Monday, August 29, 2011

And the European champions are...

BY FIH (Cloudy journalism, one has to read until the last pare to know the final score)

The men's GANT EuroHockey Championship final between Germany and the Netherlands was a fitting end to a great tournament: skillful, exciting, a fantastic showcase for the sport.
In a sold out 10.000 seater stadium full of enthusiastic supporters of the two best European teams, tension was high from the starting whistle, and there was barely a minute on the clock when Philipp Zeller tipped in a ball across from Mo Fürste.
Shocked into action, the Dutch attacked to pull even, and a fast and even game developed. With extraordinary skills on both sides, both teams had a number of opportunities, and the Netherlands were more effective, pulling level through Roderick Weusthof who beat German goalkeeper Max Weinhold with a superb reverse stick shot. The game went into frantic end-to-end play, with no advantages on either side, and stayed even until the 32nd minute, when a penalty corner for Germany yielded a penalty stroke that Mo Fürste converted without hesitation to give Germany the 2-1 halftime lead.
In the second half, both sides tried to control play better, but Florian Fuchs managed to get Germany ahead again with a great finishing touch to a ball from Thilo Stralkowski for the 3-1. The Netherlands were trying hard to make up some ground, but the German defense stood firm, and there was no passing their ranks, until the Dutch succeeded in winning a penalty corner, which the ever reliable Taeke Taekema converted with another cracking flick. At 2-3 only one goal behind again, the Dutch stepped their game up and attacked relentlessly, but could not beat the wall of the German defense. The Germans were still able to also create danger on fast breaks, and in the 68th minute, Oli Korn deflected a pass across into the goal for the 4-2 lead, and effectively, the victory for Germany. With the final whistle, the new European Champions were crowned: Germany men won their first European title since 2003.
In the other encounters, England defeated Belgium by Golden Goal to claim Bronze, and in the 5-8 bracket, Ireland wrestled down Spain to take 5th, and Russia overwhelmed France for 7th place. Individual awards went to Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands as the event's topscorer, and Mo Fürste of Germany as Most Valuable Player.
Final Ranking: 1 Germany (European Champions); 2 Netherlands; 3 England; 4 Belgium; 5 France; 6 Spain; 7 Russia (Relegation for 2013); 8 France (Relegation for 2013).

Amir & Fitri still in a daze

PROJECT 2013 players Fitri Saari, 18, and Amir Farid, 20, were shell shocked when they were named to make their senior debut in the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in Ordos, China on Sept 3-11.
Both of them had only joined the senior side for a weeks training, and played a few minutes against Japan in the Five- Series friendlies but impressed coach Tai Beng Hai enough to seal their spots.
“I’m still in a daze as I did not expect to be selected for the Asian Champions Trophy after just one week with the seniors,” was the frank assessment from Fitri, whose brother Faizal Saari is also with the national seniors.
Amir was also equally shocked, in a pleasant way: “I too felt that I did not have any chance of playing in Ordos, but now that I have been selected, I will naturally give my best.”
Both the players, together with Faizal, will play in the Junior World Cup Qualifier in Malacca next May.
And when asked how they felt upstaging more experienced players to stake a claim in the senior squad, Amir said: “I am honoured to be selected over some seasoned players and I feel this chance to play with the best teams in Asia should give us an added advantage when we play in the Junior World Cup Qualifier.”
In Ordos, Malaysia are ranked second behind Asian Games champions Pakistan. However, the challenge to play in the final is expected to come from South Korea.
With former skipper Azlan Misron was left out due to injury, while forward Hafifi Hafiz requested not to be included because of personal reasons and Kelvinder Singh left behind to continue his fitness programme, it will be uphill all the way in Ordos.
The tournament does not offer any ranking points and this initiative by Asian Hockey Federation is some 20 years too late as Europe have progressed tremendously by playing regularly among themselves.
Malaysia are building a team for the Champions Challenge I in South Africa on Nov 26-Dec 4 which provided valuable ranking points. The national players need to finish top-five among eight teams to move up from their present 15th to 12th in the world.
For the Champions Challenge I, Malaysia are in Group B with Canada, Argentina and Japan. Group A comprises New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium and Poland.
ASIAN CHAMPIONS TROPHY: Sept 3: Pakistan v Malaysia; Sept 4: South Korea v Malaysia; Sept 6: China v Malaysia; Sept 7: Malaysia v India; Sept 9: Malaysia v Japan.