Thursday, January 19, 2012

China skipper tips South Korea

Tengku Ahmad Tajudin (left) vies with China’s Song Yi in their friendly on Tuesday.

By Ajitpal Singh

THE national hockey team are confident of qualifying for the London Olympics but China captain Song Yi brushed it off stating that South Korea will win the qualifiers in Dublin.
China’s Song Yi.
“South Korea are better and besides, they have the experience playing in priority tournaments. They may have a new coach but I think they will be a well-oiled side in Dublin,” said Song Yi after his team were beaten 3-1 by Malaysia in the fifth and final friendly at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Malaysia, who won the series 3-2, yesterday scored through Amin Rahim (eight minute), Razie Rahim (24th) and Fitri Saari (51th), all from penalty corner set-pieces, while China replied through Sun Luo (11th).
Others teams competing in Dublin in March for the one qualifying spot are Ireland, Russia, Ukraine and Chile.
Midfielder Shukri Mutalib disagreed with Song Yi and said that Malaysia had an even chance of making it to London.
“I’ve played in two previous Olympic qualifiers and I believe this team have a better chance as we are technically better, more skilful and are fit. “We are training hard and of course, if we don’t make it, we would be disappointed. We need to improve our penetration rate in the semi-circle and understanding in defence,” said Shukri, who has earned 145 caps.
National coach Tai Beng Hai said the team were on the right path but needed to tighten up in a few areas. “My players did better after the opening two matches. I have identified areas where we need tightening up,” said Beng Hai, who added that the players’ fitness has improved.
The team travel to Perth on Jan 28 where they will play Australia (four matches) and the Netherlands (two matches).