Wednesday, May 2, 2012


THE Junior Asia Cup received a big boost before the opening matches today, as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have eventually agreed to give Asia four spots to the Junior World Cup.
  The FIH decision was made on April 8, but somehow, it got lost in the world of information, as neither the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) nor the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) were privy to the decision earlier.
  AHF had announded in early April that only three spots, including that if Junior World Cup hosts India, will be available in the Malacca tournament.
  However, now if India also make the semi-finals, all four teams will play in New Delhi in November.
  "“While it is good that Asia have been given four places, that still does no shake our aim to win the Asian Junior title for the first time,” said Malaysian team manager Mirnawan Nawawi.
  “The news has eased the pressure on teams here, but with Pakistan, India, South Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia somewhat of same standards, it will be a keen battle to fill up the four places,” addded Mirnawan.
  Eight teams are competing in Malacca, with South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Iran in Group A, while Group B comprises of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and China.
  With 16 teams in the 2013 Junior World Cup, Africa has been allotted two places, the same for Oceania and Pan America. Europe has the lions share of awarded six.
  For the Women’s Junior World Cup, Africa has been allotted two places, the same as Oceania. Europe has six spots while Asia and Pan America have three spots each.

Iran optimistic against hosts..

MALAYSIA open their Junior Asia Cup campaign against Iran at the Malacca Stadium today, and it is safe to assume that three points will belong to coach K. Dharmaraj's boys.
  For losing to Iran can't even be fathomed, as the first opponents have only indoor experience. The match might just turn into a goal fest for the hosts.
  However, that has not stopped the Iranians from feeling optimistic, even though they made it thus far by finishing third in the second rung Junior Asia Cup that was held in Hong Kong last year.
  “That bronze in Hong Kong has given hockey in Iran a tremendous boost but we still lack in terms of financial backing as sports like football have a huge following,” said Iran team manager Nader Foroutanian.
   “We have come here to gain experience but that does not mean that we will be pushovers. Though Malaysia are a class act, we will give them a fight. It is not about losing but giving your best on the pitch. And that is what we intend to do against Malaysia,” said Nader.
  Iran have prepared for the Junior Asia Cup by training on indoor pitches for the last six months.
   “We have a 16-team indoor league and use that and other regional tournaments to select players for the national team.
  “Hopefully things will get better and we hope for a decent outing in the tournament here to help our cause of promoting hockey.”
  Iran does not have an artificial pitch, although two are under constructed in Tabriz and Kermanshah.
  And they have been hard at training in Malacca, getting valuable experience playing on an artificial pitch. Their other opponents in Group A are Korea and Japan. In Group B are India, Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka.
  Dharmaraj was spot on when he said: "We have the players to beat Iran, that is for sure. But I am not going to put pressure on the boys by setting goal targets. I believe the win will come with a healthy margin as a boost for the South Korea and Japan matches."

Japan aim to topple Korea..

JAPAN aim to topple South Korea today in their opening Group B match of the Junior Asia Cup in Malacca.
  Their aim to to play in their first ever final of the Asia Cup, and Korea will face the brunt of their might.
  “It will not be easy against Korea and we are aware of it. The plan is to restrict the Koreans and hit them on the break,” said stand in manager Satoshi Makimoto.
  “It is vital that we put away whatever chances we create as our target here is to make the final. And we are optimistic that we are able to achieve it looking at the team we have.”
  Japan will depend on Kohei Ota, Hirotaka Zandana and Yohel Mori to hit the target from penalty corners.
  In the previous six editions, the best Japan has achieved is a third spot finish in Singapore in 1996.
  They assembled the squad for more than a year, but only played 10 matches, three against their national team while another seven were against Malaysia in February.
  Japan play Malaysia on May 7. 

Chile too hot for Malaysian women...

Azerbaijan 1, Japan 4

Top-seeded Japan now has the upper hand at the Women’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after beating second-seeded Azerbaijan, 4-1, in round robin action. The win gives the Japanese 10 points in four games, and all but books the hosts a place in Saturday’s final. Azerbaijan has nine points and will play Chile on Thursday in a game that will likely determine the second finalist.
  In what could be a preview for Saturday’s final, today’s game was a well-balanced affair despite the relatively lopsided 4-1 result. In fact, it was Azerbaijan that spent most of the time in the Japanese zone in the second half, but creating very few meaningful scoring opportunities despite the proximity of the Japan net.
  Azerbaijan silenced the crowd when Taejeong Han put a shot into the upper left corner to take a 1-0 lead just six minutes into the game. Six minutes later, Japan’s Ai Murukami easily converted a penalty stroke chance to get Japan on the board and tie the game at one.
  The game stayed deadlocked until Miyuki Nakagawa put in the go-ahead goal 11 minutes later. It was one of two goals from Nakagawa, who also scored the only goal of the second half with 12 minutes to go in the game. The other Japanese goal scorer was Sachimi Iawo, who got the key 3-1 goal with eight minutes left in the first half to give Japan some breathing room before the break.
  Azerbaijan competed well today, but simply could not finish on the chances that they had. Japan’s finesse and speed were the key to getting back to the top of the round robin standings.
  Japan definitely has the easier assignment on the last day of round robin play on Thursday with a meeting against Belarus, which is currently fourth in the standings. Azerbaijan will take on third-place Chile. The Chileans have seven points and with a win on Thursday, could leap ahead of Azerbaijan in the standings.
Malaysia 1, Chile 2

Chile came from out of nowhere to steal a 2-1 win from Malaysia and stay in contention to make Saturday’s final. The Chileans were showing no signs of life when the Caram sisters, Camila and Daniela, struck with a pair of penalty corner goals in the last four minutes of regulation to stage the incredible comeback.
  The Malaysians have continued to improve in each game at this qualification tournament and today it looked like they would get the win when Fazilla Slyvester Salin scored the 1-0 goal into the upper corner in the 49th minute in a game with few scoring chances. After the goal, Malaysia dominated the action, allowing Chile very few chances to get near their net.
  But in the last five minutes, Chile flew into action with determined play. Camila put in the key game-tying goal with a solid flick and the Chileans seemed content to have saved the point for the tie. But just moments later a second penalty corner was awarded and the alert, frisky Chileans smelled blood. With the clock ticking down Daniela Caram deflected in the game-winner sending her team into a celebrating frenzy.
  Chile now has seven points in four games and stands among the top three together with Japan and Azerbaijan. The Chileans have kept everyone at the tournament guessing with their hot and cold play, but so far they are doing what it takes to stay in contention. Meanwhile, Malaysia must be frustrated with giving this one away despite a good showing. The Malaysians are out of the London picture with just one point in four games.
Belarus 5,  Austria 0

Belarus earned its second win of the Olympic Qualifier and kept a glimmer of hope alive to make Sunday’s final with a 5-0 win against Austria. The Austrians are still looking for their first point of the tournament.
  Belarus put in a solid effort in the first half and steadily built up its lead. At the break, Belarus owned a 3-0 advantage on the strength of three field goals from three different players. Yuliya Kurhanskaya, Yuiliy Mikheichyk and Natalia Stsiafutkina were the goal scorers, but it was Mikheichyk’s 3-0 tally that will make the highlight reel as she rattled it into the far corner five minutes before the break.
  Things stalled a bit in the second half. With the game basically decided, Belarus eased the pace and put in two goals in the last two minutes of regulation. Austria fought valiantly to put in its first goal of the tournament, including a huge missed chance when Irene Balek's penalty stroke hit the post, but ultimately, Austria suffered its fourth consecutive shutout.
  Belarus now has seven points and with a win over top-seeded Japan on Friday could move up to 10 points to tie Japan, which currently has 10 points. Depending on the outcome of the Azerbaijan vs. Chile game, three teams could end up with at the 10-point mark. Chile currently sits at seven points, and Azerbaijan has nine, making anything possible on the last day of the round robin on Friday.
  Austria and Malaysia are out of the London hunt. Malaysia has just one point in four games, while Austria is empty handed.

Make us proud...

Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah comforting Sebah Anak Kari who suffered a jaw injury at the Olympic Qualifiers in Japan. Pic by Yong Chee Choong

THE PROJECT 2013 team have been told to make up for the failures of the national men's and women's squads in the Junior Asia Cup, which starts tomorrow in Malacca.
  Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wants the project squad to do the nation proud in the tournament, where the top two teams will earn berths for next year's Junior World Cup in New Delhi.
  "I hope they can make up for the senior teams' failures. They have been attaining good results of late and their performance, which singled them out as one of the best junior teams in Asia, was when they won the Sultan of Johor Cup last year. " said Tengku Abdullah after visiting national women's player Sebah Anak Kari at the Damansara Specialist Centre yesterday.
  Sebah, a member of the women's squad competing in the ongoing Olympic Qualifiers in Japan, was flown back to Kuala Lumpur last week following a horrific jaw injury against Azerbaijan.
  The Project side, under coach K. Dharmaraj, will open their Group A campaign against minnows Iran on Thursday followed by South Korea, two days later and Japan on Monday.
  On the team's morale following the death of Noor Izzat's father, Sumantri, on Monday, Tengku Abdullah said the team must use it as a motivation to make an impact in the tournament.
  "I am really sad to hear about Noor Izzat's father but I hope he would put on a brave front and play his best hockey in the Asia Cup," he said.
   In reference to the failures of the men's and women's teams in the Olympic Qualifiers, Tengku Abdullah said he wants to review the current hockey structure.
  "I want to look at it as I feel we need a bigger pool of players and qualified coaches.
   "We have to concentrate on grassroots development and I will discuss this with the concerned parties and those with ideas should also come forward to give a helping hand."
   He said the national men's team tried their best to qualify for the London Olympics in the qualifiers in Ireland but their best was not enough to get them there.
  "The players, however, especially the youngsters should not give up. We should not slam them but give them a chance in future tournaments."
  He also talked about the need to improvise the existing safety gear for hockey players.
  "Every sport is dangerous... so the concerned parties, including the International Hockey Federation and MHC should design special protective gears and enhance the existing ones as the safety of players is paramount," he added.