Monday, November 9, 2009

Malaysian women deserve more

The Malaysian National Women Hockey Team poses for a group shot at the Grand Kazan Hotel after beating host Russia, 2-1 to secure 7th place in the first FIH Womens Champions Challenge II held in the Russian city of Kazan from 21 to 27 June 2009. Malaysia earlier managed to hold the higher-ranked Russians 2-2 during the group match. The Indian team was crowned champions after besting Belgium 6-3 in the Finals.


IF THE Malaysian men’s hockey team need inspiration to beat the Kiwis in the World Cup Qualifier today (10-11/-9), they need not look further than their women counterpart.
And in Asia, our boys can draw inspiration from Pakistan and Japan, who beat the odds to qualify for the Lille World Cup Qualifier finals by showing class over European sides.
Women’s hockey in Malaysia is on the rise, and if the men keep their consistency in failing to reach targets, more money must be given to the ladies as they have shown guts and determination in the just concluded Asia Cup in Bangkok.
The target before they left was fifth, and they nailed it with an extra bonus of only losing one match against Beijing Olympics silver medallists China in the six matches. China then went on to beat India 5-3 in the final.
In fact, they even surprised finalists India by holding them to a 1-1 draw. China and India qualified for the 2011 World Cup Ponzan, Poland, in February 2011.
South Korea, Japan and Malaysia will now play in a three qualifiers next April, where only the winners advance to Poznan.
The women started their run-up to Bangkok with a golden finish in the Asia Indoor Hockey championship, and they have also qualified for the New Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Since hockey’s inception in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Com monwealth Games, the ladies have yet to miss an edition as they always qualify on merit, but have yet to win a medal.
The men however, won silver in the KL Games, but did not qualify for the next Games in Manchester, and played in the 2006 Melbourne Games on invitation but went on to win bronze.
Coached by Yahya Atan, the women need to be exposed further by playing in more international friendlies before they play in the World Cup Qualifier, and China and India should be able to provide fantastic sparring partners.
There is also a need to send our best women to play in European leagues, and this is one area the energetic and enthusiastic officials of the Malaysian Women’s Hockey Federation should look into.
They were branded as no hopers by some when they left for Bangkok, but they achieved their target of playing in the Qualifier and must now be rewarded with more exposure.
Pakistan, who have never failed to appear in the World Cup since its inception in 1971, thrashed all their opponents in the Lille Qualifier except for the defeat to Poland, but that was after they qualified for the final and fielded reserves.
Asian teams Pakistan and Japan then played in a classy final, and the Japanese rebounded from the 6-1 loss to Pakistan in the pool match, to be edged out of the World Cup on a laudable 3-1 score.
The ladies did it, and two Asian teams beat the odds to reach the final, now it is the turn of the Malaysian men to beat New Zealand, China and then Scotland to prove that they are also worth the millions spent, and being spent right now.
ASIA CUP: Malaysia 3 Thailand 0, Malaysia 0 China 4, Malaysia 4 Singapore 0, Malaysia 1 India 1, Malaysia 5 Hong Kong 0, Malaysia 2 Kazakhstan 1.
FINAL STANDINGS: 1 China, 2 India, 3 South Korea, 4 Japan, 5 Malaysia, 6 Kazakhstan, 7 Hong Kong, 8 Singapore, 9 Taiwan, 10 Thailand, 11 Sri Lanka.

Kumar holds the final key

S. Kumar in action against Wales. Malaysia won 2-1. FIH pic

MALAYSIAN goalkeeper S. Kumar could play a key role in stopping an impressive New Zealand in the World Cup Qualifier in Invercargill.
Kumar was beaten twice by Austria and once by Wales players, but he is more confident against New Zealand penalty corner flickers, and is game to shut them out.
“Bring them on, Hayden Shaw and Andy Hayward (drag flickers) do not scare me. In fact, their flicks are quite predictable, and I was only beaten once by Shaw in the Five- Test series in August,” said Kumar.
In the Five Test Malaysia lost 3-0 twice, lost 2-1, drew 1-1 and 2-1.
The gap then was not big then, but the Malaysian team has been anything but predictable in the Qualifier, and the forwards have muffed more than 10 clear chances in the two matches, and scored a total of four goals only.
Compare that to New Zealand’s 14 goals in two matches, and Malaysia look to be heading for another defeat.
“We could have afforded a defeat to New Zealand to morrow (today) if we had beaten Austria, but the drawn (2-2) match has placed us in a very tight spot. Now, we will have to beat the Kiwis at any cost,” said Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai.
Shaw was not fielded in the 6-2 win against Wales and the 8-0 drubbing of Scotland as he has been down with fever, but is likely to feature against Malaysia today.
However, in his absence, 18-year-old Nick Wilson has filled the void and is tournament top scorer with six goals.
“I have my plans against New Zealand, and if all works well, we will then have two relatively easier matches against China and Scotland,” said Beng Hai.
And his views on China: “It is not the same team which beat us in Asia Cup (Malaysia were held 3-3, and lost 6-7 in the penalty shoot-out in the third-fourth placing match).
“China is fielding six new players and I believe we will beat them.”
Even if Malaysia lost to the Kiwis, there is the China-New Zealand match which could be a huge factor to help Malaysia qualify for the final.
TODAY (Malaysian Time): Austria v Scotland (9am), Wales v China (11am), New Zealand v Malaysia (1pm).
TOMORROW: Malaysia v Scotland (9am), Austria v Wales (11am), China v New Zealand (1pm).

China's golden dolls

India's Subhadra Pradhan, 23, received Best Player of the 7th Women's Asia Cup award from Asian Hockey federation president Sultan Azlan Shah. Pic:

CHINA regained the Asia Cup by defeating India 5-3 in the final in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday after a gap of two decades. China won last in 1989 in Hong Kong. Both China and India are directly qualified for the BDO FIH World Cup 2010.

By S. Thyagarajan

The 5-3 victory over India in the final was carved out by the Chinese with a proficient display that underscored the efficacy of speed, system and shooting.
True, India surged into the lead within minutes when Surinder Kaur tapped in a forward pass by Mamta Kharb. But thereafter, China wrested the initiative and commanded everything with palpable verve.
Fu Rong netted the equalizer taking a cross from the hard working Song Ling, and the lead came from an impeccable penalty corner by Ma Yibo. Close on half-time Zhang Yu slotted the third goal which almost put the issue beyond doubt.
The start of the final was delayed by 45 minutes owing to a power failure and the half-time was extended to 20 minutes because of heavy rain.
After a 30 minute break the contest resumed with India displaying going into a full scale attack. Three penalty corners surfaced and Mamta Kharb netted from a melee. But China hit back immediately with De Jiao Jiao followed by a penalty corner by Ma Yibo.
India was relentless and struck again, this time Dipika Thakur producing a stunner of a drive from the top of the circle.
Korea won the bronze medal in a pulsating contest against Japan by four goals to three.
The match winner, a flawless penalty corner by Soo Kyung Lee, in the 67th minute, sealed the result in favour of Korea.
The teams were 3-3 at half-time after a fiercely fought first half-half.
Stunned by the first minute strike by Rika Komazawa, the Koreans fought back gallantly to forge ahead midway through.
Hye Lyong Lee leveled in the 10th minute and Soo Kyung Lee hit in a penalty corner to enlarge the lead, but Mie Nakashima slipped in a penalty corner to restore parity.
It was Korea again that went ahead when Bomi Kim deflected in a penalty corner drive by Eun Sil Kim.
Japan, which came into the competition as the defending champion, surged back into the fight when a brilliant bout of passing between Iwao Sachmi and Misaki Ozawa culminated in the latter scoring.
Korea had six penalty corners –eight in the match including the two in the second, one of which contributed to the match winner-in the first half against the two by Japan, which obtained four. The results:
India’s defender Subadra Pradhan was declared the player of the tournament.
Sultan Azlan Shah, President, Asian Hockey Federation and FIH Executive Board Member, presented the trophy and the gold medals to China.

Results Women’s Asia Cup:

China – India 5:3 (3:1)
Bronze medal match:
Korea – Japan 4:3 (3:3)
Classification 5-6:
Malaysia – Kazakhstan 2:1 (1:1)
Classification 7-8:
Hong Kong – Singapore 2:0 (1:0)
Classification 9-10:
Taipei – Thailand 2:1 (1:0)

Final ranking:
1. China (qualified for BDO FIH World Cup 2010)
2. India (qualified for BDO FIH World Cup 2010)
3. Korea (qualified for World Cup Qualification Tournament)
4. Japan (qualified for World Cup Qualification Tournament)
5. Malaysia (qualified for World Cup Qualification Tournament)
6. Kazakhstan
7. Hong Kong
8. Singapore
9. Taipei
10. Thailand
11. Sri Lanka

Pakistan qualify for New Delhi

Final Standings
1. Pakistan qualify for the 2010 World Cup in Delhi
2. Japan
3. Poland
4. France
5. Russia
6. Italy

The FIH World Cup Qualifier in Lille, France, ended with the qualification of Pakistan for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 after a hard fought Final against Japan (3-1). Poland edged host France for 3rd place (5-4) and Russia finished 5th in front of Italy (2-0).

Game 18 – 1st-2nd – Pakistan v. Japan: 3-1 (half-time: 2-1)

The Final of this first World Cup Qualifier started under a pleasant (if not very warm…) sun and in front of a large attendance, including a fair number of noisy flag waving Pakistani fans. Pakistan pushed immediately and created some chances, but Katsuya TAKASE in the Japanese goal thwarted their first attempts. Japan surprised them with one of their trademark counter-attacks and earned a penalty-corner, where they tried an elaborate combination that ended just inches wide.

After this wild start, Pakistan settled down and tried to take control of play, with Waseem AHMED very present in midfield. They opened the scoring by Abdul Haseem KHAN in the 12th minute after a decisive run by Shakeel ABBASI over 50 meters amongst the whole Japanese defense. They maintained their pressure, but Japan did not give up any inch and it took a penalty-corner in the 24th minute by the always reliable Sohail ABBAS to increase their lead.

Japan did not give up though, and reduced the gap by a clever penalty-corner by their captain Kazuhiro TSUBOUCHI, flicking low out of reach of Salman AKBAR in the Pakistani goal. This upset Pakistan and they pushed hard in the final minutes of the period, overwhelming the Japanese defense, but they could not score and half-time was reached with a single-goal lead for the favorites.

Pakistan earned a penalty-stroke early in second period after a defender stopped illegally a penalty-corner but, incredibly, Shakeel ABBASI put it wide and Japan nearly tied the game on their immediate counter-attack! The Japanese players were closing down very quickly on the Pakistani attackers, preventing them from developing their fast game, but they could not do anything on another stunning Sohail ABBAS penalty-corner that shaved the crossbar.

Even with a more comfortable two-goal cushion, Pakistan were not out of the wood yet. They had to survive two penalty-corners and a flurry of attacks by Japanese players who didn’t seem to feel any fatigue despite their incessant high speed runs. In the final ten minutes, play was nearly exclusively in the defensive zone of Pakistan, and the Pakistani players were relieved to hear the final buzzer. They certainly deserved their win, and the qualification for the 2010 World Cup, but Japan were very worthy opponents in a spectacular Final.

Pakistan joins the nine teams already qualified for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 (Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, South Africa and Spain). Two more spots are available and will go to the winner of the second World Cup Qualifier, which has just started in Invercargill, New Zealand, and the third one, which starts next week in Quilmes, Argentina.

FIH World Cup Qualifier, Men – Lille, France
Results Day 6: Sunday 8 November 2009

5th-6th – Russia v. Italy 2:0 (2:0)
RUS 12mn Alexandre PLATONOV (FG) 1:0
RUS 19mn Alexander ZHIRKOV (FG) 2:0

3rd-4th – Poland v. France 5:4 (1:3)
FRA 5mn Martin GENESTET (FG) 0:1
POL 16mn Maciej JANISZEWSKI (FG) 1:1
FRA 29mn Max LANOS (FG) 1:2
FRA 30mn Tom GENESTET (FG) 1:3
POL 38mn Dariusz RACHWALSKI (FG) 2:3
POL 40mn Artur MIKUĊA (FG) 3:3
FRA 41mn Olivier SANCHEZ (FG) 3:4
POL 57mn Karol SZYPLIK (PC) 4:4
POL 59mn Dariusz RACHWALSKI (PC) 5:4

1st-2nd – Pakistan v. Japan 3:1 (2:1)
PAK 12mn Abdul Haseem KHAN (FG) 1:0
PAK 24mn Sohail ABBAS (PC) 2:0
JPN 27mn Kazuhiro TSUBOUCHI (PC) 2:1
PAK 41mn Sohail ABBAS (PC) 3:1