Monday, May 18, 2009

Div 1 :: BJSS whip Unimap to claim MHL Division One top position

Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) chalked up an impressive 4-1 win over Universiti Malaysia Perlis (Unimap) in a Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) Division One match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.

BJSS, the MHL Under-19 double champions, went on the offensive from the start but had to wait until the 22nd minute to score from close range through Faridzul Atif. And in the 33rd minute, Faridzul was on target again with another field attempt.

Unimap, who drew 1-1 in the first match against Armed Forces Juniors got back into the match with a penalty corner set-piece goal by Atif Gazali in the 40th minute.

BJSS, who drew 3-3 with Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) in the opening match on Friday, missed a number of sitters. But they managed to score two penalty corner goals in the last 12 minutes of the match.

Shazrul Imran made it 3-1 in the 58th minute and nine minutes later, BJSS Hasrul Zari went on target.

BJSS coach S. Prakash said that his players were slowly but surely getting more confident playing against older opponents.

“This definitely is a good indication for our coming matches against stronger teams in the league,” he said.

“But my boys cannot afford to miss chances like they did against Unimap.

“We should have won by a bigger margin. The forwards have to sharpen up their finishing.”

Combining career and hockey is the way for Jiwa

The return of defender Jiwa Mohan provided a big boost to the national hockey team in the Air Asia-Asia Cup tournament.

But the 28-year-old has ruled out making a full-time comeback to the team.

Jiwa said that he would consider playing for the team in top-level tournaments but he wanted to continue juggling his time between his job career and hockey.

“Full-time hockey is out for me. I firmly believe that one can work and still play top-level hockey. There is not need for me to be with the team full time,” he said.

“The Asia Cup is over and I will go back to my work (as an engineer) in Perth but will continue to train and play for my club there.”

The vastly experience Jiwa had quit the national team after the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2007. But coach Tai Beng Hai convinced him to return for the Asia Cup. He came back just three days before the tournament and was part of the back four in all five matches.

The versatile Jiwa added that the team had a lot of potential and could go far with proper guidance and hard work.

“I am sure we are heading in the right direction. It will be good if more of our players play in foreign leagues. It will be good experience for them and give better understanding on the requirements at the top level,” he said.

“I have to again press home the point that players need not be with the team full time. I have proved that one can always work and play hockey.

“Previously, we had decentralised training and assemble only when there is a tournament to prepare for. It is important that players develop their careers along with hockey.”

Jiwa is expected to make himself available for Malaysia’s campaign in the World Cup qualifying tournament in November.

Fourth place in Asia Cup the right tonic for Malaysia ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Malaysia showed more positive attributes in the Air Asia-Asia Cup hockey tournament that can only take them forward in their effort to improve on their world ranking.

The main agenda for the national team this year is to get a place in the 2010 World Cup Finals. And finishing fourth in the Asia Cup tournament here has given them a place in the qualifying tournament along with runners-up Pakistan, China, and Japan.

South Korea emerged as the champions to earn direct entry to the World Cup Finals.

In the Asia Cup, Malaysia showed much better fitness. They also played with better commitment and greater confidence.

Credit must be given to coaches Tai Beng Hai and Nor Saiful Zaini for the turnaround in the team’s fortune.

The next assignment is the Champions Challenge II in Dublin from July 5-11. The tournament offers ranking points and Malaysia need to take it seriously.

Malaysia are now ranked 15th in the world and they are the second seeds in the tournament after 11th ranked Japan. The other teams in the fray are Ireland, Russia, France, Chile, Poland and Austria.

Beng Hai said that the tournament would be part of their preparation for the World Cup qualifiers in November and the team would resume training after a few days’ break.

“The focus is the World Cup qualifiers. We started our preparations four months ago and the team have done well,” he said.

“What lies ahead is tougher and we need to keep the improvement level going. I believe the players are just as determined as the coaching staff to work on their game.”

Changes in the team are expected, considering that the National Juniors will be available after the Junior World Cup Finals in June.

“We have said before that any changes to the training squad will be done after June. We know there are several players who could be roped into the squad. We now have 28 players in the team and some of them are still nursing injuries,” said Beng Hai.

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) also have to make several decisions.

One is on whether to continue their search for a foreign coach or to offer Beng Hai and Nor Saiful Zaini long-term contracts. The duo have delivered on the targets set by the MHF — taking Malaysia to the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final and Asia Cup semi-finals.

The MHF must look at the domestic competitions, among them the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL), which will affect the team’s preparation for the World Cup qualifying tournament. Teams in the Premier League of the MHL, which is scheduled to start in October, are unlikely to agree on releasing their national players.

The national team are in need of top-level practice matches. They came into the Asia Cup with seven matches against South Korean clubs sides, five games in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and one friendly against Pakistan.

“We will look into increasing the number of matches when the new programme is finalised. There are areas where we can improve further but emphasis will still be on fitness training. There will be no let up in the way we have been working over the last four months,” said Beng Hai.

The outings in Kuantan and before that in Ipoh in the Sultan Azlan Cup tournament have showed that Malaysia have what it takes to regain their standings in world hockey. But it will take harder work from the players for it to bear fruits.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Asia Cup 2009 :: South Koreans use their speed to overcome Pakistan

South Korea won the Air Asia-Asia Cup for the third time when they beat Pakistan 1-0 in an exciting final at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

The Koreans have now equalled the three titles won by Pakistan in the series. South Korea’s two other triumphs were in 1994 and 1999 while Pakistan had won it in 1982, 1985 and 1989.

In yesterday’s final, both teams had chances to settle the issue early but it was the Koreans, who played a fast game in the second-half, who finally prevailed when they scored the only goal of the match off their third penalty corner of the match.

Kim Byung-hoon’s 66th minute strike – a trademark drag flick – took his goal tally to six, making him the top scorer of the tournament.

The match was a see-saw battle, with both sides attacking at every opportunity.

Pakistan even had the ball in the net early in the second-half but Rehan Butt’s effort was ruled out for an infringement.

Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akhbar also played a grand game to keep the Koreans at bay in the early stages.

The first-half saw both team getting three penalty corners each but all to no avail.

You Hyo-sik and Hong Eun-seung capped a fine night for the Koreans when they won the best player of the tournament and man-of-the-match awards respectively.

Malaysia’s S. Kumar (pic) was voted the best goalkeeper.

Korean coach Cho Myung-jun described the win as “the dawn of a new era for Korean hockey”.

“We will look at this win as the start of better things to come. It was not an easy final although we were confident of our chances,” he said.

“Pakistan played one of their best matches and could have scored early.

“But our plan to have a go at them in the second-half proved crucial.”

Asia Cup 2009 :: Malaysia go down to gutsy China in sudden-death penalties

Malaysia failed to retain their third placing in the Asia Cup hockey tournament after going down 6-7 to China in sudden-death penalty shoot-out in the classification match at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

Both teams were level at 3-3 in regulation time. Even extra-time failed to break the deadlock.

The Malaysians had four chances to claim victory. They led three times in the match proper. Then, in the shoot-out, they were just a flick away from victory.

In the end, China prevailed. In the mandatory five flicks, only Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Mohd Amin Rahim and Jiwa Mohan converted while Nabil Fiqri and Kelvinder Singh fluffed their attempts.

For China, Song Yi, Hu Hui Ren and Liu Xian Tang converted their flicks with Lu Feng Ren and Sun Tian Jun missed theirs.

In the sudden-death shoot-out, Malaysia scored through Amin, Jiwa and Shukri while Nabil against missed his flick.

China converted all four through Song Yi, Hui Ren, Xian Tang and Tian Jun to claim third spot.

This is the second time that China have made the podium in the Asia Cup. The first time was in 1982, when they also finished third.

The only consolation for Malaysia is that they will join China in the November qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.

The game came alive in the very first minute – that was how long it took Malaysia to open accounts.

Kelvinder Singh collected the ball in the middle and dribbled into the D before sending a cross which was deflected into goal by Ismail Abu.

Instead of going for the kill, Malaysia took their foot off the pedal and this gave the Chinese plenty of space to attack. And the Chinese duly equalised in the 19th minute.

Xiang Tang collected a cross from Na Yu Bo and worked his way into the D, where he was felled by goalkeeper S. Kumar. Skipper Song Yi converted the penalty stroke.

Malaysia regained their lead in the 32nd minute off their first penalty corner when Mohd Amin’s low flick was deflected into goal by Chua Boon Huat.

The second-half saw both teams playing well in patches. Still, it did not take long for China to pull level again. Again it was Song Yi who came to China’s rescue, slotting home a penalty corner goal in the 47th minute.

Malaysia, who missed two clear-cut chances to go ahead after that, finally regained their lead in the 65th minutes through Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor.

But like the two previous occasions, China equalised for the third time. This time Jiang Xia Shang found the net in the 67th minute to take the game into extra-time.

MALAYSIA: S. Kumar, Mohd Amin Rahim, Mohd Madzli Ikmar, Mohd Shahrun Nubli, Mohd Shukri Mutalib, Ismail Abu, Azlan Misron, Kelvinder Singh, Jiwa Mohan, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor.

Reserves: Chua Boon Huat, S. Selvaraju, Engku Abdul Malek, Jivan Mohan, Hafifihafiz Hanafi.

CHINA: Su Ri Feng, Sun Tian Jun, Jiang Xi Shang, Song Yi, Lu Feng Hui, Guo Zhong Qiang, Liu Xian Tang, Cui Yong Xin, Meng Jun, Na Yu Bu, Hu Hui Ren.

Reserves: Li Jia Jia, Chen Jin, Dong Yang, Sun Zhi Xin, Sun Long.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Asia Cup 2009 :: Pakistan shatter Malaysia’s bid to reach Asia Cup final

Pakistan shattered Malaysia’s dream of a first final appearance in the Air Asia-Asia Cup hockey tournament, scoring a 4-2 win in the semi-finals at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

Pakistan, who were winners in 1982, 1985 and 1989, will meet 2006 Doha Asian Games gold medallists South Korea in the final tomorrow. Besides the Cup, the champions will also earn a direct entry to the World Cup Finals in India next year.

Malaysia will now play against China for the bronze medal.

Before the start of the match against Malaysia yesterday, Pakistan forward Mohamed Saqlain was given a memento by his captain, Zeeshan Asraf, for making his 300th appearance for his country.

The match got off to a furious start and Pakistan gained their first penalty corner in the second minute. Fortunately for the Malaysians, the execution was poorly done. Malaysia counter attacked and Ismail Abu latched on to a pass to score from an acute angle with a reverse hit.

The Pakistanis recovered sufficiently to apply pressure on the Malaysians. And in one of the raids in the 19th minute, Rehan Butt deflected a long cross from Haseem Khan into goal.

Pakistan had two more penalty corners in the 34th and 35th minutes to increase their score but both attempts taken by Sohail Abbas were well defended by the Malaysians.

In the second half, Pakistan were the stronger of the two sides and their attacks along the left had the Malaysians reeling time and again.

In the 47th minute, Akhtar Ali scored from close range. In the 63rd minute, the Pakistanis broke through and Rehan finished off the move with a strike from the top D. Three minutes later, Pakistani junior Haseem was on target.

Malaysia earned a consolation goal in the 70th minute when Ismail scored off a penalty corner rebound.

Malaysian coach Tai Beng Hai said they failed to take their early chances and allowed Pakistan to take control.

“It’s always difficult when you allow them to come at you and give them space to attack. We matched them early in the match and should have scored the equaliser in the second half. Instead they made better use of their chances,” he said.

“I am not disappointed with my players’ performance but it was just that they were lacking in some areas today.”

Malaysia: S. Kumar, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, Mohamed Shahrun Nubli, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib, Ismail Abu, Azlan Misron, Kelvinder Singh, Jiwa Mohan, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Nor.

Reserves: Chua Boon Huat, S. Selvaraju, Engku Abdul Malek, Baljit Singh, Hafifihafiz Hanafi.

Pakistan: Salman Akbar, Zeeshan Asraf, Ali Akhtar, Shakeel Abbasi, Sohail Abbas, Mohamed Irfan, Haseem Khan, Tariq Aziz, Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmad, Sajjad Anwar.

Reserves: Mohamed Saqlain, Mohamed Imran, Fareed Ahmad, Mohamed Waqas, Abas Haider.

Asia Cup 2009 :: South Korea fight back to reach final, thanks to You

South Korea made short work of China to qualify for the final of the Asia Cup hockey tournament, chalking up a 5-1 semi-final victory at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

It will be the fourth appearance in the final for South Korea, who won the title in 1994 and 1999 and were runners-up to India in 2007.

The match started off on a slow pace with the Chinese controlling play. And they took the lead in the 11th minute off their first penalty corner with defender Hu Huiren executing a direct flick to beat goalkeeper Lee Myung-ho.

The Koreans were happy to defend and in one of their quick counter attacks earned their first penalty corner in the 29th minute. And their leading scorer, Kim Byung-hoon, delivered with a powerful drag flick to take his tally to five goals.

In the second half, the Koreans went 3-1 up in a six-minute spell. Forward You Hyo-sik scored the first of his three goals from a goalmouth melee in the 36th minute and was on target again in the 41st minute from a similar situation.

The Koreans pushed hard and did not give space for the Chinese to attack. Hyun Hye-sung added the fourth goal in the 56th minute before Hyo-sik completed his hat-trick in the 68th minute.

Korean coach Cho Myung-jun said that they were not at all worried after the Chinese took the lead.

“Our tactic was to hold them in the first half and keep the score down. We reverted to our normal play in the second half and it worked. The early goals we scored in the second half took the fight out of the Chinese,” he said.

Chinese coach Guo Jie conceded that the Koreans were the much better side.

“They are the top ranked team here and it showed. We tried our best and it was just not enough. We hope to recover in time for the playoff for third place and we will try to get on the podium,” he said.

South Korea are ranked fifth in the world while China are in 16th spot.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Japan to take fourth qualifier spot

Japan are likely to take the fourth spot for Asian teams in qualifying tournaments for next year’s World Cup Finals.

Japan are to play in the fifth-sixth place playoff tomorrow against the winners of today’s classification match between India and Bangladesh.

The Asia Cup offers the champions a direct entry to the World Cup Finals and the next four teams go into qualifying tournaments. If Japan play against India tomorrow, they will get into the qualifiers even if they lose the match because India are automatic qualifiers for the Finals as hosts.

There will be three qualifying tournaments involving six teams each and they will be held in Lille, Auckland and Dubai.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Furious encounter on the cards

A fast and furious encounter is expected when the two East Asia teams meet in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament here today.

South Korea, who are ranked fifth in the world, are the clear favourites to beat China. At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, the Koreans claimed the gold medal beating the Chinese 3-1 in the final.

However, the Koreans by their own admission are not well-prepared for the Asia Cup and it present their opponents the best chance to chalk up a win.

Coach Cho Myung-jun said: “We do not have several top players for this tournament and we only started our preparations a month ago.

“Although I have great confidence in the team’s ability, I would think that we are vulnerable as well. But I still think we can regain the Asia Cup (South Korea were champions in 1994 and 1999).”

Myung-jun added that he regarded China as the next fittest team in the tournament after his side.

“I am impressed with China’s game here. They have improved greatly since the Beijing Olympics. Their game is similar to the Japanese but they are able to play at a faster pace,” he said.

Chinese coach Guo Jie said that they would play the same way that brought them draws against Pakistan (1-1) and India (2-2).

“We have good teamwork and the Korean style is known to us. We will give it our best shot. We are also here tto win the title. In recent years, we have beaten Asia’s other top teams and I see no reason for us not being able to beat the Koreans,” he said.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Follow tactical plan to beat Pakistan, Malaysian players told

Malaysia need the discipline to adhere to a tactical plan if they hope to overcome Pakistan in the Air Asia-Asia Cup hockey tournament semi-finals here today.

Skipper Mohamed Madzli Ikmar said yesterday that they had achieved a good measure consistency in the tournament at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium and it had boosted much of their confidence to take on a Pakistan, who have strengthened their side with the recall of several experienced players.

“I would rate our chances as 50-50. We are playing well and we have a good chance at extending our win over the Pakistanis,” he said.

“But we need to be cautious. The defence will be the one that will have the bear the burden as mistakes at the back can be costly against a side who have the world’s best penalty corner taker in Sohail Abbas.”

Malaysia defeated Pakistan 3-2 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh last month. The previous two matches at the 2007 Asia Cup in Chennai and the 2006 Doha Asian Games ended in draws, 3-3 and 1-1 respectively.

“It has been close in our matches against Pakistan. We must check their players early and avoid giving away penalty corners,” added Madzli.

“More importantly, the players need to follow the strategy the coaches come up with for the match. Pakistan are very individualistic as a team and it will only take one player to make the difference. This is where we need the discipline to keep at our roles even if they start to dominate the game.”

The Malaysian backline for the three group matches against South Korea, Bangladesh and Japan remained unchanged with Madzli partnering Mohamed Amin Rahim, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib and Jiwa Mohan.

Madzli said that Jiwa’s presence had given them added confidence as he was a very experienced player.

“I’m not sure if the same back four will be fielded against Pakistan but we have come up with a good understanding. We know each others’ game well and complement each other,” he said.

Madzli said that besides Sohail the other Pakistani to watch out for is Waseem Ahmad, whose passes upfront are quite deceptive.

“Waseem is a real danger. They also have other players like Haseem Khan Shakeel Abbasi and Saqlian Mohamed. Anyone of them can pose a threat to us,” he said.

Coach Tai Beng Hai said that his players would not crumble under the intense pressure Pakistan were expected to pile on them.

“We are not going to have it our way even though recent meeting have given us the edge. Tomorrow’s match will be different with a lot more at stake. But there is no reason not to go into the match with confidence,” he said.

The national team have already achieved the top four target set by the Malaysian Hockey Federation.

“The aim should be to win the title and I want the players to pursue that target. We have a chance to do it this time,” said Beng Hai.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Cautious India pay heavy price

China dumped India out of the Asia Cup semi-finals when they drew 2-2 with the defending champions in the final Group B match yesterday.

India came into the tournament as winners of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last month. But China upset the form books, overcoming a two-goal deficit to earn the draw.

India had taken the lead with penalty corner goals by skipper Sandeep Singh in the 33rd and 34th minutes. India sat back in the second half and China struck through Lu Feng Hui (44th) and Yu Yang (58th).

Sandeep had a chance to seal victory for India from the penalty corner in the 69th minute but his effort was saved by goalkeeper Su Rifeng.

India coach Herender Singh blasted his players for discarding their usual attacking play.

“It is not the Indian style to defend. For the last eight months, I have structured the team to play attacking hockey. Why change when you are leading? They have let me down badly,” he said.

India will play against Bangladesh in a classification match tomorrow and the winners will take on Japan in the playoff for fifth place on Friday.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Asia Cup 2009 :: Simply ruthless

Malaysia hammered Bangladesh 7-1 to stay in the hunt for a semi-final berth from Group A in the Air Asia-Asia Cup at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here yesterday.

Malaysia need only a draw against Japan today to qualify for the last-four.

Yesterday, minnows Bangladesh got their wish of scoring against a top hockey-playing country. But aside from that rare goal, they were grossly outplayed in every department.

It took just four minutes for Malaysia to open accounts with Mohamed Shahrun Nabil scoring a field goal.

Then Azlan Misron and Chua Boon Huat got into the act with two more field goals in the 13th and 16th minutes respectively. Mohamed Amin Rahim scored from a penalty corner hit in the 19th minute but a fumble in defence allowed Zahidul Islam to net for Bangladesh in the 28th minute.

The second half started off with a bang as well when Tengku Ahmad scored a brace in the 39th and 44th minutes. Ismail Abu then netted his first and Malaysia’s last goal six minutes later.

Earlier South Korea defeated Japan 3-2 in a closely fought match to virtually assure themselves of a semi-final berth as they play Bangladesh in their last group match.

Japan have to beat Malaysia to earn a berth in the semis.

Team manager Yamanaka Manabu said they will have no option but to go on the attack against Malaysia.

“Today (yesterday) we planned to hold the Koreans in the first-half and then attack in the second. It worked but they had the two-goal advantage against us in the second half. That made it a little difficult as they are a top team,” said Manabu.

Korea took the lead in the 12th minute through Jin Kyung-min but Japan were back on level terms in the 20th minute through Kei Kawakami.

But two penalty strokes in the 22nd and 35th minutes allowed the Koreans to take a 3-1 first-half lead. The strokes were converted by Lee Nam-yong. In the second-half the Japanese dominated play but despite all their hard work, they only managed to score one goal. This came in the 53rd minute when Takayasu Mizawa narrowed the score to 2-3 but then the Koreans held out to claim full points.

MALAYSIA: S. Kumar, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, Mohamed Shahrun Nubli, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib, Ismail Abu, Azlan Misron, Kelvinder Singh, Jiwa Mohan, Hafifihafiz Hanafi, Jivan Mohan.

Reserves: Baljit Singh, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Chua Boon Huat, S. Selvaraju, Engku Abdul Malek.

BANGLADESH: Mahbub Ullah Chowdhury Asm, Mamun Ur Rahman, Mosiur Rahman, Musharof Hossain Kuti, Ashaduzaman Chandan, Kamaruzaman Ahm, Zahidul Islam, Jimmy Rasel, Mohd Nannu Sheik, Zaid Bin Talib Shuvo, Barman Taposh.

Reserves: Shamsuddin Akm, Asiquzzaman Mohd, Nadir Iqbal, Khisa Pushkor, Rafiqul Islam.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Japan to rebuild team into world class

Japan have embarked on team rebuilding in an effort to put themselves back among the elite hockey-playing nations.

And the ongoing Asia Cup tournament is part of their re-building programme.

They opened their campaign in Kuantan with a 5-0 win over Bangladesh and were beaten 3-2 by South Korea yesterday.

But Japan are confident of beating Malaysia in their last Group A tie and earn a place in the semi-finals.

Team mana­ger Yama­naka Manabu said yes­ter­day that they have a very young team with seven newcomers.

“We had only two weeks of training for this tournament. It will be tough playing teams who are well prepared but we feel this team have potential.

“Of course, one of our targets is to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and then the Asian Games,” said Manabu.

Manabu was the coach of the Japan team for the 2006 Doha Asian Games and also the 2008 Olympic qualifiers.

The current coach is Endo Takashi while Manabu has become the full-time manager.

Japan’s best placing in the Asia Cup is the fourth-place finishes achieved in 1985, 1989, 2003 and 2007.

The most experienced player in the team is Kazuhiro Tsubochi with 76 caps while Kei Kawakami, Ryuji Furusato and Hiroki Sakamoto have 67, 53 and 45 caps respectively.

They form the core of the new team. The team also have five players who will feature for Japan in the Junior World Cup co-hosted by Malaysia and Singapore next month.

They are Naoto Shiokawa, Ken Yoshikawa, Kenta Tanaka, Kenji Kitazato and Daisuke Suzuki.

Of the five players, Kenta has played for the senior team six times. The others are making their senior debuts.

“They are all talented players and we expect them to become our core players after their junior days. But we hope to start off a comprehensive programme soon to ensure they are well prepared for the future challenges,” said Manabu.

Japan are ranked 11th in the world and they know that their ranking could drop if they fare badly here.

But for the moment Manabu is more interested in ensuring his team re-building exercise stays on track.

“It is still early times for us. But the first thing is to get a semi-final place and I think we can beat Malaysia. It will all depend on the players. We have the ability to do it.”

In 2007, Malaysia and Japan met twice in the Asia Cup in Chennai. Malaysia won 2-0 in the group tie and 5-3 in the play-off for third place.

Last year, they drew 3-3 in the Olympic qualifiers in Japan.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Pakistan edge India in pulsating clash to enter semi-finals

Pakistan booked a place in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament after edging arch rivals India 3-2 in a pulsating Group B match at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium yesterday.

In a match which Pakistan must win, following their opening 1-1 draw with China, they had the ball in the net as early as the fourth minute when Tariq Aziz slotted home from the top of the D. But South African umpire Jon Wright blew for a 16-year hit to India as the shot was taken from outside the D.

There was much anticipation in the first half with the expected duel between the two penalty corner specialists Sohail Abbas of Pakistan and Sandeep Singh of India.

Sohail had two chances which failed to bear results. The first attempt failed due to poor stopping of the ball while his second attempt was saved by India goalkeeper Baljit Singh.

Sandeep had one chance but his soft flick was saved by Pakistan goalkeeper Salman Akhbar. The rebound fell to Prabhjot Singh who pushed it in for the opening goal in the 16th minute

Then came the equaliser from Pakistan which was given on a platter. In a quick counter attack, the ball was sent into India’s D and skipper Sandeep tripped over while attempting to get to the ball. Haseem Khan gleefully picked up the loose ball to hit an acute shot into the top of the net in the 33rd minute.

Pakistan started off aggressively in the second half and it took them only a minute after the start to take the lead when Haseem deflected a long ball into goal.

Then the rain came and it slowed down the game. And it benefited India as Rajpal Singh put India level with a field goal in the 46th minute.

Then conditions became unplayable and the game was stopped for 45 minutes.

And when play resumed, Pakistan’s Sohail lived up to his reputation as the best penalty corner specialist in the world with the winning flick in the 54th minute of the delayed game.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Bangladesh out to break the duck against Malaysia

Bangladesh has thrown in the towel as far as their campaign in the on-going Asia Cup hockey tournament is concerned.

Their ultimate target is, in fact, to score one goal against a top hockey team – and they hope to do it when they play Malaysia today.

Their German coach Gerhad Peter Rach said the team have not scored a goal against a top hockey playing nation in the last few years and he would like to see that end during the Asia Cup.

“That is our target. We do not have a well prepared team and you cannot do much when you have not played any practice matches.

“We only played two friendlies against the Malaysian Juniors prior to the tournament. So to expect a great performance from us is not right,” said Rach.

Bangladesh lost 0-5 to Japan and the German was not too disappointed with the result.

“Five goals is not a big defeat for us. We used to get beaten by bigger margins by the top teams.

The match with Japan highlighted our shortcomings. The players we have are the best in our country but they are sorely lacking in experience.

“They could not handle the pressure and neither are they able to match the others. The gap is too wide between the top teams and us,” he said.

Rach expects Malaysia to win but he wants his players to get a goal.

Rach was India’s first foreign coach from 2004-2005. He guided the team to the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2005 Champions Trophy tournament.

He only joined Bangladesh six months ago and his long association with the team will depend on their performance in the Asia Cup.

“I do not know what my future is with the national team but it will be decided after the Asia Cup. For the moment, I am handling the team for this tournament only,” he said.

Bangladesh come into the Asia Cup as the Asia Hockey Federation (AHF) Cup champions. The AHF Cup is a second tier tournament for Asian teams.

Rach added that they are certainly out of their depth for this tournament and said that teams in the AHF Cup will be outclassed in the Asia Cup.

“I think that is why Oman did not come here. They would have been beaten soundly too. This is the reality and the gap is too wide,” he said. Oman, the AHF Cup runner-up, also qualified for the Asia Cup.

It would not be wrong to say Bangladesh will be in for a thrashing against Malaysia but they will definitely give their best – as scoring a goal for them is like winning a match.

Asia Cup 2009 :: India-Pakistan tie offers much intrigue and excitement

An India-Pakistan hockey match is definitely mouth-watering. Hence, today’s Group B Asia Cup match at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium is bound to be an intriguing and exciting encounter.

Last month, India defeated Pakistan in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup and then beat Malaysia to win the title.

However, Pakistan are ahead in their head-to-head encounters.

Today’s match marks their 139th meeting with India winning 43 times. Pakistan have won 72 times and 23 matches have ended in draws. Because the stakes are higher in the Asia Cup, both sides have beefed up their line-ups.

Today’s match will see two of the most lethal penalty-corner hitters in the world in action.

Pakistan have recalled the widely regarded penalty-corner specialist Sohail Abbas. They have included seasoned campaigners Rehan Butt, Waseem Ahmad and goalkeeper Salman Akhbar.

Thus, Pakistan have more firepower and stability which were lacking during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

For India, Sandeep Singh is their main flicker and he is also an effective goal getter. In the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, he scored eight of India’s total tally of 11 goals.

So who is the better flicker? The effectiveness of these two flickers will also in many ways decide the outcome of their clash in Kuantan.

India coach Herender Singh is convinced that they can repeat their win over Pakistan and go on to win the title.

But it must be said that the presence of Sohail Abbas and the other three players will give Pakistan confidence and greater experience to fall back on.

“We have also strengthened our team and my players are well equipped to handle Pakistan.

We want to start off with a win and playing Pakistan early will be good,” said Herender.

Asia Cup 2009 :: Malaysia stun South Korea with 1-1 draw

Malaysia stunned world fifth-ranked South Korea by holding them to a 1-1 draw in the opening match of the Asia Cup hockey tournament at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium yesterday.

The Koreans started off confidently in this Group A match and were happy to sit back and keep the Malaysians at bay in the first half until the homesters scored in the 35th minute.

Ismail Abu latched on to a long pass and slotted the ball in at close range.

This woke up the Koreans and they attacked in waves in the second half. Their domination resulted in three penalty corners but all came to nought.

A quick counter in the 53rd minute allowed Kim Byubg-hoon to score the equaliser from a field goal.

Malaysian goalkeeper S. Kumar played a good game in the second half to stop no less than what seemed like four sure goals. At the other end, Malaysia had a golden opportunity in the 63rd minute when S. Selvaraju’s attempt was saved on the line by goalkeeper Lee Myung-ho.

For both sides, the first half was scrappy as neither team could wrest control in midfield.

Jiwa Mohan, playing his first match for Malaysia since coming back from retirement, was employed as a defensive midfielder and played his part well.

Malaysia’s coach Tai Beng Hai said that it was a good result for them considering South Korea’s standing in the world rankings.

“It was a tough match and we are satisfied with the result. It keeps us in the semi-final race and it is now in our hands to make the grade.

“All the players played their parts well and we also had several chances to score. Of course we are disappointed at not getting any penalty corners. We have to work on this aspect,” said Beng Hai.

In Group B, Pakistan almost paid the price for their insipid performance against China.

The Chinese took a 61st minute lead through Hu Hui Ren off a field attempt. And they were on the verge of an upset until Pakistan found the equaliser with just 40 seconds left on the clock.

Akhtar Ali scored off a goal-mouth melee as the Chinese defenders tried in vain to clear the ball quickly.

Pakistan meet India today and a defeat will dent their semi-final hopes.

Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan said that they will be under pressure in the match against India.

“There is no doubt that we will be playing under stress as we need to win the match badly. We played badly today against China and were lucky to have got the draw.

“The humid conditions affected my players and we could not counter China’s defensive game plan,” said Shahid.

Malaysia: S. Kumar, Chua Boon Huat, Mohamed Amin Rahim, Mohamed Madzli Ikmar, Mohamed Shahrun Nubli, Mohamed Shukri Mutalib, Ismail Abu, Azlan Misron, Kelvinder Singh, Jiwa Mohan, Mohamed Fiqri Mohamed Nor.

Reserves: Baljit Singh, Jivan Mohan, Mohamed Faairus Wanasir, Hafifihafiz Hanafi, S. Selvaraju.

South Korea: Lee myung-ho, Lee Sing-ii, Oh Dan-keun, Lee Nam-yong, You Hyo-sik, Yoon Sung-hoon, Park Hyung-bong, Kim Byung-hoon, Hyun Hye-sung, Cha Jong-bok, Hong Eun-seong.

Reserves: Ro Jung-hwan, Jin Kyung-min, Kang Seong-hwan, Yeo Chang-Yong, Nam Hyun-woo.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Asia Cup 2009 :: Koreans sound early warning to rivals at Asia Cup

Reigning Asian Games gold medallists South Korea have sounded an early warning to their rivals that they plan to add the Asia Cup to their collection and secure the automatic berth to the 2010 World Cup.

The Koreans have won the Asia Cup twice – in Hiroshima (1994) and Kuala Lumpur (1999).

Coach Lim Jung-woo is confident that his young team will kick off their campaign by bagging all three points when they play Malaysia in the opening tie at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here today.

The two teams are in Group A with Japan and Bangladesh.

“Our aim is to win the title. And I am sure we can walk away with all three points against Malaysia. Our initial target is the semi-final but there is no reason why we cannot go all the way,” he said after a training session yesterday.

Jung-woo was the coach when they captured the gold medal at the Doha Asian Games in 2006. He made his debut as national coach in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where the Koreans finished fourth.

The former national player said although they had left behind several top players, “those who are in Kuantan are very talented and will be able to handle the pressure”.

“We have a good mix and there are enough experienced players to guide the youngsters. Our preparation has been short but it will not affect us as the players are fit,” he said.

There are only five players in the team with more than 100 caps. They are You Hyo-sik (154 caps), skipper Cha Jong-bok (146), Lee Nam-yong (140), Yoon Sung-hoon (132) and Hong Eun-seong (116).

They have also included three players who will be making their international debuts. They are Park Hyung-bong, Kang Seong-hwan and Lee Suck-ho.

Jung-woo said the oldest player in their squad is 32-year-old Ro Jung-hwan.

After their opening tie against Malaysia, the Koreans will meet Japan on Monday followed by Bangladesh the next day.

But it will be their opening tie against Malaysia which will give a clear indication of the Koreans’ strength.

Asia Cup 2009 :: MHF finally decide on their final 18 for tournament

The Malaysian Hockey Federation (MHF) have finally decided on their final 18 for the Asia Cup, which starts here today.

The unlucky one to be omitted yesterday was midfielder Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim, who was injured earlier this year and did not play in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last month.

Thus, the MHF only made three changes to the team that won the silver medal at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh.

The three who got in are Jiwa Mohan, Mohd Fairus Wanasir and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin. The three who were in the Ipoh squad but have been left out are S. Baljit Singh, Mohd Amerullah Abdul Aziz and Khairulnizam Ibrahim.

National interim coach Tai Beng Hai said that their decision was based on the players’ form in training over the last few days.

Asia Cup 2009 :: What must Malaysia do to do well at the Asia Cup?

Consistency and clinical finishing are what Malaysia will have to produce if they plan to do well in the Asia Cup, which begins at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium here today.

The stakes are indeed high for the seven teams – defending champions India, Pakistan, Japan, China, Bangladesh, South Korea and Malaysia – because the winner of the Asia Cup will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in New Delhi.

And for the teams who do not win the title, they’ll need to finish in the top five to earn places in the World Cup qualifiers in November.

Thus, from the word go, Malaysia and the other six teams will have little room for mistakes.

What makes this tournament even more intriguing is that at least five teams – Malaysia, India, Japan and former champions Pakistan and South Korea – are capable of making the final.

For Malaysia, three teams stand in their way to a semi-final berth. Those three are their Group A rivals South Korea, Japan and Bangladesh.

Defending champions India, Pakistan and China are in Group B.

National interim coach Tai Beng Hai knows the score and feels that Malaysia have what it takes to get the job done.

Malaysia, who finished second in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, have made three changes to that team.

Back in the team are experienced midfielder Jiwa Mohan, who quit last year, and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin and goalkeeper Mohd Fairus Wanasir, who have both recovered from their injuries.

Judging from their performance in Ipoh, Malaysia’s problems are simply a lack of ideas up front, poor conversion rate of penalty corners, lapses in defence and an inability to hold on to their lead.

Beng Hai and his assistant Nor Saiful Zaini have done well to improve the players’ fitness level and the players are also showing greater confidence in their set-piece moves.

With Jiwa’s inclusion, the national team will now have another option in the penalty-corner set-pieces. Mohd Amin Rahim remains their main flicker while Engku Abdul Malek is an effective hitter.

Jiwa’s experience and versatility will be an added asset to the team.

But it is the forward line of Ismail Abu, Chua Boon Huat (pic), Tengku Ahmad and Azlan Misron who will carry the burden of getting the goals, if not the penalty corners.

The defence has done well but they have to stay focused for the whole duration of matches and not switch off towards the tail-end of games.

C. Baljit Singh has developed into a good defensive player and his run-outs while defending penalty corners are certainly a plus point.

“Our playing structure is fine and we also have good variations. If the players can execute their moves well I am confident we can beat all the teams here.

“But it is the players who have to carry out our instructions on the pitch and I hope they stick to the game plan,” said Beng Hai.

Malaysia open their campaign against South Korea today, followed by Bangladesh and Japan.

A winning start will be just the right tonic for Malaysia.

And it is not too tall an order considering that the Koreans only began their preparations a month go.

The Koreans always play a fast game and fight till the end. Their playing structure is simple and their counter attacks very effective.

Besides South Korea, India and Pakistan are the other real contenders for the title.

Pakistan have won the Asia Cup three times from 1982, 1985 and 1989 while the Koreans were champions in 1994 and 1999. The last two editions have been won by the Indians.

All said, the best of Asia will be on parade in Kuantan and the winner will get an early chance to seal their World Cup berth.