be some incentives to spur the team. I assure all that if
they do well, MHF and the government would definitely make it worthwhile
for them," said Yogeswaran.
While is it still at a proposal stage, the ang pows will definitely be
encouraging news for the home side.
Yesterday, Shanker was at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil
training with his teammates, and he looked fine.
"It is nothing to worry about because it is only a minor strain I picked
up during weights training. Right now, the pain is no longer there and I
feel fine. But the doctor (National Sports Institure Director Dr Ramlan
Aziz) has told me to take things easy," said S. Shanker yesterday.
Yogeswaran and Dr Aziz were also confident that with a little rest,
Shanker will be at his best in a jiffy.
"I have checked his injury and there is nothing serious and all he needs
is rest," said Dr Ramlan.
Yesterday, while Tajol and Chua watched from the stands, the national
trainees were busy plotting the first two matches against Australia and
Coach Paul Lissek brought out his whiteboard to the green turf and drew
sketches and explained to the boys how to tackle the first two teams.
"The national team is in good spirit and right now I am only doing some
minor cosmetic surgery to make them look better," quipped Lissek.
The team did look much better yesterday and executed their set-pieces
exceptionally well.
"This is what you get when you give them a break from hockey (the five-
day Chinese New Year break).
They came back with greater determination and are no longer bored and
jaded by playing too much of hockey," said Lissek.
Today, the New Zealand side will play a friendly against the Malaysian
Under-18 in the morning and on Sunday, the national side will have a go
against the Kiwis as a warm-up.

Pakistan aiming to make history


PAKISTAN will be out to make history in their 10th World Cup appearance
and if any Asian team is capable of lifting the title for the fifth time,
it must be the men in green.
Pakistan beat Australia twice in the Six-Nation and are tipped to meet
the Aussies again in the semifinals of the World Cup and one man could win
them their fifth title - Sohail Abbas.
Sohail broke all barriers in Pakistan when he scored his 151st goal
against Australia on Jan 24 in the pool match of the the Six-Nation in
Kuala Lumpur.
With that, the cracked Hassan Sardar's record of 150 goals and enjoys
the distinction of being Pakistan's leading goalscorer with 152 goals in
124 matches.
Following the retirement of the Holland's Floris-Jan Bovelander, Sohail
is the best penalty corner specialist in the world today with Dutchman
Bram Lomans a very close second.
Sohail's 60 goals in 1999 also shattered the world record of another
Dutchman Paul Litjens (58 goals) and the Pakistan national record of
Hassan Sardar (50 goals) in a calendar year.
Sohail also holds the record of scoring most hat-tricks for Pakistan. He
equalled Hassan Sardar's record of 13 hat-tricks for Pakistan when his
treble in the Azlan Shah Cup in August saw Pakistan edge Malaysia 4-3. His
14th hat-trick came at the Rotterdam Hockey club against Germany.
Sohail is definitely Pakistan's trumpcard as whenever they win a penalty
corner, the crowd goes wild knowing very well that Sohail is going to
With the return to form of Shahbaz Ahmad, who played a sterling role as
feeder and penalty-corner getter in the Six-Nation, Pakistan look to have
it made in the World Cup but the tough teams in Group A could prove to be
stumbling blocks.
Germany, Holland, Spain and Argentina stand in their way and every team
knows that they must limit the number of penalty corners against Pakistan
if they want to win.
It could be said that the Pakistanis are the `Brazilians' of hockey
because their flair and accurate passing are a joy to watch. The stands of
the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil will definitely be filled when
they play.
Centreforward Kashif Jawad, a quiet but deadly `hitman' who topscored in
the Six-Nation with eight goals, is among the candidates nominated for
`Best Young Player' of 2001 by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
He single-handedly ensured Pakistan finished top in the warm-up to the
World Cup by helping his team beat the top two teams in the world -
Holland and Australia.
In 1998 in Utrecth, Pakistan crushed Malaysia, who were making a return
to World Cup competition after 16 years, 7-2 then beat England 7-5 but
their title quest was jolted when Spain edged them 2-1. Tahir Zaman could
have equalised but he missed from the spot.
The rankings in Group B were not decided until the final pool match, in
which Pakistan missed the semifinal losing 3-1 to Australia. Naveed Alam
became the first player to be red-carded in Utrecht.
Pakistan, the defending champions, were the only Asian side to make the
top six when they beat England 4-2 to finish fifth. South Korea, who beat
Canada 4-2, were seventh. Striker Seong-tae-Song scored all four South
Korean goals.
The Pakistanis will train in Singapore with matches against Japan and
Singapore today and tomorrow respectively.
They leave Singapore for Kuala Lumpur on Feb 18 and play another
practice match against Malaysia the same day.
Focus on Pakistan
World Cup achievements: 1971 (Barcelona) - Gold,
1973 (Amsterdam)-4th, 1975 (Kuala Lumpur)-Silver,
1978 (Buenos Aires)-Gold, 1982 (Bombay)-Gold,
1986 (London)-11th, 1990 (Lahore)-Silver,
1994 (Sydney)-Gold, 1998 (Utrecth)-Fifth.
World Cup appearance: 10th time
Made the final: Six times
Players to watch : Shahbaz Ahmad, Sohail Abbas
Qualified: Finished fourth in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
The Squad-Goal Keepers: Muhammad Qasim, Salman Akbar (Fullbacks); Sohail
Abbas, Tariq Imran, Ali Raza (Halves), Mohammed Usman, Mohamed Saqlain,
Wasim Ahmad, Ghazanfar Ali, Dilawar Hussain (Forwards), Mohamed Sarwar,
Mudassar Ali Khan, Atif Bashir, Kashif Jawad, Shahbaz Ahmad, Mohamed
Nadeem, Khalid Saleem, Mohamed Shabir.
Coach: Hanif Khan
Manager: Brig Khalid Khokar
Sohail's penalty corner statistics:
152 Goals in 124 matches
Tournament Penalty corners scored
World Cup 2
Olympics 8
Champions Trophy 16
Asia Cup 16
Asian Games 9
Azlan Shah Cup 22
Other Tournaments 44
International Matches 35
Against Malaysia 12

Poland hungry for success


POLAND arrived in Malaysia yesterday and they were naturally tired after a
long flight from Barcelona, but the hunger in skipper Robert Grzeszczak
eyes was evident.
Troubled by the lack of sponsors and poor government backing for the
sport, Poland only brought 17 players to Malaysia because "We could not
afford to bring another on our budget," said team manager Tomasz Felman.
The FIH ruling allows teams to field 18 players for the Kuala Lumpur
World Cup because of the humid conditions, so Poland arrived handicapped.
Felman, 27, looks more like a 22-year-old and nine players in his team
are older than him.
The skipper, Grzeszczak is 31-years-old and has the second highest caps
in his team, 170. They dropped three key players, because of money
Piotr Mikula, one of the FIH's six top players in 2000, Polish defence
leader Tomasz Szmidt and Marcin Nyckowiak, all players from Bundesliga's
Rheydter Moenchengladbach were dropped because they asked for more
All three players left the team in the last phase of preparations after
a disagreement with the national trainer Jerzy Joskowiak over financial
The lack of Mikula, one of the best scorers and Szmidt who proved last
year to be one of the most experienced defender of pen corners (in
Edinburgh qualifyer Poland lost just four penalty corner goals against 65
corners) will surely have a tremendous impact on the team's performance in
But the manager disagrees, saying that they have brought the best in the
"We decide on the best and even Miroslaw Juszczak, who has never played
an international game before, is a utility player. I have confidence that
we will do well in the World Cup," said Felman.
When pushed on the `do well' Felman said: "Most of the teams in the
World Cup are title contenders but not Poland, we are only preparing a
young side for the 2004 Athens Olympics."
Poland only played indoor hockey in November and December because of bad
weather and were hammered in the King's Cup Three-Nation in January by
England and Spain. Before arriving in Malaysia, they underwent a 10-day
stint in Barcelona but the climate was not kind and they did not clock the
hockey they desired.
They played four matches in Spain and lost three - 3-0 and 4-1 aginst
Spain and drew 2-2 with Belgium and lost the second match 3-2.
But even then, they are a dangerous side because their hunger and the
troubled road they took to reach Malaysia might just do the trick.
When asked about how they rate Malaysia whom they will meet on March 5
skipper Grzeszczak, after a long pause, said: "I have played against
Malaysia in the Sydney 2000 Olympics and they are a very disciplined side
and their strength is teamwork. And as hosts, it will be a very important
match for them and Poland will find it difficult to win the match."
Malaysia are banking on that, wins against Japan, Poland and Cuba is a
must for the hosts if they want to finish among the top-eight bracket.
But the hunger in Poland might just be too great to handle, and the
early indications are that the last pool match for Malaysia will be touch-
jugjet@nstp.com.my FACTFILE: POLAND
World Cup achievements: 1975 (K Lumpur) - 10th
1978 (Buenos Aires) - 9th
1982 (Bombay) - 8th
1986 (London) - 8th
World Cup appearance: Fifth time
Player to watch: Robert Grzeszczak, (skipper)
Qualified: Finished third on the World Cup Qualifiers in Edinburgh
The Squad:
Marcin Pobuta (gk, caps 95), Eugeniusz Gaczkowski 490, Dariusz Malecki
(97), Tomasz Choczaj (97), Robert Grzeszczak (kipper, 110), Zbigniew
Juszczak (119), Robert Grotowski (177), Marcin Strykowski (20), Mariusz
Chyla (gk, 16), Slawomir Choczaj (94), Tomasz Choczaj (74), Artur Mikula
(37), Marcin Wichlacz (10), Krzysztof Witczak (10), Krzysztof Witczak
(10), Lukasz Wybieralski (66), Miroslaw Juszczak (0).
Coach: Jerzy Joskowiak
Manager: Tomasz Felman

Straight to the gymnasium


THE national players will return from the Chinese New Year holidays today
and a gym workout has been arranged in the morning.
Not that team manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran is worried that they would
have added extra kilos during the festival holidays, it is just a routine
that they must follow until the World Cup is over.
"The holidays are over and the boys will be back for some serious
national duty tomorrow (today) and since they have mastered all that they
need to know about hockey, now is the time to keep fit and get mentally
ready for the World Cup," said Yogeswaran.
Yogeswaran was the only Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) official who
was willing to put his head on the chopping block when he said that after
preparing for more than two years, the team's target in the World Cup is
to lift the trophy itself.
He did receive some flak for daring to dream, but the manager was right
because even teams like Cuba, if asked, will surely say that their target
is the trophy itself.
In the Champions Challenge and the Six-Nation they did show glimpses of
brilliance but lapses in concentration made sure they did not finish among
the top.
"That is why we are going to stress on mental preparation in the run-up
to the World Cup, with 10 days to go, nothing much can be done but keep in
shape and not get stage fright for the big day," said Yogeswaran.
Malaysia have four friendlies lined up against New Zealand (two),
Pakistan and Spain but those will be more of warm-up matches and nothing
can be read forn them.
"During the Champions Challenge and the Six-Nation, we held back some of
our set-pieces and they could prove valuable in the World Cup itself. So,
Malaysia must dare to dream if they want to finish among the top teams,"
said Yogeswaran.

Cedric is spoilt for choice


TWENTY-TWO Indian players were sent off their shores to the tune of the
bhangra, to the land where they have tasted their only glory in the World
Cup after nine appearances.
Never failing to be among the elite World Clup playing nations since its
inception in 1971, the story of India is one of sorrow, sliding to a
miserable 12th in the 1986 London World Cup.
Their best finish was in 1975 in Kuala Lumpur where they beat Pakistan
to the gold and that is it. Now they are back in Kuala Lumpur after 27
years and hoping for a similar run.
And the Junior World Cup triumph, the Champions Challenge victory and
the six-nation Gold Cup win in Dhaka last year, have all added to the
growing excitement back home.
Now their only problem is how to trim their squad of 22 to 18. They
arrived early in Ipoh for that sole purpose, and four strikers might get
the chop by a week's time.
"In the Champions Challenge (last year), I had so many problems in
reducing the 18-member team to 16. Now I have to pull my hair out in
deciding to leave out four players. They all are playing so well," said
The good news is that most of the juniors who took part in the Junior
World Cup are not greenhorns anymore.
Gagan Ajit Singh, Deepak Thakur and Devesh Chauhan have already played
in the Olympics. Fullback Jugraj Singh is an up and coming and fast-
improving penalty-corner conversion exponent and was the second highest
scorer after Deepak Thakur in the Hobart Junior World Cup.
Dhanraj Pillay, who will be making his fourth appearance in the World
Cup, is definately a player to watch because he slices into the semicircle
with ease - but he needs at least 15 attempts at goal before converting a
That is the biggest problem plaguing India right now and Cedric knows it
well as he said: "It is time to cover up the weaknesses as well as we can
and play on our abundant skills," before leaving for Ipoh.
Poor finishing is their biggest problem as displayed when they went down
2-1 to Malaysia in the preliminaries of the Champions Challenge. Their
mesmerising skills were of no use as the forwards wasted open chances and
that could be their downfall in the World Cup.
Dhanraj and skipper Baljit Singh Dhillon tried every trick in the book
and pinned the Malaysian side in ther own semicircle for long durations
but poor finishing was their bane.
Dhanraj is the star attraction on the field and he plays many roles,
right from scoring goals to saving them during penalty corners. Since he
is the most marked man, Dhanraj tries to make space for the other members
of the team.
"The opponents waste at least two players on me and that gives space to
others to exploit," Dhanraj said.
India have an aggresive and speedy frontline and their target is to make
the semifinals and it is not too far off as their only other contender in
Group B is South Korea. Australia are a firm favourite for the other semis
ticket form Group B.
Malaysia meet India on Feb 27 and there is a fair chance for the hosts
to collect three points. And if nothing else, the stands at the National
Hockey Stadium will surely be filled to the brim as they have always been
when the two teams play.

Japan dead serious about making a strong impact


JAPAN will be making a comeback into the World Cup scene after a lapse of
29 years, and they are dead serious about making an impact in their third
In Group B with hosts Malaysia, Japan shocked everyone when they
finished fifth in the recent Six-Nation off a golden goal againt Malaysia.
Their inclusion in the World Cup can be described as a stroke of luck
because the FIH changed the 12-team tournament into a 16-team format, and
they qualified after finishing sixth in the World Cup Qualifier in
Japan came into the Six-Nation with one promise - ready to get bashed up
in the warm-up because their end target is the World Cup. And they
returned home bruised and battered but battle hardened.
Malaysia have always found Japan tough to beat, and their inclusion in
the World Cup this time should not be taken lightly although they will be
facing Commonwealth Games champions Australia, Olympic Games silver
medallists South Korea, 1998 Asian Games champions India, Poland, England,
Cuba and the hosts.
The interesting part about the current Japanese side is that when they
go into a defensive shell, most teams ranked above them will find it
difficult to score against them.
Japan were among the pioneers in the World Cup as they played in the
first and second editions in 1971 and 1973 respectively but after that the
sport took a backseat in their country but their recent rise has been
In the 1971 edition, they lost narrowly 1-0 to Pakistan and were
responsible for keeping the excitement in the pool matches till the final
The match between Holland and Japan provided an encounter of dramatic
proportions. Holland had drawn with both Spain (0-0) and Pakistan (3-3),
while Pakistan had lost to Spain. The Dutch needed a win, and no one
doubted they would get full points against a hardworking, but less skilful
But Holland found out the hard way, that you can never underestimate the
Japanese, when they lost 1-0, and Pakistan went through to the semifinals
and eventually won the first title.
But in 1973 in the pool matches, Pakistan smashed in 16 goals to top the
scoreboard, while Japan had the worst defensive record conceding 19,
followed by Kenya 14 and Malaysia 13.
The team which will compete in the 10th edition is as hardworking and
disciplined as the Koreans but their lack of experience shows everytime
they concede a goal - insted of defending, they charge into the opponents
semicircle like enraged bulls and leave a gaping hole in defence for the
opponents to increase the lead.
But they shocked Malaysia 2-1 with Atsushi Takehara's golden goal in the
Six-Nation and Malaysia and the rest of the teams in Group B can rest
assured they they will be punished if they take the Japanese too lightly.
Japan have no target for this World Cup because they are building a side
to mount a serious challenge in the 2002 Athens Olympics and also qualify
for the 2006 World Cup.
World Cup achievements: 1971 (Barcelona)-Finished 9th
1973 (Amsterdam)-Finished 10th
World Cup appearance: Third time
Player to watch: Takahiko Yamabori (pic)
Qualified: Finished sixth in the World Cup Qualifier in Edinburgh
The Squad: Jun Takahashi, Yasuhiro Nobui, Takahiko Yamabori (skipper),
Noaya Iwadate, Kenji Asai, Makoto Karuo, Akira Takahashi, Kenichi
Katayama, Noahiko Tobita, Atushi Takehara, Daisuke Hokaze, Akihiko Hirata,
Mitsuru Ito, Takiya Kawada, Ryuhei Harada, Yasuhiro Kikkawa, Takeshi
Tamekuni, Fumihiro Matsui.
Coach: Nagai Toichi

Australia gunning for second title


THE Australians have always been highly touted and respected in any
tournament for the past 30 years, but they have experienced more sorrow
than joy in their quest for titles.
In the 10th World Cup, they start their quest against hosts Malaysia on
Feb 24, and some see it as a blessing in disguise for the national side.
Should Malaysia lose, they will still have another six matches to make
good in Pool B. Should Malaysia win, they have a good chance of a
respectable World Cup as the other teams in the group are more or less of
equal standard.
Australia, however, will be hard to beat, as they are gunning for their
second World Cup title after winning it in London in 1986.
And the National Hockey Stadium is a good hunting ground for Australia
as they tasted glory there when they defeated Malaysia for the 1998
Commonwealth Games gold, and coach Barry Dancer will be banking on another
fine run at the venue.
They have always started as favourites but Australia, as the 2000 Sydney
Olympics showed, lack the final push that separates them from glory.
In fact, Australia have been guilty of under-achieving for since the
1986 World Cup, all they have to show are four bronze medals.
In the recent Six-Nation in Kuala Lumpur, Australia finished second
behind Pakistan after losing 4-3 to Kashif Jawad's golden goal. But
nothing can be read from that tournament as Australia only played their
best game against Holland in the 4-4 draw.
In the other games, especially against Malaysia, it was evident that
they didn't play as seriously as they should have. They only used about
three variations of penalty corners in the entire tournament and kept the
rest for the World Cup.
Experienced hands like skipper Paul Gaudoin, Brent Livermore, Daniel
Sproule, Craig Victory, Adam Commens and goalkeeper Lachlan Dreher can
always be relied upon.
Coach Dancer, a steady hand during his playing days, is already feeling
the heat because his team always fails in the last hurdle.
In Sydney 2000, they lost to Holland in the semifinals and it was the
same story in the semifinals of the 1994 World Cup, which was also played
in Sydney.
"I don't know why we always fail in the semifinals, maybe we can break
the jinx in Kuala Lumpur," said Dancer after the Six-Nation.
In the 2002 World Cup, nothing is going to stop the Australians from
making the semifinals as they are grouped with Malaysia, South Korea,
India, Cuba, Poland, England and Japan.
Their closest contenders for the top spot are India and Korea and after
that, Australia will have to produce their best as their semifinal
opponents could be Spain, Argentina, Holland, Germany or Pakistan.
A fifth bronze looks possible but Australia will be counting on their
luck holding up in Bukit Jalil.

Lissek: Crowd pressure bad for us


THE Malaysian team has been named and it is no secret that they will be
facing a torrid time trying to finish in a single digit number in the 2002
Kuala Lumpur World Cup.
But for now, it is time for them to bathe in the glory of just being
selected for the World Cup as some of the players will be accompanying the
trophy on a road show to promote the event. And autograph signing will be
part of the programme.
The team will take a Chinese New Year break from Feb 9 to 14 and when
they return they will prepare for the World Cup with five friendly
Malaysia were scheduled to play Cuba on Feb 15 but this is impossible as
the Cubans, according to the Malaysian Hockey Federation, are only due in
Kuala Lumpur on Feb 19, the day the national squad are slated to play a
friendly against Spain.
But it is no big dent in their preparation as they should have already
been fully prepared and there is no reason for them to cram last minute
preparations like students on the eve of a big examination.
Naturally, the thought of playing in the World Cup, and in front of home
fans, is their biggest fear right now.
Coach Paul Lissek was a little worried about crowd pressure after naming
the squad on Friday.
"It might work against them because as everybody saw in the Six-Nation
and the Champions Challenge, they tend to play to the whims of the crowd
after taking a lead.
"My method of playing might be a little boring but it can bring results
if the players do not get too excited and start attacking after being
urged on by the crowd," said Paul Lissek.
And the amazing part about the Malaysian players is that they tend to
get nervous when in the lead and some players go down to making schoolboy
mistakes which eventually allows the opponents to get back into the match.
This trend was quite evident in the Six-Nation against Holland, New
Zealand and Australia. The Malaysians threw away all three matches as they
started playing to please the crowd.
But for now, they are on a holiday and hockey should be their least
worry as they go back to their hometowns and enjoy themselves with their
After the autograph signing and short holiday, it is back to reality and
the match against Australia on Feb 24 will chart their World Cup future.
Keep a date with the World Cup Trophy: Today (9.0am) Concorde Hotel,
Kuala Lumpur; 2pm - Mega Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
Monday (9.0am) Kolej Negri, Seremban; 2pm - Terminal 1, Seremban.
Feb 12 (9.0am) Kajang High School; Feb 13 (9.0am) Concorde, Shah Alam;
Feb 14 (9.0am) Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh; Feb 15 (9.0am) Sultan Azlan Shah
Hockey Stadium, Ipoh; Feb 16 (9.0am) KLCC; Feb 17 (9.0am) Kuala
Terengganu; Feb 19 (2pm) Muzium Negara, Kuala Lumpur; Feb 20 (9.0am)
Mahkota Parade, Malacca.

MHF wants to win World Cup


THE final 18 for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup were named yesterday and
as expected, Mohamed Fairuz Ramli made the squad in place of Azlan Misron.
The rest of the 17 are seasoned players who have seen action in the
Champions Challenge and the recent Six-Nation.
The only bombshell dropped yesterday was when team manager Datuk R.
Yogeswaran announced that the national team's target in the World Cup is
to lift the Trophy itself.
"It is no use just making up the numbers so the boys have decided that
they will be going all out to lift the Trophy. Although it is a huge
target to fulfill, I am sure they will give their best on the pitch," said
Coach Paul Lissek has targeted a 10th placing while the Malaysian Hockey
Federation has always maintained a low profile on the issue and hesitantly
said that their target is to finish sixth. So the revelation by Yogeswaran
is very refreshing.
Lissek was more realistic yesterday when he said that although the team
must dare to dream, they must keep their feet firmly rooted to the ground.
"We can all dream but it must be realistic because in the World Cup, all
16 teams will be vying for the Trophy and the fittest of the day will
succeed," said Lissek.
S. Kuhan, bogged down with a hamstring injury and did not see action in
the Champions Challenge, was included in the squad. The other injured
player, Nor Azlan Bakar, was also on the list as expected.
"I will not say that I am 100 per cent fit, but the injury has healed
and I am no longer troubled by it," said Kuhan who is among the six
players in the squad who will be playing in their second World Cup.
Mirnawan Nawawi was named as skipper while Maninderjit Singh is the
"I wish to make it clear that although the final 18 have been selected,
it does not mean that they can take it easy because we still have until
the managers meeting (a day before the World Cup) to submit our final
"If the performance of some of the players drop or they are injured, we
will not hesitate to drop the players and include the reserves.
The three reserves named yesterday are goalkeeper S. Kumar, Mohamed Amin
Rahim and Azlan Misron.
2002 World Cup Players - Goalkeeper: Mohamed Nasihin Nubli (caps 111),
Roslan Jamaluddin (72); Defenders: Maninderjit Singh (243), Nor Azlan
Bakar (168), Mohamed Madzli Ikmar (82), Chua Boon Huat (124), K.
Gobinathan (110); Midfield: S. Shanker (58), K. Keevan Raj (118), M. Jiwa
(76), S. Kuhan (194), Shaiful Azli (73), Mirnawan Nawawi (316), Mohamed
Rodhanizam (35), Mohamed Tajol Rosli (18), K. Logan Raj (88), Chairil
Anwar (215), Mohamed Fairus Ramli (29).

Scant choice makes Lissek's task lighter


THE final 18 for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup will be selected today,
and coach Paul Lissek admitted that there will not be any surprises.
The reason behind this is he does not have that many players to select
"This is all we have. And it makes my work of selecting the World Cup
team easier," said Lissek referring to the 18 players who took part in the
recent Six-Nation where Malaysia ended last after losing to Japan on a
golden goal.
But there was a glitter of hope in the German's eyes when he said: "If
the critics open their eyes and watched the team progress steadily in the
Champions Challenge and the Six-Nation, I am sure they will know that we
will not just be making up the numbers in the World Cup.
"This team has the potential to do well at the National Hockey Stadium
in Bukit Jalil," said the German coach.
S. Kuhan and Nor Azlan Bakar, who suffered hamstring injuries during the
Champions Challenge and Six-Nation respectively, will be on the World Cup
list which means that the Malaysian Hockey Federation Selection Committee
will have to drop one player to bring back Kuhan.
And the toss is between striker Fairuz Ramly and midfielder Azlan
Fairuz played a more prominent role in the Six-Nation and since Kuhan is
a midfielder, all fingers point to Azlan not making the World Cup squad.
"We decided to name the squad early so that the players can train with a
peace of mind for the remaining period before the World Cup," said MHF
deputy president Tan Sri P. Alagendra yesterday.
Goalkeepers Roslan Jamaluddin and Nasihin Nubli, although sure bets for
the World Cup, will have to battle until the last moment to decide who
makes the starting-11.
And since several friendlies have been arranged before the World Cup,
against Cuba, New Zealand and Spain, the two goalkeepers will get a chance
to fight for the No 1 spot until Feb 24 when Malaysia open their campaign
against the mighty Australians.
From Group B, only two teams will make the semifinals and Australia,
Olympic bronze medallists South Korea and Champions Challenge holders
India are expected to lead the fight for the two tickets.
In the eight team per-group format, fitness will play a major role in
deciding who finishes on top because eight matches will be played in 13
days under hot and humid conditions, with the hosts having a slight
advantage of having played and trained at the National Hockey Stadium in
Bukit Jalil for a longer period.
"My men are ready to give their best. They have improved a lot since the
Champions Challenge and the Six-Nation, for which I thank the MHF for
doing a wonderful job in securing both the events," said Lissek.
"We now know where we stand in the world of hockey after playing good
matches against Australia, Holland and Pakistan. And I hope a big crowd
will be at the National Hockey Stadium to support the home team because we
need all the help we can get to make an impact in the World Cup," said the
former Germany coach.

Secret Cubans in the dark


WITH just 23 days to go before the World Cup begins, not much is known
about Cuba who are in Group B with Malaysia.
And it seems that Cuba do not know much about the 2002 Kuala Lumpur
World Cup either.
The Cubans recently sent a fax to the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF)
requesting inexpensive accommodation at the National Sports Council
Somewhere along the line, someone in Cuba must have overlooked the most
important point in Malaysia's bid for the World Cup which stipulates that
free accommodation will be provided by the MHF at the official hotel, the
Concorde Kuala Lumpur.
That was the last that MHF heard from the Cubans, who are expected to
arrive on or before Feb 15.
The Pan American Champions, who beat Canada en route to the World Cup,
cannot be taken lightly just because they are an unknown entity. And since
Malaysia have always struggled against the Canadians, the warning signals
for a tough match on March 4 are there.
Coach Paul Lissek, who has some idea on how the Cubans play after
watching them in the Pan American Championship, is eager to have a go
against them in a friendly on Feb 15.
The friendly will be played on Pitch One of the National Hockey Stadium
at 7.30pm.
Until then, the Cubans remain a mystery.
Malaysia are also slated to play friendlies with three Group A rivals -
New Zealand (Feb 17), Pakistan (Feb 18) and Spain (Feb 19) to prepare for
the World Cup.
Yesterday, the national team received a rude shock when they arrived at
Bukit Jalil for their morning training. Work to increase the seating
capacity at both the pitches had started and they were not allowed in to
"There has been some misunderstanding with the contactors and the Public
Works Department," said MHF secretary S. Satgunam yesterday. "I had
written to them (PWD) requesting for some leeway because the team needs to
train at the World Cup venue to get used to the new turf."
Work to increase the seating capacity was interrupted twice when
Malaysia hosted the Champions Challenge in December and then the recent
Six-Nation. Now, the seats will be in place only four days before the
World Cup begins.
Both the pitches will be used during the hectic eight-team-per-group
format so seating at the main stadium will be increased by 5,000 temporary
seats to 17,000 while an additional 3,000 temporary seats will increase
the capacity of the second pitch to 5,000.

Time to polish up and correct errors


THE national hockey team is picking up the pieces, with attention focused
on individual mistakes in the run-up to the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on
Feb 24 to March 9.
In the just concluded Six-Nation, the shape of the team was there but a
handful of individual mistakes led to an embarrassing defeat against Japan
during the 5th-6th position playoff.
The joke circling the hockey circuit is that: After the Six-Nation, the
Malaysian team no longer has any fans, only sympathisers.
Team manager Datuk R. Yogeswaran said they conducted a series of video
sessions yesterday and pointed out mistakes made by players.
"Psychologically they were a little disturbed after losing to Japan but
that was to be expected. So we conducted a few motivational courses and
brought them out of the shell they went into after the defeat.
"The fans could see for themselves that the structure of the team is
already there and physically, all the players are ready for the World Cup.
So now, more attention will be paid on individual mistakes," he said.
Goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, benched for three matches for not
following instructions in the Six-Nation, made a strong bid for the No 1
spot in the last match against Japan and has impressed the selectors
enough to get back his place in the starting-11.
"Roslan has made amends in his match after the blunder against Pakistan
and we are happy with his progress," said Yogeswaran.
The other glaring individual mistake was made by K. Keevan Raj against
Holland where his weak backpass was intercepted and the Dutch came back to
level terms against Malaysia. It was the turning point of the match, and
the Dutch went on to win.
After the match, coach Paul Lissek was seen sitting in the stands with
Keevan, obviously consoling the player for the blunder which changed
Malaysia's fortunes in the Six-Nation.
Some saw the Six-Nation as a big mistake for the national team because
their glaring weaknesses were on display for the world to see, but those
who disagree are just as many.
"The Six-Nation was the best thing for the Malaysian team because now we
have about a month to rectify the mistakes before the World Cup. Imagine
what would have happened if those mistakes were carried into the World
Cup?" said Yogeswaran.
S. Kuhan, the penalty corner hope for Malaysia, has made a steady
recovery and has joined training. But Nor Azlan Bakar, who marshalls the
defence with Maninderjit Singh and Madzli Ikmar, is still bogged down with
a hamstring injury he suffered in the first match against Japan.
"The rest of the players are mentally and physically ready for the World
Cup. Our mission right now is to give them individual attention and polish
some of their skills. Other than that, players will just keep themselves
fit and wait for the big day to arrive," said Yogeswaran.
Malaysia will play a handful of friendlies before the World Cup and open
campaign against Australia on Feb 24 itself.
This is not a do-or-die match for the hosts, because they have six other
matches to recover if the Aussies play to form and nail Malaysia, not many
questions will be asked.
But if the hosts lose to Japan again in the World Cup, Malaysians will
be hard pressed for good words to describe the team. And they might lose
the sympathisers as well.

Rare breed of men need to be nurtured


ONE has to be crazy to complete the Ironman Langkawi Malaysia in a time of
eight hours, but that possibility is now being explored by triathletes
from all over the world.
And thanks to New Zealander Bryan Rhodes, who clocked a blistering
8:10:35 on Sunday in the 3.8km swim, 180km cycling event and 42km
marathon, Langkawi is now a must-compete leg on the road to the World
Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
But there is a sad part to the furious past set by the Kiwi, because now
the possibility of seeing a Malaysian at the top of the podium has become
a hazy dream.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who presented medals to
the top three finishers, said: "It would be nice if a Malaysian could win
the triathlon in the near future."
But judging from the results of the Malaysian entries, the near future
might be about 10 years down the line.
The best Malaysian finisher was Razani Husain and even his time of
9:55:11s was a good two hours behind Kiwi Rhodes. And all the top ten
triathletes completed their race inside of nine hours.
But Razani and fellow Malaysians who finished the race are a rare breed
of men, because not many Malaysians would want to punish their body to
such a level only to be called Ironman, and return home with a certificate
of completing he race.
The large number of Malaysians who finished this time also showed a
marked improvement because about 80 foreign triathletes did not even
manage to finish the race in the stipulated 17 hours.
The last to touch the finishing tape was Japanese Takatoshi Yamagata,
who clocked 16:57:44s.
Malaysian Ironman Dr Fiona Lim, who clocked 12:31:59, even beat a large
number of male entries from Malaysia and abroad. The dentist by profession
trains three hours a day after work to keep fit, but not many of her
counterparts have the luxury and time like her.
Most of the Malaysian triathletes met in Langkawi cited the same reason
for their poor finish - the lack of funds and training venues to sharpen
their will.
That is why the organisers, Langkawi Ironman Endurance Marathon Sdn Bhd
(Liem) are contemplating setting up an Ironman association to look after
this special breed of people.
But until then, the Malaysian triathletes will have to look after
themselves, and don't blame any of them for clocking poor times.
Organisational wise, the Ironman Langkawi was a huge success for the
Legendary Island of Mahsuri because most of the big hotels in town did
roaring business during the event and flights out were as difficult to
book as finishing the Ironman Langkawi in eight hours.
Malaysian Results: Razani Husain 9:55:11s, Kohing Antak 11:23:56, Abdul
Khalib Zakaria 11:24:15, Marcus Teoh 11:45:04, Zulkifli Samsudin 12:09:03,
Rozani Iamail 12:14:39, Dr Fiona Lim 12:31:59, Ariffin Nopharimi 12:43:36,
Ramuyan Talit 12:44:02, Mat Ali Ismail 13:07:49, Ashar Zakaria 13:11:36,
Baharuddin Ismail 13:20:56, Anthony John Lopez 13:25:01, Jeffry Mujah
13:30:30, Chang Min Chew 13:32:07, Che Mansor Khamis 13:37:41, Abdul
Rashid Daud 13:51:55, Alan Tiang Promsuwan 14:31:41, Teck Beng Chow
14:39:24, Ramli Nayan 14:45:36, Nadia Johan Lim 15:12:19, See Keong Moh
15:14:07, Sze Man Yee 15:15:39, Alan Scott 15:29:40, Hong Chai Lee
15:37:44, Hin Toong long 15:44:34, Tah Ming Tan 15:52:26, Abdul Halim
Jantan 15:53:28, Patsy Kim Neo Yap 16:30:45, Francis Chai 16:31:04, Sofian
Ismail 16:34:52, David Lee 16:40:36.

`Ironman' Rhodes does it again


BRYAN Rhodes from New Zealand did the unthinkable yesterday when he
defended the Ironman Langkawi Malaysia Triathlon title in a record time.
Rhodes, the defending champion, set a blistering new mark of 8:10:35s in
the 3.8km swim, 180km cycling race and the 42km marathon.
And waiting at the finish line in Dataran Lang was Prime Minister Datuk
Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed to garland the Kiwi who led from start to finish
in the grueling race.
Rhodes, who won the race on his birthday last year with a record time of
8:43:54s, sliced an amazing 33 minutes this year. Lothar Leder of Germany,
who is among a handful who have dipped below the eight-hour barrier in
triathlon, finished third with a time of 8:26:00s.
The surprise package of the day was Australian Jason Shortis who
finished second with a time of 8:24:42s.
"I am flabbergasted with the win because it is very difficult to defend
an ironman title, what more in humid conditions," said Rhodes.
Modest words from a man who predicted the night before the race that he
will better his old mark by 10 minutes at least. But on race day, he
slices 33 minutes.
"I didn't kick off very well and during the runs I had problems with
cramps and struggled at some parts of the race but I kept going because I
was determined to defend my title," said Rhodes who will celebrate his
29th birthday today.
Hot on his pursuit was Jason Shortis of Australia but he could only
reach the finish line 14 minutes after the New Zealander.
At the finish line, he paid tribute to a friend back home who trained
with him everyday to prepare fort he event.
"I dedicate this win to my friend in Australia who helped me prepare for
this event, without his help, I could not have done it," said Shortis.
Leder, who toasted his placing with a pint of beer at the finish line,
said the fast time will encourage more triathletes to come to Langkawi.
"Triathletes love a fast circuit and now that Rhodes has shown the world
that he can do it in eight hours and 10 minutes, I believe more Ironman
enthusiasts will come to this beautiful Island next year.
Leder then turned to Rhodes and invited him for the German leg of the
triathlon so that he can make an attempt to dip below eight hours. Rhodes
hesitated and then said that his next mission is to do well in the New
Zealand leg on March 2.
In the women's professional section, Danielle Florens from Canada was
the fist finisher but her time was a poor 10:29:36 while Beate Kliendienst
from Germany was second with 10:49:08.
In the special category, Randy Caddell of the United States pulled out
in the swim event itself because he was not feeling well.
Selected Results: Men's Professional category - 1 Bryan Rhodes (NZ)
8:10:35s, 2 Jason Shortis (Aus) 8:24:42s, 3 Lothar Leder (Ger) 8:26:00s, 4
Glen Gore (S Africa) 8:34:53s, 5 Siegi Ferstl (Ger) 8:40:03, 6 Matt
Stephens (Aus) 8:42:52s, 7 Hideya Miyazuka (Jpn) 8:45:23s, 8 Garrett
MacFadyen (Can) 8:48:50.

Trudging along with Kona on their minds


THE Ironman Langkawi Malaysia 2002 begins today at Dataran Lang in
Langkawi, but all the 350 participants will be thinking of Kona, Hawaii as
they go through the most grueling race in the world.
Thirty tickets are up for grabs for the Ironman Triathlon World
Championships in Kona, on Oct 19 and it is a big enough carrot to make the
participants salivate, never mind the heat, blisters, cramps, dehydration
and the agony of not completing the race.
Why Kona? For those who are not familiar with the Ironman, Kona is the
culmination of years of training and dedication. It is the ultimate aim of
every triathlete, whose life is spent in pursuit of physical and mental
preparation, to qualify for Hawaii.
However, each year of the 35,000 triathletes who make the attempt, only
an elite 1,500 get a chance to test their endurance and will in Kona.
The Malaysian leg is the curtain raiser and it has attracted some big
names in the men's category with Bryan Rhodes of New Zealand leading the
Rhodes holds the Langkawi course record, set last year, of 8:43:54 but
the Kiwi swimming instructor is not necessarily the favourite this year,
because in the Ironman race, it is hard to pick a favourite based on past
The winner is usually one who is hungry enough to forget pain and
tiredness and keeps going.
Lothar Leder of Germany, who has broken the eight-hour barrier in the
triathlon, was the favourite last year but Rhodes pipped him to the title
and they will be battling again today in the 3.8km swim, 180km cycling
race and the 42km marathon but nobody will be surprised if someone unknown
from the chasing pack touches the finish line first.
And the early indications among most athletes, after two days of testing
the circuit, is that the course record will definitely be broken by a
clear 10 minutes.
Or so say Leder and Rhodes.
"I have tried the marathon route and it is quite flat compared to last
year. The new route is definitely going to see a faster finish time,
especially for those who are good in the marathon leg," said Rhodes.

Six-Nation uncovers faults in Malaysian team


THE Six-Nation was a blessing in disguise for the national side preparing
for the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on Feb 24 to March 9.
It would have been utter mayhem if Malaysia dived into the World Cup
before testing their preparation level, because three big faults were
identified by Paul Lissek in the Malaysian side during the Six-Nation.
The first is their hesitancy to play all out in the first half when
playing against Australia, Holland and New Zealand.
Lissek attributed this to to "too much respect for the Europeans."
"I noticed that the national players normally freeze in the first half
when playing against European sides. This must be overcome before the
World Cup," said Lissek.
Malaysia should have beaten Olympic bronze medallist Australia and World
Cup and Olympics gold medallists Holland in the Six-Nation but ended up
sharing points and losing instead because of their hesitancy to play in
the first half.
"I think it's a psychological problem because they play better after
finding out that they can score against the best in the world but after
that, they get themselves deeper into trouble by becoming overconfident
and making silly passes and allow stupid goals," said Lissek.
After taking a 2-1 lead against Holland, a poor backpass from K. Keevan
Raj undid everything as the equaliser allowed Holland back into the match.
The second problem identified in the Six-Nation is their tendency to run
with the ball after taking a lead in the match.
"You can see for yourself that when they are building up to score a
goal, they let the ball do all the running but after taking a lead, they
start running with the ball and tire themselves in the process," said
This was a big problem in the Six-Nation and must be arrested early
because in the eight-team per-group World Cup, fitness will separate the
winners from the losers especially in the later part of the group matches
where Malaysia will meet easier opponents in Cuba and Poland.
The third problem is an individual one. Some of the players like Keevan,
who actually had a sterling tournament, until the back pass against
Holland and Chua Boon Huat, Jiwa Mohan and Tajol Rosli make schoolboy
errors after fighting hard to win possession of the ball.
"We will have to work on individual faults which denied us a good
placing in the Six-Nation. Some of the players need to be shown (on video)
the mistakes they make under pressure so that they will improve their
game," said Lissek.
Overall, the Six-Nation was a terrific warm-up for the Malaysian side
because now, they know their faults and, hopefully, do not make them in
the World Cup.
Against Japan today, Malaysia must not only win, but go on a scoring
spree because the men from the Land of The Rising Sun are the weakest
opponents in Group B and Malaysia should no longer struggle against them,
because time is no longer on the side of the national team.

Dutch fight back to edge error-prone Malaysia


MALAYSIA were leading 2-1 against Holland at one stage of the match but
poor backpasses robbed them of glory in the Six-Nation at the National
Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
In the end, although Malaysia lost 3-2, they did show glimpses of
brilliance which must be tapped if they want to have a good outing in the
2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup on Feb 24 to Mar 9.
The match was so close to being a Malaysian victory, but somehow, the
home side threw away what Holland had given them on a silver platter.
Holland, naturally, were lethargic in the afternoon heat, but
surprisingly Malaysia too looked like a tired lot and missed numerous
chances which could have turned the tables on the Dutch in the first half
The first dangerous move by the Dutch was in the first minute itself
when Teun de Nooijer, capped for the 200th time yesterday, made a point-
blank shot at goalkeeper Nasihin Nubli but his angle was blocked and the
ball was easily palmed out.
First choice goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin has been sitting on the bench
after the blunder against Pakistan on Sunday and for the following four
matches, Nasihin has taken the spot between the goalposts and has been
doing a great job keeping the scores low.
Holland, dangerous in the penalty corners with Bram Lomans considered as
one of the best in the world, were handed a chance in the sixth minute
after a blunder by the Malaysian forwards.
But this time Lomans was stopped on the line as K. Gobinathan stood his
ground and made a clearance.
But in the 18th minute, off their third penalty corner, Holland took the
lead. Lomans flicked and Nasihin palmed it into play again for de Nooijer
to score.
Holland stopped playing hockey after that but Malaysia failed to make
full use of the situation because they were too busy making back-passes.
Holland started the second half badly as Malaysia came out of the locker
room on a new mission, and they were rewarded in the 42nd minute when
Mirnawan Nawawi scored after picking up a loose ball off a free hit from
the top of the semicircle. It was Mirnawan's second goal of the tournament
and it injected some fire into the Malaysian game.
And after a handful of near misses, Malaysia went ahead in the 47th
minute when S. Shanker connected the ball after another free hit from the
top of the semicircle. It looked like Malaysia had the match in their
palms but a few bad decisions in midfield undid everything in the 55th
Karel Klaver robbed a poor backpass from K. Keevan Raj and was not
stopped as he made a solo attempt and it was the easiest goal in the Six-
Nation which saw the Olympic and World Cup holders come to level terms
with Malaysia.
Holland won a penalty corner three minutes later but they were stopped
and Malaysia mounted a serious counter-attack with three players in the
Dutch semicircle but Bram Lomans stopped them and the Dutch charged back
at the Malaysian goal and Jaap Derk Buma got his name on the scoresheet
with another soft goal. The score read Holland 3 Malaysia 2 and although
Malaysia made a concerted effort and fought for the equaliser in the last
10 minutes, the Dutch stood their ground.
"I am very happy with the overall performance of the team because at one
stage, they were leading the World Cup champions. My bone of contention is
with a handful of players who made us lose today.
"Keevan Raj is a very good player and in the absence of S. Kuhan (who is
down with a hamstring injury) I tried him out in midfield and he did well
until the stupid backpass which gave Holland a chance to equalise," said
national coach Paul Lissek.
He also singled out Jiwa Mohan and K. Logan Raj for not making good of
their chances: "They stood like lamp posts while the rest of their
teammates played their hearts out. This is not good for their future,"
said Lissek.

Rejuvenated Malaysia snatch draw


AUSTRALIA were held 2-2 by Malaysia in the Six-Nation last night at the
National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil, injecting fresh hope into their
World Cup campaign.
On Feb 24, Malaysia open accounts with Australia and yesterday's draw,
to a certain extent, was a big boost for the national team which has been
struggling to find their form.
But as a word of caution, Australia did not play to par, like they did
in the 4-4 draw against Holland, and might have held back a few punches
for the big day.
But nobody can take the thunder out of the Malaysian side, because the
draw almost equals as a win for Paul Lissek's men who put their heart into
the match, especially in the second half.
When the match started, the sky was dark and overcast and all ready to
shed tears for Malaysia because they were expected to face a torrid time
against the Sydney 2000 Olympic bronze medallists.
And five minutes into the match, Australia pinned Malaysia in the
semicircle but there were no dangerous moves from them because they were
looking like they were tasting the waters.
And under constant harassment, the defenders finally made a mistake and
awarded a penalty corner. Australia are not well known for direct attempts
and only score througn indirect move off Troy Elder.
But in the seventh minute penalty corner, Matthew Wells' slow but well
placed shot hit the post and Malaysia were spared the agony of conceding
an early goal.
But not for long. Because for a good 10 minutes, Malaysia had yet to
make a single move into Australia's semicircle and goalkeeper Mark Hickman
had an easy time being a mere spectator in the lop-sided match.
And in the 11th minute the Australians were rewarded for their constant
forays with a penalty corner. This time Elder's flick sailed into the back
of the goal and all the onrushing defenders were caught by surprise at the
speed of the ball.
Malaysia kept on defending and hardly made any dangerous moves and the
best chance they had was bungled by Tajol Rosli whose foot was faster than
the stick and he stepped on the ball while making a dash for goal.
Maninderjit Singh, a fullback, moved upfront to help the strikers and K.
Gobinathan took his place at the back. Mike, as he is popularly known, won
Malaysia the first penalty corner in the 17th minute. Chua Boon Huat's
flick was stopped by goalkeeper Hickman but in the ensuing scramble
Malaysia were awarded another penalty corner. But this time, the ball was
not properly stopped and Malaysia lost a golden opportunity.
But in the 29th minute, a sizzling pass from Rodhanizam Nor was
connected into goal by skipper Mirnawan Nawawi. It was Mirnawan's first
international goal since the Azlan Shah Cup in October and he went wild
celebrating it.
Even Lissek, who sat on players bench looking troubled, jumped up to
celebrate at the sidelines.
Malaysia played better after that but in the 34th minute, just before
the half-time horn blew, Jamie Dwyer pulled ahead for Australia off a
field goal and Malaysia went into the changing room to plot the second
half strategy.
A well organised Malaysia emerged from the changing room and Mirnawan
ran with a strut which was missing for the past six months and buoyed by
the ability to score against Australia, they took the match to the other
And in the 40th minute, Australia could have gone higher up when
Maninderjit stopped a cross across the Malaysian goalmouth for Matthew
Smith. Smith, who normally relishes on such moments, shot wide to the
amazement of the crowd.
And in the 47th minute, Jiwa Mohan did the only good move by getting
entangled with Adam Commens. Commens was flashed the yellow card and was
sent to the sin-bin. The Aussies were one-man down and it was now or never
for Malaysia to find the equaliser.
And Malaysia did not waste the opportunity when three minutes later they
won a penalty corner and as Jiwa Mohan's flick crashed into the net, the
2,000-odd crowd went wild.
Oozing with confidence after that, Malaysia took the match to Australia
and made numerous attempts on the right, Lissek's favourite side, but
Australia held on to the draw.
And when the final horn blew, Malaysia had every reason to celebrate and
the overcast sky turned into a hue of colours, and this time, held back
the tears for Malaysia.
Lissek paid tribute to his defenders, but said the match could have gone
either way.
"It was touch and go in the first half, but this is fresh hope for the
team and I hope to build on it," said Lissek.
Troy Elder (11th) Mirnawan Nawawi (29th)
Jamie Dwyer (34th) Jiwa Mohan (50th)
Sohail Abbas (35th) Ken Robinson (12th)
Kashif Jawad (49th)
Saleem Khalid (55th)

Vans to spread World Cup word to nation


MILO, the official Fortified Food Drink of the 2002 Kuala Lumpur World Cup
and an active supporter of the junior hockey programmes in the country,
launched 20 colourful sampling vans to spread the World Cup message to
fans and schoolchildren yesterday.
The launch of the Milo vans was officiated by Malaysian Hockey
Federation (MHF) deputy president Tan Sri P. Alagendra and MHF vice
president Datuk Seri Manap Ibrahim at the World Cup official hotel, the
"The 20 sampling vans will function as mobile billboards covering the
length and breath of the country to promote the 2002 World Cup," said
The vans are painted with the World Cup logo and three of the national
team members, Chua Boon Huat, Mirnawan Nawawi and S. Kuhan are prominently
displayed on the sides.
"Some one million cups of milo will be distributed free to
schoolchildren in schools and weekend sports meets throughout the country
to spread the World Cup message at the grassroots level," said Nestle
sports marketing manager Dina Rizal.
Nestle will also distribute, for free, 200 World Cup tickets per match
to schools all over the country.
"We will invite interested schools to make an application for the free
tickets so that the younger generation will also get a chance to watch top
class action at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil," said Dina
Interested schools have until Feb 15 to apply for the allocation of 200
tickets per day for the 14-day World Cup. Enquiries can be made by calling
the MHF office at the Concorde hotel in Kuala Lumpur.