Thursday, June 25, 2015

Malaysia destroy Ireland 4-2

MALAYSIA played like Tigers to tame Ireland 4-2 and qualify for the quarter-finals of the World League Semi-finals in Antwerp, Belgium yesterday.
  Only four out of the five teams in each group advance to the knock-out stage, and it looks like in Group B Ireland and China will battle for the fourth spot.
  With six points from two matches, Malaysia have a good chance to finish either second or third in Group B, which will surely avoid world No 1 Australia in the quarter-finals.
  With matches against Belgium today and Britain Sunday, Malaysia can afford to blow both and still finish third as China have lost two matches to date.
  Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin played his 100th cap today, and he was as impressive as ever.
   The first quarter belonged to Malaysia as they pressed hard and scored off their first penalty corner. Razie Rahaim's rebound saw Izwan Firdaus score a rebound goal in the 12th minute.
  However, two minutes later Ireland equalised with a cheeky goal from Peter Caruth who touched an airborne ball to deflect it past goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.
  Ireland started the second quarter by losing their video referral, when they protested Malaysia's second penalty corner. And this time Razie made sure with a push which went past goalkeeper Harte David in the 16th minute.
  The low push was used as Harte is a 6' 5" giant who is difficult to beat with high flicks.
  Ireland used the same low trick to equalise off their first penalty corner in the 18th minute when Shane O'Donoghue grounder beat Roslan.
  Deadlocked at 2-2 Malaysia went into the half-time dressing room in a fiery mood.
  And the dressing room pep-talk saw results as Malaysia played with much more determination and in the 38th minute, re-took the lead at 3-2.
  This time Faizal Saari took the penalty corner and when the ball rebounded off goalkeeper Harte, Shukri Mutalib sent it crashing in with a diving attempt.
  Malaysia could have taken a comfortable lead but with seven minutes remaining on the clock Razie Rahim missed a penalty stroke.
  But Izwan Firdaus, nick named Pak Din, makes sure Malaysia win the match 4-2 with a 65th minute field goal -- his second of the match.
  Meanwhile, Malaysia will play Belgim today (Friday) with one player in mind --- Tom Boon.
   The Belgian destroyed Malaysia in the Netherlands World Cup by scoring four goals in their 6-2 win. Razie Rahim scored both of Malaysia's goals off penalty corner attempt and he will also be on the Belgian mind and game plan to stop Malaysia.
   Malaysia took the lead and were at one stage at 2-2 but Boon  killed the game.
   In this tournament Belgium drew 2-2with Britain and scalped China 6-0 but Boon has yet to get into the scoring act.
    Speaking after the  China match, Red Lions striker Tom Boon said: "We came good in the end and we had some good periods, but we cannot forget that we also had some bad spells too. We want to win every game so now we will look forward to our next match against Malaysia. All of the teams from Asia are getting better and we cannot underestimate any of them. We need to fight as hard as we can, and if we do that we will have a good chance to win.”

Faiz the Malaysian giant...

IF pint sized Faiz Helmi Jali, 23, wears a school uniform and walks into any school in Malaysia, nobody would give him a second look.
  He could even sit in a Form Two class, and heads would not turn nor would anybody bat an eye.
  Standing at 5' 1" and weighing 50kgs, he does not fit the bill for a successful hockey player. But in reality he has a bigger heart than many of his team-mates, and when push comes to shove, Faiz has fought back gallantly with those who are double his height.
  He is one of the heroes of the 2013 Junior World Cup squad which finished fourth in New Delhi. And having played in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and then the senior World Cup at the Netherlands at such a young age -- Faiz wants the Olympics ticket by the time he is 24 and not a day older.
  "Biasa la bang (It's normal brother) he started in Bahasa and then changed to English.. Every player wants to be at the Olympics which I heard is really a special and magical place to be.
  "I have played in the Junior World Cup, the Commonwealth, and the senior World Cup and nothing is going to stop me from helping Malaysia qualify for the Brazil Olympics," said Faiz.
  It is not mere talk from a small boy, as Faiz put up a super front in the World League Semi-finals in Johor Baru to help Malaysia finish fifth and qualify for the World Cup at the Netherlands.
  This five-footer would be up against Irish giants, all six footers, with their goalkeeper David Harte standing at 6' 5" (without padding and shoes) but don't bet against Faiz today. 

Beat Ireland or start packing...

THREE-TIME Olympian Nor Saiful Zaini was shivering on the stands while watching Britain and Ireland play in the World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium.
  The match ended in a 2-2 draw, and Nor Saiful made a chilling observation: "It not going to be easy against Ireland, they have a hard-running side which attacks from every part of the field and they just keep coming at you, no matter what."
  And his assessment: "Don't get into the trap of playing their style of hockey, its the only way for Malaysia to beat the Irish."
  In layman's term, Malaysia must play their own style -- which is attacking without fear like they did in the World League Round Two in Singapore where they grabbed the gold by beating Poland 8-0 in the final.
   Today is reckoning day for Malaysia as a win against Ireland will place them in good footing to challenge for an Olympics spot, but if they lose, the door will be half shut.
  Rest assured, as an experienced player and now assistant coach to Tai Beng Hai, Nor Saiful would have parted his observation to the Malaysian players.
  Malaysia, who beat China 31st ranked China 3-2, were guilty of defending after taking a 2-0 lead and that was exactly what Britain did wrong against Ireland.
  After grabbing an easy looking 2-0 lead the British slowed down, and in came a charging Irish squad to level the score and steal a point even though they are ranked 14th and Britain fifth.
  Beng Hai was more prepared as he knows the Irish style well: "That's what they are good at. They just keep coming and coming in waves no matter what. Its a very stubborn team and we can't take it easy even for a minute until the final hooter is blown."
  Ireland goalkeeper David Harte 6' 5", and a giant added by padding, played in the last match against Malaysia -- where they lost 2-4.
  "I was there in Kuantan (Champions Challege) and it was 2-2 until the last 10 minutes and a Malaysian blitz saw us loose the bronze.
  "This is an experienced Malaysian side, but now, both teams are fighting for an Olympic berth, and it not going to be east for both sides."
  The giant Harte, covering half the goalmouth when arms a stretched, will be tough to beat with direct penalty corner flicks. And this is where Beng Hai must use the many set-pieces to get the goals.
  Harte knows our No 1 flicker Razie Rahim very well , as he was also there to deny Malaysia a berth in the final of the Dublin Olympic Qualifier. Then, Malaysia drew 1-1 with Ireland in the semi-finals, and the Irish in turn were beaten by a nine-second from regulation goal by South Korea in the final for the sole London Olympic ticket.

The French connection

By Jugjet Singh


THE French women's hockey team are not Olympic contenders in Belgium, but their determination to play hockey is a story by itself.
  They were one of the teams, including Malaysia, who received an invitation to replace Azerbaijan who disappeared in transit in Turkey.
  And while Malaysia, Belarus and Chile turned it down due to distance and logistics -- the French women packed their bags in haste, put on a thin layer of make-up and dashed from their base in Lille to arrive in Antwerp still looking fresh and pretty in one hour and 30 minutes.
  That was the easiest part of their journey to play the game they love most, but have yet to master.
  Upon arrival, the French were mauled 11-0 by the Netherlands, and the very next day, they were hit 6-1 by Japan.
  This scribe then met their coach Steven Colledge, an Australian, by chance and after a few drinks he opened up.
  Colledge then told of how much they had to sacrifice when the International Hockey Federation (FIH) offered them the Azerbaijan slot.
  First, they were lucky because three quarter of the team are based in Lille, which is just a short drive from Antwerp, and all the coach needed to do was make a few calls and the ladies were at his doorstep.
  But they were not ready to face the Netherlands and went crashing. And after the Dutch match, six of the French ladies packed a smaller bag and rushed back to Lille, to sit for examinations, and go to work.
  They six rushed back just in time for the the Japan match, after which it was off to Lille again for school and work.
  They had a two day break where only about 10 players stayed back to train, while the rest did their schools and work run commute.
  Colledge lamented that while women's hockey is not big in France, his ladies have a big heart and took the missing Azerbaijan opportunity without hesitating because opportunities to play against the higher ranked teams are rare for them.
  Malaysia were just too far away to take up the FIH offer, but if they had scrambled the Sea Games team and asked the FIH to push back some of their matches, the experience would have been invaluable as Malaysia did play in the World League Round Two -- to try and enter the WL Semifinals but failed.
  The French boys were not as fortunate though.
  France beat Malaysia on penalty strokes in the semi-finals of the Junior World Cup in New Delhi, but the silver medallists will not be in next year's edition in New Delhi again.
  The reason -- they were relegated to the second rung of the European Championships and will not get a chance to compete in the Junior World Cup qualifier which is only for teams in the first rung of the European Championships.
  For Malaysian Juniors, four slots will be made available for New Delhi in the Junior Asia Cup in Kuantan in November -- and for sure coach Arul Selvaraj's boys will be among the semi-finalists together with India, Pakistan and South Korea/Japan.
  A missed opportunity for the Malaysian women, but invaluable experience for the French ladies.