Thursday, May 28, 2009

US aim to make an impact

THE United States are minnows in hockey but their relatively unknown qualities could pose a threat to Malaysia in the Junior Hockey World Cup on June 7-21 in Johor Baru.
Malaysia, coached by K. Rajan, will face the US on June 10 in their third Group C match at the Taman Daya Stadium.The other teams in the group are England, whom the hosts will face first on June 7, South Korea (June 8) and Spain (June 12).On paper, Malaysia should win but the US are determined to make an impression on their debut in the Junior World Cup.

They qualified after a bronze medal performance at the Junior Pan-American Cup in February.The US Under-21 squad include nine players from their senior side. Jonathan Ginolfi and Jed Cunningham are the most experienced having over 50 caps between them at the senior level. Kevin Segeren was also named Best Goalkeeper at the Junior Pan-Am Cup.
"We have a very committed group of athletes who are training very hard to be ready to embrace the challenges ahead," US head coach Nick Conway told

"Everyone is looking forward to the Junior World Cup which will undoubtedly provide us with a huge building block opportunity in the development of our players as we move forward.
"We have set clear performance targets which we feel if we perform effectively, we can achieve regardless of the opposition that we face.
"Conway said his charges are eager to make an impression on the tournament."Competing in quality tournaments is the foundation for success at the international level.
""We are not about being happy to make the numbers but we are committed to holding ourselves accountable for strong competitive performances during the tournament." he added.
The squad: Kevin Segeren, Amrit Ahluwalia, Kevin Barber, Alex von Bieberstein, Jed Cunningham, Ajai Dhadwal, Jonathan Ginolfi, Will Holt, Manny Martinez, Viren Padhiar, Derk Pelle, Sebastian Scheurer, Colin Scally, Ryan Sundeen, Tyler Sundeen, Nick Szoke, Liam Walsh, Andrew Zayac.

Malaysia's fate depends on opener

By Ajitpal Singh

MALAYSIA'S hope of advancing beyond the Junior Hockey World Cup groupstage boils down to their opening match against England on June 7 inJohor Baru.
A favourable result is needed against England to boost the team'sconfidence and also give them the edge of advancing to the quarter-finalsfrom Group C, which also consists South Korea, the United States andSpain.
Malaysia's coach K. Rajan, who has been grooming the team since latelast year, is aware that his players need to get into their groove toachieve a good result against England.
A win is, of course, attainable considering that England have named ayoung side with an average age of just below 19, for the tournament. England coach David Ralph included nine players of the England Under-21side that finished fifth in last July's European Junior Nations Championships while another 11 also played for the Great Britain Juniorteam that took bronze in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in January.
Nick Catlin, at 20, is the most experienced player in the England squadhaving earned two senior caps last year.
Ralph said the Junior World Cup will provide some major challenges forthe squad.
"Not only do we face some of the top 20 junior teams in theWorld but the physical demands of the tournament will be tough as well,"he told
"A gruelling schedule means we face nine games in 14 days and theenvironmental conditions will be unlike any that the players haveexperienced previously," On the team's prospects, Ralph is cautiously optimistic.
"We are a very young squad and we face some tough challenges but we arealso very excited by this prospect and confident that we have someexciting talent within the squad to compete at this level." he added.

England squad: Ben Arnold, James Bailey, David Beckett, Nick Catlin,David Condon, Richie Dawson-Smith, Marc Edwards, Simon Faulkner, ChrisGregg, Chris Griffiths, Ed Kelleher, Johnny Kinder, Sam Middleton, IanScanlon, Alex Edmonstone, Ben Tibble, Henry Weir, Tom Woods.

Beng Hai's boys to spar with top nations

THE priority is to qualify for next year's World Cup and to ensure thenational team fulfil their mission. As such the Malaysian HockeyFederation (MHF) has arranged a series of test matches with tophockey-playing nations before the Qualifiers in November.
Malaysia, who finished fourth in the recent Asia Cup, will start withthree test matches with Ireland next month before the team play in theChampions Challenge II in Dublin on July 6-12, where Tai Beng Hai's teamneed to finish in the top-two bracket to improve their world ranking andget an easier draw in the World Cup Qualifiers.
They will then head to the Oceania region where they will faceAustralia in a five-test series at the end of July before playing sixmatches with New Zealand in August.
The team will continue with the Europe tour after Hari Raya inSeptember where they will be play eight international matches. As a final tune-up for the World Cup Qualifiers, the national team willplay five test matches with Australia at a yet-to-be-decided venue.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the test matches will allowcoach Beng Hai to gauge his charges before the World Cup Qualifiers.
"We are fortunate that top nations are interested to play test matcheswith us. I believe that playing top hockey nations on a regular basiswill improve the team's overall strength," said Nur Azmi yesterday. Malaysia must do well in the Champions Challenge II in July in order toget a favourable draw for the World Cup Qualifiers.
There will be three qualifying tournaments - Lille (Oct 31-Nov 8),Auckland (Nov 7-15) and a yet-to-be-confirmed venue (Nov-TBC).

MHL to decide on dates in July

THE new dates for the Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League willbe fixed after the International Hockey Federation (FIH) releases thegroupings for the World Cup Qualifiers. The FIH will only make the draw sometime in July and Malaysia could bein any one of three qualifying tournaments involving six teams each - inLille (Oct 31-Nov 8), Auckland (Nov 7-15) and a yet-to-be-named venue(Nov-TBC). MHF competitions committee head Datuk Rahim Mohamed Arif said FIH willrelease the draw after the Champions Challenge II in Dublin on July 6-12. "If Malaysia are drawn to play in Lille then the committee willscheduled the MHL Premier Division somewhere in November. The two-month long league will only start in December if Malaysia aregrouped either in the second or third qualifiers," said Rahim, afterchairing the competitions committee meeting at MHF headquarters in BukitJalil yesterday.
"We cannot hold the league right after the Champions Challenge II asthe local calendar is packed with tournaments and also the national teamwill be playing test matches abroad."
The Premier League may also feature a foreign team as Singapore havebeen invited to send their top club for the competition.
So far, four teams - defending champions Ernst & Young, Sapura, Maybankand Tenaga Nasional - have confirmed their entries while Nur Insafi,Universiti Kuala Lumpur and Jurutera, Letrik dan Jentera (JLJ) have yetto reply.
Meanwhile, Malacca City Council maintained their lead in the DivisionOne standings after winning 5-2 against Air Force in Sungai Petani. Malacca CC's scorers were Hanif Rahim (17th and 45th minutes), SyafiqAmir (10th), Syakir Kamaruddin (61st) and Mirhardy Nawawi (69th).
Air Force replied through Fattah Jalaluddin (42nd) and Azwar Hafiz(55th). Malacca CC, who are tipped to win the title, will face Armed ForcesJuniors on Friday. RESULTS: Air Force 2 Malacca CC 5, UNIMAP 0 UiTM 2.

Tough challengers for juniors

THE National Juniors, after the experience of competing in local andinternational tournaments, have made significant progress but it will bea tough call if they are good enough to make an impact in the JuniorWorld Cup which will be co-hosted by Johor and Singapore on July 7-21.
The quarter-final target set by the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF)is ambitious as the team, coached by K. Rajan, are still inexperiencedand lack depth.
None of the current players have senior team experienceand this handicap will make things difficult for them.
Though the team have improved admirably under Rajan who took over thefrom V. Muraleedharan last October, it will be tough for them to advanceto the second stage of the Junior World Cup.
Malaysia have been drawn with European giants Spain, England, SouthKorea and the United States in Group C and past records against theseteams do not favour the hosts.
The team drew 1-1 with England and lost 2-1 to Spain in a Four-NationInvitational in Seville in March.
Malaysia were beaten 2-1 by Korea in last year's Junior Eight-Nationtournament in Bukit Jalil.
Rajan's boys need to win at least three matches to ensure a top-twofinish in their group and a place in the quarter-finals.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the players have grown inconfidence and it should be enough to make an impact on the tournament.
"They have progressed and have also obtained good results against topteams," said Nur Azmi in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
"Past records don't count as we played these teams during ourpreparation. Our players are 100 per cent focused and determined to dowell."
Malaysia open their campaign against England at the Taman Daya Stadium in Johor Baru on June 7 and play Korea the next day. They thenface the US on June 10 and wrap their preliminary round fixtures withSpain two days later.
Prior to the big event, the Juniors will play friendly matches againstBelgium (June 2) and Pakistan (June 4). The final-18 will be announced by MHF after the friendly againstPakistan.

The training squad - Goalkeepers: Abdul Hakim Adnan, Asmawi Zaidi, MohdFaizal Zalani. Defenders: Khairil Anuar Isa, Sybrie Shamsuddin, Nor Hafiq Ghaffar,Marhan Jalil, Wong Kee Hoon, G. Kavin Kartik, Kazamarul Nasruddin.
Midfielders: Faizal Saari, Shafiq Zain, Izzat Rahim, Shaheeb Shah. Forwards: Azzami Adabi, Harvinder Singh, R. Nadesh, Mohamed NoorKhairul Adnan, Jamil Saidin, Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajuddin, Ahmad TermiziIsmail.

Groupings - Group A: Argentina, Belgium, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia; GroupB: Australia, Chile, Germany, Japan, South Africa; Group C: England,South Korea, Malaysia, Spain, US; Group D: India, Netherlands, NewZealand, Poland, Singapore.
Groups A and C will be based in Johor Baru, while Groups B and D inSingapore.

Rescheduling matches for Beng Hai's sake

THIS year's Premier Division of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) islikely be brought forward from October to accommodate the national team'spreparation for the World Cup Qualifiers.
The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) competition committee will decideon the new dates at a meeting today.
It is learnt that the committee may reschedule the competition afterthe Champions Challenge on July 6-12 before the fasting month inmid-August.
The other option is to keep the competition dates but reschedulematches of teams with national players after the World Cup Qualifiers inNovember.
The change is necessary to allow national interim coach Tai Beng Hai toprepare his team for the qualifiers. There will be three qualifyingtournaments involving six teams each in Lille, Auckland and ayet-to-be-named venue.
The Premier Division will comprise six teams, including defendingchampions Ernst & Young and two teams from the ongoing Division Onecompetitions.
Meanwhile, Malacca City Council will be aiming to maintain theirunbeaten run in the MHL Division One competition when they face Air Forceat Sungai Petani today.
Malacca CC assistant manager Mazlan Mohd Said said his players areoptimistic of winning against the army team.
"We need to keep winning against lowly teams in order to finish in thetop two bracket of Division One.
"As for now, the players are doing very well and eager to face AirForce," said Mazlan yesterday. FIXTURES - Today: Air Force v Malacca CC (Sungai Petani Hockey Stadium,5pm), UNIMAP v UiTM (Kangar Hockey Stadium, 5pm).

Malacca and Airod tops

MALACCA City Council and Armed Forces Airod moved to the top of theMalaysia Hockey League Division One following easy victories yesterday. Malacca CC notched their second win by routing UNIMAP 3-0 in Kangar while Armed Forces edged UiTM 2-1 at the Tun Razak Stadium.
Amirrullah Zainor scored twice in the eighth and 34th minutes forMalacca CC while Mirhardy Nawawi added the third in the last minute ofthe match.
Malacca CC assistant manager Mazlan Mohd Said said yesterday's win wasimportant towards achieving the team's top-two target in the league.
"It's important not to drop points against lowly opponents. My boys'played exceptionally well against UNIMAP," said Mazlan yesterday. Malacca CC and Armed Forces have each accumulated seven points but theformer leads the standings on goal difference.
Meanwhile, Zulkifli Abdullah and Mohd Azron Mat each scored a brace tohelp Dolphins thrash Ipoh City Council 5-2 in Lumut. Dolphins took a 2-0 lead at half time through Mohd Noor Saad andZulkifli in the 22nd and 23rd minutes respectively.
Mohd Azron added the third for Dolphins in the 41st minute beforeZulkifli scored his second goal four minutes later. Mohd Azron thenstruck again in the 54th minute. Ipoh CC replied through Abbas Nik Mat (38th) and Jasdev Singh (56th). RESULTS: UNIMAP 0 Malacca CC 3; Dolphins 5 Ipoh CC 2; Armed ForcesAirod 2 UiTM 1.

Committee to aid Beng Hai

THE Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) will set up a special committee toassist interim coach Tai Beng Hai in recommending and preparing playersfor a stronger squad for future tournaments.
The committee is expected to be formed after the MHF conducts apost-mortem of the national team's performance in the recent Asia Cup. If endorsed by MHF president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, thecommittee will likely be headed by Datuk Poon Fook Loke with Colin StaMaria, Wallace Tan and Stephen van Huizen as assistants.
MHF deputy president Nur Azmi Ahmad said the committee's main task willbe to advise Beng Hai on ways to polish the team's overall tactics andtechnical ability.
"The committee, however, will have no power over the national team.Beng Hai will still be the main decision maker and all recommendations bythe committee will have to pass through him," said Nur Azmi yesterday.
"The committee will start by studying video recordings of Malaysia'smatches in the Asia Cup before listing things the national team need toimprove."
On Beng Hai's coaching status, Nur Azmi said he will still bemaintained as the interim coach for now.
"We are happy with his work. Beng Hai has managed to bring someimprovements into the team and he is the main candidate for the full timejob. We will likely decide, probably after the Champions Challenge II inJuly (Dublin)," he said.
On Malaysia's slide from 15th to 16th in the world ranking, Azmi saidit is not a proud moment for Malaysian hockey.
"It was expected as Malaysia did not compete in last year's BeijingOlympics. The national team will have to make an impression in Dublin toensure points are earned to move up the rankings," added Azmi.
* THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) has given India until July to form a proper national body for hockey and improve security or risklosing the World Cup scheduled for next March in New Delhi.
A reliable source said it is likely that Malaysia will be offered thehosting job if India fails to meet the FIH requirements.
"It will be known in July. The National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil will be the venue for the world meet if given to Malaysia," said thesource.
The FIH has been in close contact with MHF regarding the hosting jobover the past weeks. FIH has given top marks to the facilities in BukitJalil but wants the local federation to lay new turf for both pitches atthe National Stadium.

Chance for Forces to grab top spot

ARMED Forces Airod will get a chance to top the Malaysia Hockey League(MHL) Division One table today when they square off with UiTM at the TunRazak Stadium. This weekend will also see Ipoh City Council play their first match -against Dolphins - in Lumut, and the state side's strength will be known. Current leaders Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) have a lengthy breakand only play their third match on June 14 against Malacca City Council. "I will use the break to train my forwards to be sharper in thesemi-circle and also to strengthen our penalty corner battery," said BJSScoach S. Prakash. The Division One champions will get a chance to play in the PremierLeague in October but there is a glitch in the planned fixture. Malaysia will be playing in the World Cup Qualifiers in November andwith Ernst & Young having almost the entire national team in theirstable, the Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) needs to do its homeworkfast if it wants to hold the Premier League this year. TODAY: UNIMAP v Malacca City Council (Kanger, 5pm), Dolphins v IpohCity Council (Lumut, 5pm), ATM-Airod v UiTM (Tun Razak Stadium, 5pm). SUNDAY: Air Force v Malacca City Council (Sungai Petani, 5pm), UNIMAP vUiTM (Kangar, 5pm).