Friday, March 22, 2019

Poland keep cool in sizzling heat..

Pic: Poland coach Karol Sniezek (right) with skipper Bartosz Zywiczka.

By Jugjet Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Poland traveled for 48 hours, before reaching Malaysia 3am Friday from a wintry climate to sizzling hot Ipoh, but still, they are cool and coy about their opening match today.
  They will open accounts against Malaysia in the 28th Azlan Shah Cup, and have placed the pressure squarely in coach Roelant Oltman's and his men.
  "Yes, we are tired and jet lagged, as we arrived from cold Poland (9 degrees) to sizzling 30 plus in Ipoh this morning (Friday), but we have nothing to lose but everything to gain from this tournament. The pressure will be on hosts Malaysia," said Poland coach Karol Sniezek.
  Skipper Bartosz Zywiczka mimicked his coach, and it looks like the Poland opener is going be as difficult as to spell their names.
  Poland were last minute replacements after South Africa withdrew, citing financial problems.
  "As a coach I am really grateful to be able to bring my team for the Azlan Shah Cup because as a player, I dreamed of playing at this stage but never got a chance.
  "We would like to thank Malaysian Hockey (confederation) for Inviting us to make our debut.
  "It will not be easy playing against Malaysia in front of their own fans, but the pressure will be on them to preform, while we will do our best," said Sniezek.
  After a training session yesterday, both the coach and captain came to the press conference with rosy cheeks, and tanned foreheads.
  For the record, Malaysia beat Poland 3-1 in the 1975 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, and in the last encounter in 2015 in the World League Round Two in Singapore -- Malaysia hammered Poland 8-0 in the final.
  Malaysian coach Roelant Oltmans was evasive when asked about his chances playing against a jet-lagged team, backed by horrendous weather.
  "No, jet-lag as well as the heat will not pose a problem to a team as dedicated as Poland and I believe they will put up a good fight and we have our own plans on how to stop them," said Oltmans.
  Skipper Razie Rahim, who trained under former world no 1 penalty corner flicker Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands for a week in Kuantan, was more optimistic.
  "I believe after a week of training and undergoing motivational sessions (in Kuantan) we are ready for the tournament. As for me, Taekema fine tuned my drag flicks and made me sharper," said Razie.
  FIXTURES: SATURDAY -- India v Japan (4pm), Canada v South Korea (6pm), Malaysia v Poland (8pm).
  SUNDAY: India v South Korea (4pm), Canada v Poland (6pm), Malaysia v Japan (8pm).

Shin: Olympics on my mind...

By Jugjet Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: South Korean Shin Seok Kyo is a likeable coach, and his bubbly antics never fail to break a smile on the faces of those around him.
  But underneath, he is a deadly plotter whose aim right now is to prepare his charges to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo.
  After a disappointing fifth in the Jakarta Asian Games, the coach is looking forward to the Azlan Shah Cup to regain their glory days.
  "It was a very bad Asian Games for us and right now we are in the mood to qualify for the Olympics, and Azlan Shah will give us a chance to prepare early for our qualifier later in the year," said an ever smiling Shin.
  South Korea whipped Malaysia 6-0 and Japan 4-1 in earlier friendlies, and when they became joint-champions with India in the 2010 Azlan Shah Cup, they had also demolished Malaysia 6-0 and Japan 4-0 in the run-up back then.
  (Note: India and South Korea were declared joint champions after a thunderstorm disrupted the final).
  "I seriously don't know how we beat Malaysia 6-0 in the (Tuesday) friendly, but we did the same when we became joint champions for the first time, and we will ride on that in every match we play here.
  "The end target is to qualify for the Olympics, and so we have brought our best for the Cup," said Shin.
  South Korea open against Canada today, and it is expected to be a cracker.
  Canada coach Paul Bundy is also looking towards the FIH Series Finals which Malaysia will host in April.
  "This is an early preparation for my players, acclimatization as well, as we will be playing in the Olympic Qualifier in KL again soon. We are second to India on world ranking here, but that means nothing if we do not play to our best capabilities as every team here is capable of upsetting the other," said Bundy.