Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When the best is not enough...

MALAYSIA played the best game of the tournament, but were denied a point when India won 2-1 in the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan Wednesday.
  India will go into the semi-finals as the No 1 team, while Malaysia need to beat South Korea today to remain in the No 2 or No 3 bracke heading into the last four.
  Rupinder Pal Singh scored both the goals, to take his tally to 10, and denied a fighting Malaysia their glory.
  Goalkeeper S. Kumar said: "We had our chances but could not make it count, and world No 6 India is never easy to beat. We lost fighting, and kept our heads high the entire match and that's what is more important heading into the last match against Korea."
  Kumar, who brought off brilliant saves to deny India strikers, knows that the semi-finals is the most important match of this tournament.
  "As we are already in the last four, we need to give another good performance against Korea and they give our all in the semi-finals. That's what matters in the end," said Kumar.
  For the record, Malaysia finished bronze medallist in the last three editions, and making the final would be a great achievement.
  Goalkeeper S. Kumar brought out half a dozen saves to keep Malaysia in the match, going into the half-time breather as India tried every trick in the book but were denied at the last shot by the veteran custodian.
  India took the lead, when tournament top-scorer Rupinder Pal Singh was denied his direct penalty corner flick, but he charged up and slammed the rebound in the 13th minute to take his tally to nine goals.
  However, Malaysia never broke like their usual self, and attacked relentlessly and got the equaliser in the 18th minute.
  Razie Rahim blasted in Malaysia's first penalty corner for his first goal of the tournament.
  The crowd turned up in full force, as Malaysia won their last three matches convincingly.
  Malaysia played one of their best matches in this tournament, as they pushed India to defend in numbers.
  However, with two minutes remaining in the game, Rupinder Pal scored his 10th goal of the tournament -- and Malaysia removed S. Kumar to play a kicking back.
  Coach van Huizen's men won their last penalty corner with 26 seconds remaining but failed to score the equaliser.
  RESULTS: South Korea 4 Japan 3, Malaysia 1 India 2.
  THURSDAY: Pakistan v China (6.30pm), Malaysia v South Korea (8.30pm).


         P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts
INDIA    5  4  1  0  25 6  13
MALAYSIA 4  3  0  1  17 7  9
S. KOREA 4  2  1  1  10 8  7
PAKISTAN 4  2  0  2  9  10 6
CHINA    4  1  0  3  6  20 3
JAPAN    5  0  0  5  11 27 0

SOJC: England in JB to get it right...

England return to Johor Bahru after a two-year absence but there is unlikely to be any unfamilarity at the Sultan of Johor Cup (SOJC) as several players played under the Great Britain banner for the past two years.
   With the Junior World Cup just around the corner, England - especially head coach Jon Bleby and players James Gall and Chris Proctor - will hope they find better rhythm than in 2013 at Taman Daya Stadium before travelling to India for the world meet in December.
  The trio were part of the English set-up that finished last in Johor before a dismal 14th place at the Junior World Cup.
  Proctor and several others were also part of the Great Britain side that won the SOJC last year after playing bridesmaid to India in 2014. Among those absent in this year's squad include Ed Horler, James Albery, Jonty Griffiths and now-overage Luke Taylor.
   Gall, who is among the handful 20 years and above players Bleby have named for the tournament, is perhaps lucky to even be on the pitch again after a career threatening fall in July 2015.
   Gall fell on his head in an accident, suffered a fractured skull which caused severe swelling to the brain, and fractured his spine.
   The SOJC is the final chance for players to catch the eye before the 16-team Junior World Cup in Lucknow, India between December 8-18, an event that is only held every four years.
  England qualified for the world meet after finishing third at the 2014 EuroHockey Junior Nations Championship, the first time they finished on the podium since 1998.
   England are scheduled to play Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan and New Zealand in the Sultan of Johor Cup starting Monday, before a final classification game on November 6.

Difficult, but not impossible...

THE plan is simple.
  Malaysia need to beat India in the Asian Champions Trophy in Kuantan Wednesday to cement their top spot in the pool as this will pit them against the fourth placed team in the semi-finals.
  Executing it might be difficult, but not impossible, as Malaysia have been on fire in the three previous matches where they beat Pakistan 4-2, China 5-1 and Japan 7-2 convincingly.
  India, on the other hand, have had a roller-coaster ride as after hammering Japan 10-2 they were held 1-1 by South Korea and only edged Pakistan 3-2 and yesterday hammered China 9-0.
  And India were the only Asian team which played in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Ranked sixth in the world, they are eight rungs above No 14 Malaysia.
  But a determined Fitri Shaari, Malaysia's engine room engineer, has a solution.
  "We will be playing against Olympians who are ranked eight rungs above us, but that does not place us in awe. In fact, the team is determined to play eight time harder to win full points," said Fitri.
  Always reliable to take command of the midfield, Shukri has scored two goals while his brother Faizal is Malaysia's top scorer on four.
  However, the main goal-getter for Malaysia in any tournament, Razie Rahim has yet to hit the mark but has has four of his penalty corner rebounds turned into goals.
  Razie, who joined the Inspector training in May, has lost his power, but not the placing.
  "I'm a little rusty after being off hockey for a while to concentrate on my Police training. But still on target during penalty corners and the rebounds have been turned into goals by my team mates.
  "However, after today morning's training (yesterday) I could feel the power coming back to my arms and I am ready to give my best against India," said Razie.
  Malaysia have a lousy record against the Olympians, as in 109 encounters the nation has only won 15 times, while India won 76 and 18 ended in draws.
  The last win for Malaysia was 3-2 in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last year.
  India coach Roelant Oltmans did not want to comment on the Malaysia match as his mind was locked on preparing for the China encounter yesterday.
  RESULTS: Pakistan 4 Japan 3, India 9 China 0.
  WEDNESDAY: South Korea v Japan (6.30pm), Malaysia v India (8.30pm).
  THURSDAY: Pakistan v China (6.30pm), Malaysia v South Korea (8.30pm).


         P  W  D  L  F  A  Pts
INDIA    4  3  1  0  23 5  10
MALAYSIA 3  3  0  0  16 5  9
PAKISTAN 4  2  0  2  9  10 6
S. KOREA 3  1  1  1  6  5  4
CHINA    4  1  0  3  6  20 3
JAPAN    4  0  0  4  8  23 0