Friday, June 9, 2017

Dharmaraj gets the right pill..

LONE RANGER WITH TONTO... Dharmaraj (right) with manager Lailin Abu Hassan at a Press Conference Friday to name his World League Semifinals players. 

WOMEN'S coach K. Dharmaraj was worried sick over his team's chances in the World League Semifinals in Brussels, but his charges' confidence was just the pill that he needed.
  Malaysia at 22 and the lowest ranked team in Brussels, have been written off by all and sundry -- except for the coaching set-up and the players themselves.
  "For the last four days, I have been worried sick on how to plan and win at least one match in our group to qualify for the quarter-finals in Belgium which will assure us a place in next year's World Cup.
  "But the jitters was calmed when my players told me "don't worry coach, we will qualify for the World Cup," said Dharmaraj after naming the final 18 who will play in the WL Semifinals from June 21 to July 2.
  Malaysia are in Group B with Australia (No 4), New Zealand (5), Belgium (14) and Spain (10).
  They must finish top-four in the group stages to qualify for the World Cup.
  In Group A are Netherlands (1), China (8), South Korea (9), Italy (16) and Scotland (17).
  "Their soothing words, determination and confidence in training is what I needed to plan ahead for at least one win in the group. I acknowledge, Australia and New Zealand are many rungs above my girls, but I believe we have enough talent to beat either Spain or Belgium," said Dharmaraj.
  With the World Cup showcasing 16 teams next year in London, those which finish top-eight in the World League Semifinals in Brussels and South Africa are almost sure bets to qualify.
  "We need to finish fourth in Group B, and even though it looks easy, it will not be so, as all the other teams have seen action at high levels while my players have qualified for the first time to play in the WL Semifinals," said Dharmaraj.
   Yesterday, Dharmaraj named his final 18 for Brussels with three changes from the team which won silver in the World League Round Two in Kuala Lumpur.
 Back then, they upset 16th ranked Italy to qualify for their first World League Semifinals.
  After Round Two Siti Shahidah Saad called it quits to concentrate on her family, and it threw a spanner in Dharmaraj's engine room.
  And after much deliberation, he selected Nur Syafiqah Zain to take over Siti's defenders job.
  Nur Syafiqah, at 22, will be making her debut with the Malaysian team. The other two replacement for injured players are Norbaini Hashim and Nur Zafirah Aziz.
  MALAYSIA -- Juliani Din, Siti Noor Amarina (C), Raja Norsharina,  Nor Hasliza, Fatin Shafika, Nurul Nabihah, Mas Huzaimah (Gk), Norazlin Sumantri, Siti Rahmah, Wan Norfaiezah Saiuti, Hanis Nadiah Onn, Farah Ayuni (Gk), Fazilla Sylverster Silin, Nuraini Rashid, Nurbaini Hashim, 
Nur Syafiqah Zain, Nuraslinda Said, Nur Zafirah Aziz.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

GB to England, six new players...

GREAT Britain will not only play under England's flag, but also has included six new players for the World League Semifinals in London on June 15-25.
   Both teams last played in the Azlan Shah Cup, and back then, Great Britain beat Malaysia 1-0 off a penalty stroke scored by Scotsman Alan Forsyth.
  Coach Stephen van Huizen's men play them second in the World League which is a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in India.
  Forsyth will be in London, but playing for Scotland in Group B, while Welsh player Daniel Kyriakides will be out as England drop their Great title.
  England are in Group B with Malaysia, Argentina, South Korea and China. 
   "When we played Britain in the Azlan Shah Cup, we had the home advantage and solid crowd support. We will be playing at their den in London, and with six changes in the squad, I expect them to be a totally different side," said van Huizen.
  But the former Olympian is not about to give up three points to England over a cup of Twinings tea.
  "We were unlucky not to beat Britain in Ipoh as we had more chances than them, and even though the venue will be different, I believe my players will be better prepared this time around," said van Huizen.
  The major change is the inclusion of goalkeeper George Pinner who has 99 caps, as well as Harry Martin (127 caps) and Adam Dixon (156 caps) -- all three played in the Rio Olympics.
  "We will play against the England development squad two days after we arrive in London, and even though this is a totally different team, we will still get to test our rhythm against an English playing style.
  England, seventh on the world ranking, played as Great Britain in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and failed to advance to the quarter-finals stage.
  However, in the Azlan Shah Cup, Britain beat World No 2 Australia 4-3 to win the gold medal.
  "That's what they are capable off. We need to play positive hockey for the entire match because even a momentary lapse, could see us trailing and chasing the match.
  "We don't want that, as even though England are 7th while we 14th in the World, we need at least one point before we head to the Asian clashes against South Korea and finally China."
  Only the top-four teams in each group have a chance to make the World Cup, and finishing fifth is not an option.
  In Group B are Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Scotland and Canada.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Great Wall re-built by Kim Sang Ryul...

 MALAYSIA .. Winners in Dhaka.
CHINA .. Silver medallists.

MALAYSIA'S last opponents in Group A of the World League Semifinals are China, and coach Stephen van Huizen's men can't afford to lose to the 18th ranked team in the world.
  It is most likely a do-or-die match for world No 14 Malaysia's aspiration to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as all the other teams are much more superior in ranking.
  Opening accounts against World No 1 Argentina will be followed by hosts and world No seven England, and then 12th ranked South Korea -- and if they fail to collect any points in these three matches, they will have to smash the Great Wall of China to play in the quarter-finals.
  Only the top four teams in each group qualify for the knock-out, and finishing fifth will shut the World Cup door on van Huizen's men.
   China, after a 40-days playing and training stint in Europe under renowned consultant Kim Sang Ryul, have also marked Malaysia as their only hope for three points.
  In Group B of the World League Semifinals on June 15-25 in London are Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Scotland and Canada.
  "China have been playing and training in Europe for over a month and their last match against us was very close. We need to win this match (in London) to play in the knock-out. And since its our last group match, we can't afford to drop any point against them," said van Huizen.
  For the record, Malaysia and China last played in the World League Round Two in Dhaka and the regulation time score was 2-2 before Malaysia won the gold 5-3 on penalty shoot-out.
  And the fear-factor here is that China were leading 2-0 by the 22nd minute, and by then Malaysia had failed to score off 12 penalty corners and a penalty stroke as No 1 flicker Razie Rahim was totally off form.
  However, a late fourth quarter charge saw a change in flickers and Shahril Saabah and Najmi Jazlan score two penalty corner goals to take the match to shoot-out.
  China have named the same 18 who almost stanched the gold medal from Malaysia in Dhaka, with Du Talake the penalty corner danger-man leading the charge.
  Talake scored 10 goals in Dhaka to finish second on the top-scorers list, while the closest Malaysian was Shahril on seven.
  "That's why we need to steal at least a point from the first two matches and then win against South Korea before facing China. Otherwise, we might face a big wall of resistance from China who have roped in master coach Kim to revive their fortunes," said van Huizen.
  Kim is recognised as the man who turned South Korea's hockey fortunes around, and his players almost landed the elusive Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000 -- but after gallantly holding Netherlands 3-3 in regulation time, they lost the shoot-out 5-4.
  And with Kim sitting on top of the Great Wall to watch over China, Malaysia need to play the best hockey of their lives on June 20 to claim the quarter-finals slot in London.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jang the THT bogeyman...

JANG.. after beating Malaysian No 1 goalkeeper S. Kumar in the Malaysia Hockey League.

NATIONAL chief coach Stephen van Huizen is in the dark about the South Korean team which will compete in the World League Semifinals in London on June 15-25.
  All he knows is that they have recalled their former penalty corner maestro Jang Jong Hyun, 33, to help them win a a spot in next years's World Cup in India.
  And this is bad news for Malaysia, as Jang has been the best performer in the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) for the past two seasons representing Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) .
  South Korea are in Group A with Malaysia, China, Argentina and England while in Group B are Netherlands, India, Pakistan, Scotland and Canada.
  Jang, who has 249 caps and has played in three Olympics (2004, 2008 and 2012) while South Korea did not qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
  "The last time we played Korea was in the Asian Champions Trophy (in Kuantan) where we held them 1-1 and then won on penalty strokes. After that they disappeared from radar, and all we know is that they have recalled Jang for London," said van Huizen.
  Jang was the top scorer for THT in 2016 with 16 goals, while this season he scored 28 goals for coach Sarjit Singh's team to lift the Alagendra Cup as well as TNB Cup titles.
  "There can only be two reasons to recall Jang, as either Korea are desperate or Jang is back in top form," said van Huizen.
  The Korean, even though he was named as the best player in the Malaysia Hockey League this season, was a little overweight when he turned up for THT.
  THT coach Sarjit, a former national skipper as well as national coach, was delighted that his club's player is back with the national team, but was also a little worried for the country.
  "When we first signed Jang, he 'refused' to flick low during penalty corners as in his mind, a high drag to the top of the net was a much more glamorous goal than hitting the board or shooting at armpit level.
  "I had a tough time coaching him to drag lower, and finally, I placed two chairs to the left and right of the goalmouth and asked him to aim at them consistently.
  "And after he finally broke both the chairs, his goal scoring abilities improved," said Sarjit who had told the Korean that he can play for THT in the MHL as long as his body permits it.
  And he went on to score 22 penalty corners and six penalty stroke goals this season to help THT win two titles.
  "The worrying part is that Korea has recalled him for the World League as Jang not only knows every Malaysian national player by their nick names, he also knows their strengths and weaknesses.
  "He also knows our penalty corner-run outs and this could spell trouble.
  "On the other hand, Malaysia has many recordings on how he executes penalty corners (in the MHL) and this should held prepare our runners and goalkeeper to stop him," said Sarjit.
  Van Huizen's plan is simple -- beat China and South Korea and try to upset world No 1 Argentina and hosts England to qualify for the quarter-finals in London.
  But the inclusion of Jang has thrown a spanner in van Huizen's Plan A.