Monday, April 30, 2012

South Africa and Japan on a roll..

China vs. South Africa in Day 3 action at the men's Olympic Qualifier (Photo: Stanislas Brochier)

China 2, South Africa 5

South Africa won the battle of the unbeatens in the first major meeting of this Olympic Qualifier, topping China in a solid 5-2 victory. The win puts South Africa and Japan atop of the standings, each with three wins in the three games. The two teams will meet when the men’s tournament resumes on Wednesday.
    The teams started tentatively, but soon enough South Africa found its scoring touch thanks to the fancy flicking of Justin Reid-Ross who fired the 1-0 goal into the upper left corner to break the scoring silence. A defensive lapse by China led to the 2-0 goal for South Africa when they found themselves on a breakaway. The initial shot was stopped, but Ian Haley put in the second effort.
   Lloyd Norris Jones gave South Africa a convincing 3-0 lead before the break with a picture-perfect diving deflection, China had to be disappointed with the first half performance which saw a few miscues on key opportunities and only a handful of meaningful scoring chances.
   Jonathan Robinson was the man of the second half for South Africa. He scored two goals in a five-minute span to give the South Africans ample breathing room. Robinson’s first marker lifted the lead to 4-0 and his second was a answer to China’s Yubo Na’s goal at the other end and was key to keeping the momentum on the South African side.
   China had a few chances late in the half, but the four-goal difference was simply too much to overcome with the clock ticking as top-seeded South Africa won its first major test of the event against third-seeded China.
   South Africa has another major test on Wednesday when they take on unbeaten Japan. It will be a meeting of the two top seeds in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the round robin. China will look to regroup against the Czech Republic on Wednesday before they face Japan on Friday.

Brazil 0, Japan 11

Japan stayed undefeated at the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after a convincing 11-0 victory against Brazil. Japan is 3-0 in three games, but the hosts and second-seeded team at this event still have their two biggest games to play in the last two days of the round robin with South Africa and China coming up.
   Japan wasted no time getting started, opening about 20 seconds into action on its first trip down field. The 1-0 lead stood for about seven minutes until Japan put in three goals in less than two minutes, leaving the Brazilians stunned by the rapid fire onslaught. Hiroki Sakamoto scored once in the flurry and Kenta Tanaka struck twice.
   From there, Japan continued to roll, putting in two more penalty corner goals to close the first half with a 6-‘ lead. The second half was much of the same as Brazil could not keep pace with the quicker, more skilled Japan side. Japan’s scoring slowed a bit in the half, but the still added five goals in the half to bring the final to 11-0.
   Kenta Tanaka paced all scorers with three goals in the win while Katsuyoshi Nagasawa and Hiroki Sakamoto scored two goals each.
Austria 2, Czech Republic 1

Austria earned its first win at the Men’s Olympic Qualification Tournament after hanging on for a 2-1 win against the Czech Republic. Michael Korper was the difference for the Austrians, scoring both goals in the victory.
   The loss leaves the Czechs still looking for their first win of the event as they are winless in their first three outings with China and Brazil left to meet in the round robin phase.
   The two teams are the most physical among the field and in the first half they lived up to expectations as the intensity was high and the tempers were right on the edge. Korper struck midway through the half with a well-executed penalty corner to give the Austrians the early lead. But the Czechs quickly responded with a field goal when Ondrej Vudmaska deflected a shot into the net.
   Korper’s easy conversion on a penalty stroke restored the Austrian lead. Little did either team know that the 2-1 advantage would last through the end of the game as the intensity and scoring chances visibly ebbed in a tepid second half.
    Austria will look to continue its winning ways against last-seeded Brazil on Wednesday. The Czechs have China next on the agenda.

Dharmaraj has a dream...

K. DHARMARAJ was never one to hide his thoughts, be it during his playing days or coaching the Project 2013 team since 2009.
   He has set his mind on not only qualifying for the Junior World Cup next year in New Delhi, but also win Malaysia’s first Junior Asia Cup gold in Malacca from May 3-13.
   “Every time I was quoted in print and television that I want not only the World Cup spot, but also the gold medal in Malacca, I receive many calls and SMS’ cautioning me not to be overconfident.
    “My reply to them is -- until when are we going to have a low key attitude going into a tournament. What is the message that we are sending the players if the coaching staff themselves are afraid to set a target higher than that of the parent body?” questioned Dharmaraj.
    The Malaysian hockey Confederation (MHF) have set a target of playing in the final, but Dharmaraj is bent on winning the gold as he believes his players are capable of it.
   “I have won many local tournaments both as a player and coach. But winning the Sultan of Johor Cup was the best moment of my life.
    “To be honest I never thought that we would be champs in Johor. But having been at the helm as coach since 2009, I have had a dream to win the Asian level tournament.
    “This tournament was why the Project 2013 team, was formed and with playing at home providing us with the perfect opportunity to make good the dream,” said Dharmaraj.
     And he has a large coaching and support staff to achieve the dream of being champions, and denying India their hat-trick of titles.
     “I have two video analyst, one masseur, one medical assistant, one nutritionist, one psychologist and one bio mechanic.
   “My coaching team consists of K. Gobinathan, Nor Azlan Bakar and M. Nadarajan as goalkeeper coach. All were there in Johor as well .
   “To me, I am strong believer of sharing responsibilities and using the best to master the best. All this would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from the MHC, NSI (National Sports Institute) and NSC (National Sports Council),” said Dharmaraj.
     The Junior Asia Cup only offers two tickets to the World Cup, while India are automatic qualifiers.
    In Group A are Malaysia, South Korea, Iran and Japan, while in Group B are India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China.
    And what is his biggest fear: “I fear my own team’s performance than any of the other team. One off day could spell trouble for us.
    “Pakistan have included five senior players in their squad. And I reckon India and Korea too are strong in their own way as they are Olympic playing nations.
    “but we have trained long and hard and are well prepared for this moment. I will play attacking hockey all the way, and I believe the results will be in our favour,” said Dharmaraj.