Friday, July 31, 2015

Thunderbolts edge BJSS 4-3

TNB Thunderbolts edged Bukit Jalil Sports School 4-3 in Division One of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) yesterday.
  The score was tied 3-3 until the 66th minute, but Thunderbolts' last push handed them full points in the MHL curtain raiser.
  Thunderbolts got their goals off Luqman Hakim (14th), Anwar Ali (22nd), Sabri Mohamed (45th) and Haizzat Noor Azmi (67th).
  The BJSS goals were scored by Norshahrezan Jusoh (39th), Hafizhuddin Zaini (60th) and Mahathir Rathuwan (66th).
  RESULTS: Division One A: MSP-YP-SSP 2 MSNT-THT 3, MBI 4 MASUM-USM 0, TNB Thunderbolts 4 BJSS 3; Division One B: Nur Insafi-Penang Hockey 0 UiTM 0, Politeknik 0 SSTMI 1.
  TODAY: Division One B: SSTMI v ATM Airod (Taman Daya, 5pm); Women's Group A: The Cops v Penang Juniors (Bukit Jalil, 5pm); Group B: Manjung Hockey Club v MSN Kedah (Azlan Shah, 5pm).
  TOMORROW: Premier Division: KLHC v Terengganu HT (Bukit Jalil II, 5.30pm), Tenaga Nasional v Maybank (Bukit Jalil II, 8pm), Sapura v UniKL (Bukit Jalil II, 8pm).

Another Maybank tournament..

MAYBANK will organise its inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia (MCM) Golf tournament, with a purse of US3 million, in February next year.
  The event, sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, builds upon Maybank's very successful relationships with these two Tours over the last ten years through involvement in the Maybank Malaysian Open.
  Maybank's intention is to continue to have the largest number of appropriately qualified Malaysian golfers participate in its forthcoming tournament.
   With a prize money of USD3 million, the Maybank Championship Malaysia is the richest tournament among the European and Asian Tours in the region. 
   "Next year will also be a milestone year for golf as it will be featured as an event at the Olympics for the first time, and we want this tournament to be an important staging point for our professional golfers who can represent the country in Rio," said Tan Sri Megat Zaharuddin, Chairman of Maybank.
  He added, "Our considerations to have Maybank's own Championship are to ensure that our objectives in projecting our brand to our stakeholders worldwide and to support our community aspirations can be sustained in the best possible way."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

MHL: Watch out for Tenaga, UniKL youth..

THE MALAYSIA Hockey League (MHL) Division One and Women's tournament will begin today, with hope of new talent emerging from the ranks.
  The Premier Division will take off with double champions Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) playing Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) in the Charity Shield on Sunday.
  The six-team Premier Division has 24 foreign players, and established national and former national players. The only bright sparks for development here are UniKL Young Guns who parade 11 2016 Junior World Cup trainees, and Tenaga Nasional fielding 90 per cent youth.
  Malaysia Hockey Confederation (MHC) CEO K. Logan Raj said: "Event though the Premier Division looks like its heavy with foreign players, the reality is that we need to keep its prestige to attract the fans as well as give our local players a chance to learn by playing and adapting themselves in different situations." 
  The other three in the Premier Division are Sapura, Tenaga Nasional and Maybank.
  Tenaga Nasional are the only team without foreign players, and they will stick to their vision of nurturing locals from their partner school -- Sekolah Sukan Tunku Mahkota Ismail.
  UniKL are also continuing their proud tradition in nurturing juniors.
  "We had 12 UniKL players in the last Junior World Cup squad (which finished fourth in New Delhi) and this MHL team would have 11 2016 Junior World Cup trainees.
  "In the short history of our club (established 2009) we have managed to nurture many players with our junior development programmes. The MHL will see 11 Junior World Cup trainees, and hopefully it will benefit them when they play in the Junior Asia Cup (in Kuantan, which is a JWC qualifier)," said team manager Faiz Isa.
  As for the Charity Shield, KLHC will be gunning for their fourth shield, while THT their first. For the record, the Charity shield also offers three points to the winner.
  KLHC won the Shield in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The other three editions were won by Tenaga Nasional in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
  "With all our foreign players (four Argentines and a Pakistan) having arrived on Wednesday, we will surely be looking to claim the early three points," said THT coach Sarjit Singh.
  As for KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj, he prefers the underdogs tag.
  "THT would like a good start, just like any other team, but I'm happy to play the underdogs against early favourites THT, and if we can't claim not full points, at least one point would do in the opener."
  TODAY: Division One A: MSP-YP-SSP v MSNT-THT (Kuantan, 5pm), MBI v MASUM-USM (Azlan Shah, 5pm), TNB Thunderbolts v BJSS (Taman Daya II, 5pm); Division One B: Nur Insafi-Penang Hockey v UiTM (Sg Petani, 5pm), Politeknik v SSTMI (Taman Daya I).
  Women: MSNT-PHT v ATM Pernama (SHBB, 5pm).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mike: Forget about current batch...

OLYMPIAN Maninderjit Singh feels the current senior national team should be disbanded as Malaysia look forward to four major tournaments in the next five years.
  This came about after Brazil qualified for the semi-finals of the Pan American and met the criteria set by the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to play as Olympic hosts.
  Brazil upset United States 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out, after 1-1 regulation score, and dashed World League fifth reserves Malaysia's hopes of playing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.
  "With no more chance of playing in next year's Olympics, the current senior squad should be disbanded and plans be formulated leading towards qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
  "Looking at the age of this team, about eight of them would be too old to play good hockey by the next Olympics, and also, there are three more important tournaments to qualify and play in," said Maninderjit who also briefly held the post of secretary in the Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC).
  And there are three tournaments in 2018. World Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
  "A detailed plan leading to the qualifications of the World Cup and Olympics must be formulated, and targets set for the men's and women's as well as both the junior teams.
  "The MHC must also come out with a code of conduct for players, as this was one of the problems which led to a dismal outing in many previous tournaments," said Maninderjit.
  Malaysia ranked 12th in the World, last played in the Olympics in Sydney 2000, where Maninderjit was a defender.
  "The CEO (K. Logan Raj) must also monitor the progress of all four teams and call for a monthly review. The task is heavy, but  Malaysia must wake up early, or they will find themselves playing in qualifiers without any real hope of playing in the World Cup and Olympics," said Maninderjit.
  MHC have already received the World League Semi-finals report from coach Tai Beng Hai and and it will be reviewed by the coaching committee either at the end of the month or first week of August.
  And when the MHC Executive Board meets in the middle of August, they are expected to name a foreign coach, highly likely Australian Terry Walsh, to become the Technical Director and chart Malaysia's path towards the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brazil blank out Malaysian hopes...

WORLD League fifth reserves Malaysia will miss the Olympics yet again, when Brazil upset Unites States in the quarter-finals of the Pan American Cup.
  Olympic hosts Brazil were set a target of finishing top-six in the Pan Am by the International Olympic Council (IOC) and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) -- and they held US 1-1 in regulation and beat them 3-1 in shoot-out to qualify.
  After the completion of the World League Semi-finals in Argentina and Belgium, the FIH had announced Canada as first reserves, followed by Spain, Ireland, New Zealand and Malaysia.
  The reserves would qualify based on double qualifications in Continental tournaments as well as if the hosts failed to finish top six, with a higher ranked team taking the first bite.
  Eight teams have already qualified for the Olympics, and this leaves only four more and fifth reserves Malaysia are out of the running.
  Teams which had already qualified are Asian Games Champions India, Brazil, and six World League teams in Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Australia, Belgium and Britain.
  The four reserves would know their fate based on double qualifications in the Pan Am, the European Championships, and Oceania Cup.
  Even fourth reserves New Zealand are in a limbo, as their door only opens up if South Africa win the Africa Cup. This is because the South Africa Olympic Council had said that even if they win, they will not send a team to the Olympics because they did not qualify for the World League Semifinals.
  National Sports Institute director general Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz summed it up when he said: "In any sports, the athlete or team must desire victory more than those who support them. So we need to embed the culture of seizing the opportunity by being in control and dictating matters."
  Malaysia lost control when they went crashing 3-2 to India in the quarterfinals stage in Belgium.
  The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) have already started looking for a foreign coach to prepare Malaysia for the 2020 Olympics, and president Datuk Sri Subahan Kamal had said before departing for Belgium: "To be fair, we just inherited this team and have given them all the support to give their best in the World League. But in the same breath, we are already looking and working towards the 2020 Olympics."
  For the record, Malaysia last played at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

KLHC want one back...

DOUBLE bridesmaid Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) will open their Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) campaign against nemesis Terengganu Hockey Team in the Charity Shield on Aug 2.
  And KLHA coach K. Dharmaraj is looking for at least one title, but its not the Charity Shield.
  "We have yet to train as a complete team but with help from five Pakistan and a German, I believe my outfit is ready to wrestle back at least one title from THT this season," said Dharmaraj.
  The Pakistani players are midfielders Waseem Ahmad and Fareed Ahmad and forwards Muhammad Umar Bhutta and Ali Shan. German forward Philipp Stahr, who played for Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) the last two years, will turn out for KLHA this season.
  "Muhammad Rizwan Senior was also initially slated to play for us, but he picked up an injury and will be replaced by another Pakistan player soon."
  On the local front KLHA have No 1 penalty corner flicker Razie Rahim.
  "Since I have the best penalty corner flicker in the country I decided not to sign a foreign flicker as Razie did a good job last season. Only that we were unlucky against THT," said Dharmaraj.
  In last season's League title decider, KLHC beat Terengganu 2-1 at Bukit jalil, but lost the away game 1-6 in Kuala Terengganu.
  And in the Overall  title final, after a 3-3 draw, THT won the shoot-out 2-1.
  "And since Terengganu still have the best locals again in their outfit, they will start as the favourites but we will not make it easy for them," said Dharmaraj.
  The other notable locals in KLHC are goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, defender Shukri Mutalib and midfielder Nabil Fiqri.
  As for THT, they have until June 26 to sign their six foreign players, and coach Sarjit Singh is still keeping the cards close to his chest and said: "I can't release their names yet".
  THT's seven national players are goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman, defender Azlan Misron, midfielders Shahrun Nabil and Fitri Saari and forwards Faizal Saari, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin and Firhan Ashaari.

Beng Hai placed in a grey spot...

NATIONAL chief coach Tai Beng Hai is still unsure of coaching Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) side Sapura this season.
  His contract with the national team expires end of July, while the MHL starts on Aug 1, but he is unsure if he will be allowed to coach a club side, if his contract with the national team is extended.
  "I am still not sure about my contract with the national team, and if it is extended, will I be allowed to coach a club side? Many questions have to be answered before I can comment on Sapura," said Beng Hai.
  In the meantime, Sapura are being handled by former national player Nishel Kumar.
  "Sapura and two other teams had wanted to secure Korean players for the MHL, but after Korea failed to qualify for the Olympics, almost half the team have been called up for national duty, and it looks like many teams will be playing with local players in the MHL this season," said Beng Hai.
  On the pros and cons of national coaches coaching club sides, Beng Hai said: "If national coaches are not allowed to coach clubs due to clauses in their contracts, can the other coaches continue with the same system because all the national players play in the MHL.
  "There should be continuity in the coaching system, and having said that, the Premier Division is only for six weeks and personally I feel we should be allowed to handle clubs.
  "I will wait for news on my contract, and the clause in it before I can decide on coaching Sapura."
  Beng Hai coached Sapura last season, but then, he was not the national seniors coach.
  National juniors coach Arul Selvaraj does not have a similar problem, because his contract allows him to coach a club side. Arul has been coaching UniKL as well as the juniors.
  The MHL will have six teams this season, with double champions Terengganu Hockey Team the team to beat, while the other's are Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club, Sapura, Maybank, UniKL and Tenaga Nasional.
  THT coach Sarjit Singh said he is trying to secure five top foreign players: "Since the closing date to sign foreign players is July 26, I'm still negotiating with five top players and it looks promising. I can't reveal their nationality, sufficient to say they are calibre players and will help THT defend their double."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Drag-flicker to drag UniKL into semis...

UNIKL Young Guns are aiming for a semi-finals spot in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) which will begin on Aug 1.
  And to achieve their target, they are in the midst of hiring a foreign drag-flicker.
  With only six teams in the Premier Division, UniKL who finished sixth last season, will be jostling for the semis with double champions Terengganu Hockey Team, Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club, Sapura, Tenaga Nasional and Maybank.
  UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj will be banking on four national players who played in the recently concluded World League Semifinals in Antwerp.
  "All four of them (Haziq Samsul, Baljit Singh, Izwan Firdaus, Meor Azuan) had an exceptional tournament and will be out main players this season. We hope to break into the semi-finals circle, it wont be easy, but we are ready to give our best," said Arul.
  Arul, who is also Project 2016 coach, has roped in 10 from the Junior World Cup trainees to play for UniKL.
  Players like Sufi Ismat, Zul Pidaus Mizun, Maxhans Christi, Ashran Hamsani, Azwar Rahman, Najmi Farizal, Nor Azrul and Ezry Mustafa will turn out for UniKL, and will also represent Malaysia in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan in November.
  "We are also in the midst of signing up two foreign players, but I can't name them yet because negotiations are ongoing. All I can say is that one if from South Africa and the other from Germany.
  "And one of them is a penalty corener drag flicker. We won many penalty corners, even against the best teams in the MHL last season, but our conversion rate was very low and thats why we finished last.
  "Hopefully, if we manage to sign the foreign drag flicker, things will chance for the better," said Arul.
  For the record, last season saw UniKL bundled out of the quarter-finals stage for the sixth-year running.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Terengganu keep foreign signing under wraps..

MALAYSIA hockey League double champions Terengganu HT have signed the best national players in the country, and are now looking for at least four quality foreign players to defend their title starting Aug 1.
  Terengganu HT coach Sarjt Singh, however, is still keeping the foreign signing close to his heart.
  "We signed five Koreans last year but they are not available because the MHL clashes with their domestic league. I have approached players from another country and am in the midst of securing their contracts.
  "All I can say right now is that they are good players, and will be helpful in defending both our titles," said Sarjit Singh.
  Flushed with money, Sarjit has the choice of signing the best local talent as well.
  Sarjit said that although they can sign up six foreign players but
he would only register four import players to give more playing time to locals
  “We have enough quality local players and so, I want to give them more chance to play in the MHL as we cannot be relying on foreign players for ever to win the titles,” said Sarjit.
   Terengganu have seven national players - goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman, defender Azlan Misron, midfielders Shahrun Nabil and Fitri Saari and forwards Faizal Saari, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin and Firhan Ashaari.
  All except Fitri featured in the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium.
   Terengganu HC's three ex internationals are defender Engku
Malek, midfielder Jivan Mohan and forward Ismail Abu.
  Sarjit said they have also included juniors, who will be playing in
Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Sarawak next year.
  Last season, Terengganu HC lost the first leg final 2-1 to Kuala Lumpur HC, but romped home 6-1 in the return leg to lay their hands on the League title for the first time after  making their MHL debut in 2013. They also beat KLHC 2-1 in the penalty shoot-out for the Overall title, after a 3-3 regulation time draw.
  Only six teams will feature in the Premier League. The teams are double champions Terengganu HC, Tenaga Nasional, Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC), Maybank, Sapura and Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL).
  However, there is an increase in both the Division One and Women's League.
  There will be 13 teams in Division One, an increase from 11 teams in 2014, and 11 teams in the Women's League, a rise from seven teams last year.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Malaysia shoot themselves in foot... again

MALAYSIA crumbled like dominoes to hand Ireland their first ever Olympics ticket when they went down 4-1 in the Fifth-Sixth placing match in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium yesterday.
  By finishing fifth, Ireland are assured of playing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, while Malaysia will have to wait their turn and hope on luck that there are plenty of double qualifications from the Oceania Cup, Pan American, European Cup and that hosts Brazil do not finish in the top six bracket in the Pan American.
  The players only have themselves to blame as they had two golden chances to qualify but blew the quarterfinals 3-2 against India, and then went crashing against the Irish.
  Now Malaysia are fifth reserves behind Canada, Spain, Ireland and New Zealand.
  Ireland came charging in the first quarter, and scored two quick goals to place great pressure on Malaysia. Kyle Good slotted in a cheeky goal in the fifth, while a top of the semi-circle hit from Peter Caruth in the eighth minute made it 2-0.
  It was a better second quarter from Malaysia, as they won their first penalty corner immediately upon restart, but the Irish defense was stubborn.
  But luck ran out of the Malaysian bench when easy sitters were blown by Faizal Saari and Haziq Shamsul, and their poor attempts made Ireland goalkeeper David Harte look good.
  Coaches Tai Beng Hai, Nor Saiful Zaini and team manager Stephen van Huizen got their 10 minutes at the half-time break to motivate the players, as there is still time for Malaysia to pull off an upset.
  However, the Irish were better prepared with their counter attacks and made it 3-0 when Alan Sothern tappen in a cross in the 40th minute.
  After six penalty corners, finally a deflection from Faiz Jali went crashing into the net in the 55th minute.
  But the Irish were in no mood to give away their win and added their fourth in the 59th minute off Michael Darling.
  Meanwhile, Pakistan ended their campaign on another low when they were beaten 2-1 by France. Simon Martin (13th) and Hugo Genestet (30th) scored for France and Muhammad Toseeq (48th) for Pakistan.
  RESULTS: Final: Australia x Belgium x; Third-Fourth: India x Britain x; Fifth-Sixth: Malaysia 1 Ireland 4; Seventh-Eighth: Pakistan 1 France 2.

Pakistan 1 France 2

Pakistan ended their campaign on another low when they were beaten 2-1 by France in the 7th-8th classification at the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium. 
  Simon Martin (13th) and Hugo Genestet (30th) scored for France and Muhammad Toseeq (48th) for Pakistan.

Play like Tigers...

Youth show promise...

IF nothing else comes out of Malaysia's campaign in Antwerp, three young Malaysians players have matured to lead the country into Next years New Delhi Junior World Cup.
  Meor Azuan, Shahril Saabah and Haziq Shamsul have scored goals as well as showed maturity, and they are just 21 and the right age to lead the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan in November.
  From Kuantan, four teams qualify for the Junior World Cup and the prediction is Malaysia, India, Pakistan and South Korea.
  Meor, who scored a crucial goal against France to take Malaysia into the fifth-sixth bracket said: "This is my first international goal with the senior side and Oh! what a feeling is was!
  "Ive played in the last Junior World Cup, but the feeling here is so much different and challenging. And it was a big relief for me to have finally helped the team by scoring against France," said Meor.
  Meor, 21, scored the second goal to give Malaysia the lead, after his junior team-mate Haziq Shamsul scored the equalsier.
  France had taken the lead, but the two Junior World Cup players delivered for Malaysia before seniors Faizal Shaari and Razie Rahim made it look like an easy 4-1 win.
  It was Haziq's third goal of the tournament: "I'm just happy I could help Malaysia reach a playoff stage where we have a chance to the Olympics," said Haziq.
  And of Malaysia do beat Ireland today and make the trip to Rio de Janeiro next year, Meor, Haziq and Shahril Saabah will be on that plane.
  As for Ireland Malaysia have a good record, but records don't matter at this level.
  Malaysia beat Ireland in the last two encounter -- 4-2 in the Champions Challenge in Kuantan and again 4-2 in Group B in Antwerp -- and will have to bring out their best again today.
  Ireland beat Pakistan 1-0 for the first time in their history of 10 encounters, to deny them the Olympics for the first time ever.
  "We will give our very best again, and I personally have a good feeling that we can beat Ireland and finish fifth here. All of us badly want to play in the Olympics, but almost missed the boat when we lost to India. We are not about to give uo our second chance though," said lanky defender Baljit Singh who stopped France during penalty corners with his kamikaze runs.
  Malaysia might need to break a few bones, and receive a few cuts today to beat the Irish -- but it would be worth the ticket to Rio de Janeiro, and the tag 'Olympian' for the rest of their lives.
   SUNDAY: Final: Australia v Belgium (12 midnight); third-fourth: India v Britain (9.30pm); fifth-sixth: Malaysia v Ireland (7pm); seventh-eighth: Pakistan v France (5.30pm).

Poised for Olympics...

MALAYSIA are poised to play in the Olympics after a lapse of 16 years, as fifth and sixth placing in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium, are bound to qualify via double qualifications.
  To make matters easy for everybody, a simple explanation will be made here, as the scenario right now is same as the World League Semifinals hosted by Malaysia for the 2014 Hague World Cup.
  The only difference now is that Netherlands as hosts were automatic qualifiers, while Brazil as 2016 hosts must finish among the top six in the Pan American to qualify.
  Lets start with the Argentina World League Semifinals where the positions were 1 Germany, 2 Argentina, 3 Holland and 4 Canada.
  And lets assume at the ongoing Antwerp World League the end positions would be 1 Australia, 2 Belgium, 3 Britain, 4 India.
  Six teams, the top-three from both the World League Semifinals, are automatic qualifiers and that means Australia, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Argentina and Holland will make up six of the 12 Olympic teams.
  With five continental tournaments to offer Olympic tickets as well, there is bound to be double qualification.
  The Asian Games the only continental tournament which has been completed, with champions India taking up the seventh Rio de janeiro spot, and if they finish fourth in Antwerp, the first reserves would be Canada who were fourth in Argentina.
  The second reserves would be Spain (higher ranked than Malaysia and Ireland), who finished fifth in Argentina, and the third reserves would be the fifth spot in Antwerp (Malaysia/Ireland), the fourth reserve would be fourth placed New Zealand in Argentina (higher ranked than Malaysia and Ireland). And finally the fifth reserves would be the sixth spot in Antwerp which could belong to either Malaysia or Ireland.
  The World League format is a little long winded so bare with me.
  Now, with a long history and statistics to back the claim, the other four continental champions are easy to predict.
  In the Pan American it would be a toss between Argentina and Canada and this would open the first double qualification door. Likewise, Australia winning the Oceania Cup, and any of Netherlands/Germany/Belgium/Britain winning the European Championships; South Africa winning the African Cup and Brazil not making the top-six in the Pan American would open up five more tickets to the Olympics.
  As for South Africa, their Olympic Council has said that since they did not qualify for the World League Semifinals, they can't go to the Olympics even if they win the African Cup -- like they always do.
  If all the above has been confusing, and gibberish... rest assured that the fifth spot in Antwerp is 99 per cent going to Rio de Janeiro.
  And the sixth spot in Antwerp is 80 per cent heading towards the Olympics.
  So, Malaysia had better grab the 99 rather than the 80 per cent, by the horns when they meet Ireland today.

Friday, July 3, 2015

French done, now for Ireland ... again

MALAYSIA did just enough to beat France 4-1 and qualify for the fifth-sixth playoff in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium yesterday.
  It was a much-needed life-line, as now Malaysia need to beat Ireland Sunday to finish fifth and qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. For the record, Malaysia beat Ireland 4-2 in Group A.
  Tai Beng Hai's men held the edge in the first quarter, but poor finishing saw them end goalless as well as not a single penalty corner to show.
  The French kept their cool in scorching heat, and it looked like they were waiting for Malaysia to fall apart in the last two quarters like they did against Belgium, Britain and India.
  And it happened three minutes into the second quarter, immediately after Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin picked up a green card for a stupid tackle from behind, France took the lead when Jean-Laurent Kieffer deflected in.
  Malaysia, under pressure, played better when they immediately mounted an attack, and after a pin-ball moment in the semi-circle, Haziq Shamsul scored a cracker in the 19th minute.
  It was Haziq's third goal of the tournament, and he is only 21-years-old and eligible to play in the Junior Asia Cup which is a qualifier for the Junior World Cup.
  It was a hot and sunny day in Antwerp, with the Malaysian flag fluttering proudly in windy conditions, as Malaysia battled the French for a final Olympic fling.
  At the half-time break, Malaysia played much better than the French, who beat us 3-2 the last encounter at the 2014 Champions Challenge in Kuantan.
  Meor Azuan, 20-years-old, finally gave Malaysia a little breathing space when he connected home a cross in the 37th minute.
  Meor is another junior who can play in the Kuantan Junior Asia Cup, and will start training with coach Arul Selvaraj when he returns home wiser from this tournament.
  Faizal Shaari delivered the third off Malaysia's fourth penalty corner, and with 13 minutes remaining, Malaysia were ready to play Ireland in the fifth-sixth playoff.
  And in the 57th minute, Faizal was brought down by goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann and a penalty stroke was awarded. Razie stepped up and scored the fourth and it was plain sailing into the fifth-sixth.
  Meanwhile, Pakistan lost 1-0 in the other classification match, and will miss the Olympics for the first time since making their debut in 1948 in London.
  And it was a 46th minute penalty corner goal by Alan Sothern which relegated Pakistan to the 7th-8th classification match against France on Sunday.
  "This is a dark day for Pakistan," said player Rashid Mehmood as he left the pitch with his head bowed down.
  Ireland, ranked 14th, thrashed Pakistan's No 10 seeding with determination, and nothing else.
  RESULTS: Semi-finals: India x Belgium x, Australia x Briaain x; Fifth-Eighth: Malaysia x France x, Ireland 1 Pakistan 0.
  SUNDAY: Fifth-Sixth: Malaysia v Ireland (7pm, Malaysian time).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jasjit the two-goal destroyer

Beng: Well be back...

JASJIT Singh scored his first and second international drag flick goals of his career, and it had to be against Malaysia in the quarter-finals of the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium.
  Both the Jasjit penalty corner drag flicks were actually floaters, meaning with medium power. And like feathers in the wind, both the balls looked like they floated zig-zag, and in slow motion, past the postmen and also goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.
  Malaysia were, until that floating moment, leading 2-1 and about 12 minutes away from playing in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
  India are a diluted side here as both their penalty corner flickers VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh are on the crock list, but still made it to the semi-finals on sheer grit.
  Having already qualified for the Olympics by virtue of winning the Asian Games gold, India still had more fire in their belly than the Malaysian players.
  After the match, skipper Razie Rahim said they were caught off guard, as they did not know that Jasjit could also drag flick.
  Drag flick? Jasjit was just as shocked after attempts went in: “It was amazing. It was my first (and second) drag-flick goal in international hockey so it was amazing."
  The two attempts from Jasjit were so amazing, that Malaysian defenders could do nothing but watch with awe as the balls floated in.
  Manager Stephen Van Huizen explained that it was a bitter pill to swallow, but one we have to accept fast. 
  "It was a missed opportunity but we have to keep moving forward. Every team in the 5th to 8th play-off will be mentally and emotionally affected, and the team that recovers the fastest will have the added advantage", said Stephen.
  Beng Hai was more Terminator like: "We will be back back. We have played well in the tournament so far, but will need to translate our performance into results."

The many IFS that come in now...

MALAYSIA failed to take the easy path, and now the 'ifs' come into the picture as they play France in the 5th-8th placing match in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, today (Friday).
  And France won't be easy, as they took hosts Belgium on a long ride before bowing out 4-5 in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
  But if Malaysia beat France and then beat either Pakistan or Ireland, the other 5th-8th playoff teams, they can book their Rio de Janeiro flight tickets before returning home to Malaysia.
  This is because four more ifs imerge for coach Tai Beng Hai and his men, provided then win the last two matches here.
  The first if is for India to finish top-three in Belgium, and it opens the doors for first reserve Canada who finished fourth in the WL Semifinals in Argentina.
  And the second if is for Australia to beat New Zealand and become the Oceania Cup champions, and this will open the door to the fifth team in Argentina which is Spain, because Spain is ranked 11th and higher than Malaysia.
  And then the third if is for Argentina or Canada to win the Pan American and this will take the fifth team in Belgium to the Olympics, assuming Malaysia end fifth in Antwerp.
  Even the sixth spot is valuable, as Germany, Netherlands, Britain, Belgium might just end up as European champions and open another slot but it will then go to New Zealand who are the highest ranked sixth placed team in Argentina.
  And the seventh is also capable of playing in the Olympics, because hosts Brazil must finish among the top six in the Pan Amrican, if not they will not be eligible -- aqnd this is an International Hockey Federation challenge to the hosts.
  And finally, the eight spot is also an Olympic contender, because South Africa Olympic Council are not happy their hockey team did not qualify for the World League Semifinals, and told them even if they finish as champions in the African Cup, they cant go.
  There, the many ifs that are available for Malaysia to reach the Olympics, provided they don't start by blowing up against France Friday.

Malaysia shoot themselves...

MALAYSIA blew their first Olympics ticket when they lost 3-2 to India, but still have another chance to make the trip to Rio de Janeiro next year.
  They must now play for the fifth spot as which is still worth its weight in gold.
  Double qualifications in continental championships is bound to happen, and now Malaysia must give their best for the fifth spot in the remaining two matches.
  India scored in the third minute off Satbir Singh and Jasjit Singh scored two more off penalty corners in the 48th and 56th to hand India the semi-finals ticket.
  However, with India having already qualified for the Olympics by becoming the Asian Games champions, there is bound to be a double qualification and thats why the fifth spot is important now.
   The Malaysian goals were scored by Razie Rahim (15th) and Shahril Saabah (23rd).
  Meanwhile, World No 1 Australia frolicked in scorching heat to edge Ireland 4-1, while Britain beat Pakistan 2-1 in their other quarter-finals.
  Australia will play Britain in the semi-finals, but they have  virtually checked into the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as the top three are assured, while the fourth team will also qualify via double qualifications.
  Mat Gohdes (22nd) opened scoring and at the half-time interview, both Ireland and Australian coaches Craig Fulton and Graham Reid respectively said their players must be patience in the second half.
   Australia were more patience, and worked themselves up the ladder with three more beautiful goals to deny a fighting Irish their moment in the sun.
   Jamie Dwyer (45th), Simon Orchard (55th) and Blake Govers (55th) wrapped up the match for Australia, while the Irish consolation was scored by Shane O'Donoghue (57th).
  The Britain goals were scored by Chris Griffiths (fourth) and Alastair Brogdon (ninth) while the Pakistan goal was scored by Umar Bhutta (48th).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Australia checks into semis, and Olympics...

WORLD No 1 Australia frolicked in scorching heat to become the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the World League in Antwerp, when they edged Ireland 4-1 at the KHC Dragons Stadium.
  And the Aussies also virtually checked into the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, as the top three are assured, while the fourth team will also qualify via double qualifications.
  It was a windy and 32 degree Celsius day, and officially the first day of summer in Belgium, and the Irish wilted under the sun.
  However, it was not before Ireland defended gallantly and Australia could only open scoring in the 22nd minute, when Mat Gohdes beautifully trapped a penalty corner rebound, and hit a cricket shot back into the goalmouth.
  At the half-time interview, both Ireland and Australian coaches Craig Fulton and Graham Reid respectively said their players must be patience in the second half.
   Australia were more patience, and worked themselves up the ladder with three more beautiful goals to deny a fighting Irish their moment in the sun.
   Jamie Dwyer (45th), Simon Orchard (55th) and Blake Govers (55th) wrapped up the match for Australia, while the Irish consolation was scored by Shane O'Donoghue (57th).
  Dwyer, 36 years old, will be playing in his fourth Olympics, after winning gold with Australia in 2004 Athens, and two bronze medals in 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London. He has also played in four World Cups since 2002 in Kuala Lumpur.
  "We have qualified have we,? asked Dwyer who scored the second goal to easy some pressure.
  "It wasn't easy as it was about 36 degrees on the pitch, and credit to Ireland who made it tough for us. Yes, it would be my fourth Olympics. We have achieved the first stage, now to go up higher in this tournament (winning gold)," said the 5' 7" Australian terror.
   In the semi-finals, Australia will meet either Britain or Pakistan, who play in their other quarter-finals.

Its now or never...

INDIA are the only team which arrived in Antwerp having already qualified for the Olympics, by virtue of being the Asian Games champions.
  Their only interest here was to keep their world ranking intact, and also prepare for the World League Finals which they will host at the end of the year.
  However, the World League Finals is just a sparring session among all the top three teams in both the world leagues and is not a qualifier for any tournament.
  That is why coach Paul van Ass has been a smiling figure in Antwerp, with no pressure and lots of time to try our new players and new positions for some players.
  India, Playing in Group A, India could only beat France 3-2, beat Poland 3-0, drew 2-2 with Pakistan, and were whacked 6-2 by Australia.
  With two of their beat drag flickers VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh on the crock list, India were impotent in this tournament and hopefully, Malaysia take advantage of their low to qualify for the Olympics after a lapse of 16 years.
  Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Sri Subahan Kamal, here to watch the matches, said: "We have four days to rest and recover before playing India in the most crucial match of the tournament. I have told them to supplement the rest with energy boosting food as well because its now or never for them to realise their Olympic dream."