Monday, May 19, 2008

World Cup not in striking distance

Argentina players celebrate with the Azlan Shah Trophy after beating India 2-1 in Ipoh.
Sultan Azlan Shah presenting a momento to Argentine skipper Juan Manuel Vivaldi, who is their 28-year-old goalkeeper with 84 caps.

MALAYSIA will not qualify for the 2010 Delhi World Cup, if the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) coaching committee does not inject drastic changes into the forward-line.
The statistics of the past two tournaments — the Japan Olympic Qualifier and the Azlan Shah Cup — are damning on the forwards.
In Japan, Malaysia scored 16 goals and let in 14. The strikers who delivered were Chua Boon Huat (three goals), Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin (three) and Razie Rahim (two). Defenders Jiwa Mohan (two goals), Amin Rahim (two goals), Shahrun Nabil (two goals) and midfielder Kelvinder Singh (two goals) were the other scorers.
At the Azlan Shah Cup, five of Malaysia’s nine goals were scored by defender Amin Rahim from penalty corners while midfielders Kelvinder Singh and Azlan Misron had one each. And only two goals, by S. Selvaraju and Chua Boon Huat, were scored by forwards.
The defenders let in 16 goals, and Malaysia finished last on their own turf. That means in 12 matches, the strikers have only scored 10 goals, with Ismail Abu among those who fired blanks in both the tournaments.
Coach Sarjit Singh’s report after the Japan Qualifier, presented to the MHF council by the coaching committee, showed there were a total of 143 circle penetrations in six matches, while the highest was 43 against Italy, who only entered the Malaysian semi-circle 11 times, but scored four goals in the 4-4 draw.
With Malaysia out of the Olympics, there are no assignments for the seniors this year, but they have a tough Asia Cup next year which doubles up as a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. The MHF council has agreed to bring in foreign consultants to train the strikers and defenders, while Pakistan’s Shahid Ali Khan trains the goalkeepers.
But the MHF must also bring out it whip, dust it of cobwebs, and drop those who have not been consistent this year. The situation today is that once you cement your place in the national squad, you are assured of a place even though you fail to deliver consistently.
Drop the non-performers, and this lesson will spur the rest to do much better. If not, we can even kiss goodbye to whatever hopes Malaysia have of playing in the 2012 London Olympics.