Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tai Beng Hai will be rewarded

By Ajitpal Singh

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will offer Tai Beng Hai a fulltime coaching contract to manage the national senior team after having achieved the federation's semi-final target in the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup.
Beng Hai was given the interim coaching duties on Jan 4 after former coach Sarjit Singh was removed late last year.
Under Beng Hai, the team have been progressing well and prior to the Asia Cup, he guided the national team to a second place finish in last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the federation's coaching committee will recommend his name for the fulltime coaching job.
"He has achieved the federation's target in both the Sultan Azlan Shah event and the Asia Cup. However, it is the management committee to decide on his appoitment as the national coach." said Nur Azmi in Kuantan yesterday.
MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah stated on Tuesday that Beng Hai had done a good job in turning the fortunes of the national team.
"I'm happy with Beng Hai and the team. They have achieved the target in the Asia Cup. I hope they progress further in the tournament," he said after watching Malaysia beat Japan 4-1 on Tuesday.

Now for Pakistan...

By Ajitpal Singh

THE 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup is a different ball game and the Malaysian boys should not take the 3-2 win over Pakistan in last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup as a yardstick in their semi-final match against the four-time World Champions in Kuantan today.
Pakistan, who recalled for ex-internationals including penalty corner specialists Sohail Abbas, are a much stronger side in this tournament.
Sohail, a defender, goalkeeper Salman Akbar, midfielder Waseem Ahmeed and forward Rehan Butt are the four veteran racalled for the Asia Cup and they have so far been instrumental for Pakistan in the Asia Cup.
The four have added more depth to the Pakistan game and they are the players the Malaysians should keep a close watch today.
Furthermore, the confidence among the other Pakistan players, including their six juniors, is high after having beaten defending champions India 3-2 in the group stage.
Sohail, though a bit rusty, is still a dangerous player and Malaysia must avoid giving away unnecessary penalty corners to Pakistan.
The 32-year-old player, who has scored a world record of 275 goals in 272 matches, will be in confident mood in adding more goals to his tally after having scored the winner against India.
Sohail's presence in the match will likely prompt the Malaysians to cut off their opponents' attacks outside the semicircle to avoid the risk of giving away penalty corners but this will leave holes at the back where Rehan will be there to do the damage.
Malaysia, though impressive in the group stage, have been guilty of lapsing during matches. This was evident when they drew 1-1 with South Korea in their opening match. The Malaysians were tactically sound in the first half and took a deserving 1-0 lead but the Koreans, known for their fitness, ran ring around them in the second to force a 1-1 draw.
Against Japan on Tuesday, the Malaysians were in total control but could have avoided conceding a goal in their 4-1 win if the defenders and goalkeeper S.Kumar had better understanding.
National interim coach Tai Beng Hai admitted that his players have the knack of taking things for granted and lose concentration during matches.
"Pakistan will not be easy. They have Sohail and he is an added advantage to them. We may have beaten them in the Sultan Azlan Shah but they were without their star players then and so it cannot be made as a yardstick," said Beng Hai in Kuantan yesterday.
"We cannot afford to concede penalty corners against them. I need to re-align my defensive strategy. Overall, we cannot discount any player in the Pakistan team. They will start as favourites in this match."
Meanwhile, forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil is raring for action against Pakistan today. Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, who missed last month's Sultan Azlan Shah Cup because of a knee injury, is the current topscorer for Malaysia with three goals.
"I'm glad to have made it for the tournament. My form is getting better after the injury and I hope to continue my progress against Pakistan. They are a very strong team and we must take our chances well in order to win." said Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin.
For the record Malaysia have never made it to the finals of the Asia Cup and Beng Hai's side have a chance to do it if they beat Pakistan today. In the 2007 edition, Malaysia won a bronze medal.
Meanwhile, Pakistan stand-in coach Shahid Ali Khan is confident his side will beat Malaysia today.
"We are here to win the Asia Cup. We are going all out to become champions will earn a ticket to next year's World Cup. We may need a little luck against Malaysia but we will do it," said Shahid yesterday.
"We have rested well after our last group match with India on Sunday. I have been using this time frame to prepare my players for the challenge against Malaysia. They are a very good team and probably the best side in the tournament but my players will do their best to win."
Pakistan have won the Asia Cup three times - 1982, 1985 and 1989. They finished second to South Korea and India in 1999 and 2003, respectively.
However, in the last Asia Cup, played at Chennai in 2007, Pakistan finished sixth which was their worst-ever showing in the series
Pakistan's new rising star Haseem Khan, the current topscorer for his team with two goals, is also looking forward for the semi-final.
The 19-year-old forward has been instrumental for Pakistan and has forged a deadly partnership with Rehan Butt. He showed maturity in his game when he scored two goals in his team's 3-2 win over India.
"Victory against India may be a step forward. But it’ll be long before Pakistan hockey is back on the track. I thank my coach (Shahid) for giving me the chance to play here. The semi-final against Malaysia will be tough but I'm determined to help Pakistan make the final," said the nephew of Ex-Olympian Hanif Khan.

Malaysia in semis, China shut out India

By Ajitpal Singh

A well-oiled Malaysian side defeated Japan 4-1 in their Group A match of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup to advance to the semi-finals on the day when defending champions India were shown the door at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.
Malaysia and South Korea, who thrashed Bangladesh 9-0 in an earlier yesterday, finished each with seven points but the latter topped the group on goal difference. Malaysia will face Group B winners Pakistan while Korea take on China, the Doha Asian Games silver medallist, in tomorrow's semi-finals.
Malaysia were in uncomprimising mood as they dictated the pace and showed urgency throughout the match against Japan. It was a well deserved victory which should put the Malaysian boys in the right frame of mind and confidence for the semi-finals.
Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai gave full credit to his players for their powerful performance yesterday.
"My players played to the game plan. Everyone played their part in the match. Pakistan will be tough but I don't want to talk about them right now," said the delighted Beng Hai yesterday.
A brilliant move by Kelvinder Singh on the left resulted in Malaysia first goal in the fourth minute. He outpaced several Japanese players before laying a perfect pass to Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil, who from an acute angle managed to slip the ball past the out rushing Japan goalkeeper Katsuya Takase, to put Malaysia ahead.
The Malaysians dictated the pace and with captain Madzli Ikmar pushed to defence from his regular midfield duties, the Japanese failed to find a breakhrough then.
Chua Boon Huat , who came in for Ismail Abu, after 12 minutes immediately made an impact. His darting run on the left flank confused Japan's defence but Sukri Mutalib wasted a perfect pass from him by hitting the ball wide with only keeper Takase to beat.
Japan constructed their first real attack in the 14th minute and umpire Rahman Latifur awarded them a penalty corner after the ball hit a Malaysian player in the 'D' circle.
However, Manabu Hatakeyama's powerful low drive from the resulting penalty corner was padded away by Malaysia goalkeeper S.Kumar.
Malaysia earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 22nd minute but Amin Rahim failed to make it count when his flick was easily saved by Japan keeper Takase.
Malaysia pressed hard for the second goal that would put them safely in the semi-finals and they got their wish through Kelvinder Singh's wonder goal in the 33rd minute.
Kelvinder, from the right flank, dribbled past several Japanese defenders into the semi-circle before firing a delightful reverse stick shot, which beat keeper Takase easily.
In the second half, the Malaysians dominated proceedings at the start and earned their second penalty corner in the 38th minute but this time instead of taking a direct flick, Amin Rahim laid a pass to Jiwa Mohan but the Perth-based player's powerful drive could only rattled the post.
A defensive mix-up and a school boy mistake by keeper Kumar saw Japan opening accounts through Ryuji Furusato in the 42nd minute.
Japan were dictating play in search of the equaliser, which overworked the Malaysians defence at times. However, Chua Boon Huat put the result beyond doubt when he scored with a powerful rising shot with 11 minutes left on the clock. S.Selvaraju then added Malaysia's fourth goal with a delightful reverse stick attempt off a penalty set-piece, in the 67th minute.
Meanwhile, India missed the semi-finals boat for the first time in the Asia Cup when they drew 2-2 with China in their Group B match. India needed a win to qualify for the semi-final and they managed to set the course when they led 2-0 through captain Sandeep Singh's brace in the 33rd and 34th minutes.
However, China cameback strongly with Lu Feng Hui and Yu Yang, scoring in the 44th and 58th minutes, respectively to force a draw, which ensured them second place behind Pakistan in their group.
India coach Harendra Singh was bitter over his players attitude in taking China lightly in the second half.
"They have disappointed me today (yesterday). Basically, India cannot defend and I instructed my players to continue their attacking play in the second half but they did not listen to me. I will not resign because of this failure. I'm not a quiter," said Harendra.

Expect no mercy from Japan

By Ajitpal Singh

THE Japanese 'kamikaze' warriors will go full trottle when they face hosts Malaysia, a match they have to win to earn a semi-final spot from Group A in Kuantan today.
Japan, who lost 3-2 to South Korea yesterday, have three points and they need to win today at all cost to keep their World Cup hopes alive. And Japan manager Yamanaka Manabu promised that his players will make minced meat out of Malaysia.
The Malaysians will need to take the Japanese threat very seriously. The Olympic Qualifiers in Kakagimahara last April still haunts the Malaysians as it was where Japan denied them a place in the final of the event.
Then Malaysia needed a win and were on course for it in that important match but Japan scored with less than a minute on the clock to force a 3-3 draw to enter the finals against Germany.
"I was the coach then in Kakagimahara. I know how Malaysians play and they are not very fast. I will make some tactical changes to catch them with our speed," said Manabu yesterday.
Japan were unlucky to lose their match which they dominated against the Koreans, who scored two out of their three goals through penalty strokes. Lee Nam Yong scored a brace, both off penalty strokes in the 22nd and 35th while Jin Kyung Min notched in the other in the 12th minute. Japan replied through Kei Kawakami (20th) and Takayasu Mizawa (53rd).
Japan are in the process of rebuilding their national team and have brought several youngsters for the tournament.
Among them are Naoto Shiokawa, Ken Yoshikawa, Kenta Tanaka, Kenji Kitazato and Daisuke Suzuki, who will also represent the Japanese junior team for next month's Junior World Cup.
Meanwhile, defending champions India will need to beat China in their Group B match today or miss the semi-final boat for the first time in the Asia Cup.
India, who were defeated by Pakistan 3-2 on Sunday, have a proud record in the tournament having won it twice and finishing runnes-up four times and third only once since its inception in 1982.
India coach Harendra Singh has a world class squad with him but he needs to tighthen his leaky defence in their match today.
China, with a point after the 1-1 draw with Pakistan on Saturday, are expected to play defensively as they need only a draw against India to make the semi-final. In their last meeting, India defeated China 1-0 in the 2007 Asia Cup edition in Chennai.

Chua wants to play in another World Cup

By Ajitpal Singh

LONG serving Chua Boon Huat has represented Malaysia in all major competitions since he made his international debut in 1998 and with age catching up on him, he hopes to feature in his second World Cup in New Delhi, next year.
And he wants to relish his World Cup dream by helping Malaysia win the ongoing 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup in Kuantan.
"We are making steady progress and it is important that we maintain it throughout the tournament. I believe that if everyone contribute accordingly, the team will qualify for New Delhi," said the 29-year-old Boon Huat in Kuantan yesterday.
"I have been around for quite a while and have achieved everything in hockey. But my dreams are to feature again in the World Cup. As age is cataching up, I think this will be my last chance in trying to play in the World Cup."
"The Asia Cup offers us the best opportunity and if we don't win it, it will be tough to earn a place through the qualifiers (November). I'm not trying to say that I'm quiting anytime soon but I don't think I will be around in three or four years time."
His notable achievements were the two silver medals won in the Commonwealth Games (1998-Kuala Lumpur; 2006-Melbourne) and the bronze in the 2002 Busan Asian Games.
Boon Huat, who hails from Badar Hilir Malacca, also played in the Junior World Cup ( 2001-Hobart), Olympic Games (2000-Sydney), World Cup (2002-Kuala Lumpur) and the Champions Trophy (2007--Kuala Lumpur). He also earned himself a place in the 2002 Asian All-Star team.
The others, who featured in all major tournaments are captain Mohd Madzli Ikmar and Jiwa Mohan.
He made his international debut in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games at the age of 17, where he started off as a defender before he was converted into a striker about three years. He has earned 292 caps and scored 60 goals so far for his country.
"The Malaysian team have not been doing well internationally for quite sometime but I believe that with the present setup and the guidance from coach Beng Hai (Tan), there will be some improvement."
"It has been a good year so far for the team but it's too early to tell. The second placing the the recent Azlan Shah Cup is a fantastic result, which the team needed badly to boost their confidence but the road to recovery and improvement is still far off."
"People wll only acknowledge the team if it does well in priority tournaments like the Asia Cup," said Boon Huat, who had stints with semi-professional outfits Red & White Munich (2002-Germany), Teddington (2005-England) and Auckland (New Zealand-2008).

Sohail strike kills India

By Ajitpal Singh

SOHAIL Abbas' trademark penalty corner goal helped Pakistan edge rivals India 3-2 in a thrilling Group B encounter, which was stopped for about 45 minutes due to the heavy downpour, in the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup at the Wisma Belia Stadium in Kuantan yesterday.
Sohail, in his first international tournament after two years, only found his rhythm in his fourth penalty corner attempt, when he sent a low drive past India's goalkeeper Baljit Singh in the 55th minute for the winning goal which ensured Pakistan a spot in the semi-finals.
Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan said his players played their hearts out yesterday to notch this important victory.
"It's always a pressure game against India. We took our chances well and it made the difference. I told my players to play aggressive and it left India back trekking in most periods of the match," said Shahid yesterday.
India started on the right note when Prabhjot Singh scored off the rebound from the penalty corner attempt by captain Sandeep Singh in the 16th minute.
Pakistan players protested as they felt Prabhjot had committed a foul but it was turned down by New Zealand umpire Simon Taylor.
Pakistan began to make inroads deep in India's defence and were awarded when Haseem Khan, after getting past Sandeep, sent a delightful reverse attempt into the top net leaving keeper Baljit Singh rooted in the 32nd minute.
The Pakistan team were inspired and shocked India's sleepy defence when they took a 2-1 lead through Haseem's field attempt in the 36th minute.
India turned on the heat and found their equaliser when Sardar Singh deflected a pass from Gurbaj Singh, 10 minutes later. After the goal, the technical officer stopped the match for nearly 45 minutes due to the heavy downpour.
Pakistan dominated proceedings and deservingly scored their third though Sohail in the 56th minute. India turned on the heat and pressed for an equaliser but to no avail.
India, the defending champions, have to beat China tomorrow, to earn a place in the semi-finals.

Bangladesh should be easy

By Ajitpal Singh

BANGLADESH have not played a Class 'A' tournament for almost two years and Malaysia have been doing so quite extensively for decades.
And when both teams meet in today's Group A match of the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup, logically, the hosts should easily walk a way with an overwhelming victory in Kuantan, which will put them in the advance stage of qualifying for the semi-finals.
Bangladesh are not in a same class as Malaysia and it was demostrated a few days when the national juniors, who are preparing for next month's Junior World Cup, mauled them 6-1.
The Juniors have set a benchmark score and the seniors should make attempts in scoring more than them against the minnows.There is no reason why the seniors can't do it.
The Malaysian players are gradually improving at this stage and their confidence are also on the high after the unexpected 1-1 draw with World No 5 South Korea on Saturday.
But being Malaysians, the hockey team are prone to take things lightly against minnows and thus end up struggling for the win in matches where they should be piling up the goals.
National interim coach Tai Beng Hai understands this sticky situation and he has adviced his players to give their 100 per cent against Bangladesh.
"There are no easy teams in this tournament. Bangladesh are minnows in the game but we need to treat them with respect. They can be dangerous if taken lightly," said Beng Hai in Kuantan.
"The game plan is off course to score a big win as it may be crucial in our qualification to the semi-finals. Our players are experienced enough to win this match easily."
"The players, I feel, are mentally and physically stronger after the four-and-half-months of training and they are slowly getting their confidence back. It's important that they keep it the unward momnetum going in this tournament."
However, Beng Hai is set to make some changes in his first-11 with some fringe players expected to start the match.
"It's not huge changes but small ones. Those who played a small role against South Korea, for instance, S.Selvaraju and Jivan Mohan, will play a bigger role tomorrow (today)."
Beng Hai may opt to field forward Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Jalil and Engku Malek Engku Mohd, who rested against Korea, for today's match.
Both teams last met in the 2006 Doha Asian Games, where Malaysia thrashed Bangladesh 6-1 in the fifth-eight placing match.
Malaysians may be familiar with some of the names in the Bangladesh team. Captain Jimmy Rasel Mahmud and Mamun Ur Rahman featured in last season's Malaysian Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh coach Gerhad Peter Rach said it will be a victory for his team if they lose 5-0 to Malaysia.
"Our target in this tournament is to score a goal in a Class 'A' international match. Malaysia are light years away better than us. My players have not gone out of their country for quality matches for almost two years and I cannot expect much from them here." said Rach, who took over the team only six weeks ago.
"My players don't know how to handle pressure due to lacking in experience. Bangladesh hockey can only improve if the players play more quality matches outside the country,"


Group A: Japan v South Korea (5pm); Malaysia v Bangladesh (7pm)

(Both matches at Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan).

Brasa's immediate goals

By Ajitpal Singh

NEWLY appointed India chief coach Jose Manuel Brasa's immediate goals are to guide the national team to the podium in the Men's World Cup in New Delhi (March 7-20) and also the gold medal in the Asian Games in Guangzhou (Nov 12-27), both next year.
Brasa is aware that he has a tough task ahead but the 55-year-old Spanish-born coach believes India are capable of making it big again in world hockey.
"If the India players play with their hearts and soul then it is possible to finish on the podium in the World Cup. It too short period to prepare a well-tuned side for the World Cup but India players are skillful and with a little bit of changes in their style will surely do slight improvement for them," said Brasa, who was the man behind Spain's women's team's gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, in Kuantan yesterday.
"My aim would be to put India on a path that will take them to greater heights. I will only select the best players to represent the country. I have been given a freedom to pick players and plan the training system."
India's only World Cup title was achieved in the 1975 Kuala Lumpur World Cup, when the then side, captained by Ajitpal Singh defeated Pakistan 2-1 in the final.
Brasa, also a former Spanish Indoor hockey coach, signed a contract with the India Government to coach the national team till in the 2010 Asian Games with a possible two-year extension of his contract.
"I'm not in India to make immediate changes. The best style may only work for some teams and this is why I need to understand the culture of the game in India first before introducing new things," said Brasa, who will takeover the coaching duties of the India team after the 8th AirAsia Men's Asia Cup in Kuantan.
He also noticed that the India team compete in too many tournaments and spend little time on the training ground.
"India have been competing an average of one tournament in a month since last October that is too taxing."
"As for the World Cup, I will probably have about five or six months to work on the team as they will be on tour in between before the tournament. Time is not on my side by I have to work hard in that time frame. Of course, I have made it clear that the target is the Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou," added Brasa.