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News 26 April 2014

All the news for Saturday 26 April 2014

Scotland run Belgium close in opening 4 Nations match

Belgium striker Tom Boon notched two goals on his 150th international appearance. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Scotland Senior Men narrowly lost their opening game of the Men’s 4 Nations against World Number 5 Belgium at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre this evening, going down 4-3.

Two goals from Tom Boon, together with a Tanguy Cosyns field goal and Loick Luypert penalty corner gave the Belgians a slender victory. Kenny Bain, Chris Grassick and Gary Cameron were on the scoresheet for the Scots.

Scotland team line-up before tonight's match against Belgium. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

After the match, Scotland Senior Men Head Coach Derek Forsyth said, “It’s a great experience for the boys, it’s another step forward against the world number five in the world and there were a lot of positives. We played them a year ago and lost 7-1, they’re five weeks away from a World Cup and on a full-time programme so we’re happy with the performance.

“If we can keep improving in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games then it’s good for us and we have a chance. It’s a big plus being able to play international matches at the Glasgow Hockey Centre.

“Tomorrow will be a big game against England, it will be tough after a quick turnaround tonight. There will be a big crowd here and we’re looking forward to it.”

Scotland went ahead early in the match, striker Kenny Bain finding space outside the circle and driving his way past the dive of Vincent Vanash to round the Belgian goalkeeper and slot the ball home in the seventh minute.

Scotland striker Kenny Bain rolls away in delight after scoring the opening goal. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

However, the visitors started to control the majority of possession, pressurising the Scottish defence deep in the home side’s half. Belgium’s reward came in the 20th minute, Tanguy Cosyns levelling the score at 1-1 with a reverse stick deflection past Scotland goalkeeper Gavin Sommerville.

Two minutes later, Scottish midfielder Iain Scholefield was penalised for an illegal foot block on the goal-line and Belgian striker Tom Boon, winning his 150th international cap this evening, stepped up to rattle the ball into the roof of the net to provide his side with a 2-1 lead.

With the away side retaining a slender one goal advantage at the interval, Sommerville was soon called back into action after re-start, making a fine block from an Amaury Keusters low drive in the 37th minute and a wonderful reflex save high to his right hand side to prevent Boon’s penalty corner drag-flick finding the top corner.

Yet, Scotland’s number one couldn’t stop Belgium extending their lead to 3-1 in the 41st minute, Loick Luypert drilling a penalty corner hit low into the left hand corner of the goal.

Shortly after, patient Belgian build-up play presented Emmanuel Stockbroek with space on the right flank and the midfielder’s precision cross was met my Boon at the back post to make it 4-1.

Sommerville was on hand once again to deny Stockbroek from point-blank range two minutes later, preventing a fifth goal.

The Scots reduced the deficit five minutes from full-time after Chris Grassick won a penalty corner and the former Inverleith midfielder was on hand to expertly deflect Bain’s strike high into the back of the net.

Scotland's Chris Grassick was on the scoresheet against Belgium. Photo Credit: Chris Grassick.

Gary Cameron then ensured a nervy conclusion to the match, finding space near the far post to turn home Alan Forsyth’s cross in the 68th minute, but the comeback came a little too late, Belgium holding on for a 4-3 win.

Captain Chris Grassick said, "It was a great comeback, we really believed in ourselves a bit more and we were really delighted to have got back in to the game. We let them move the ball really well but we have to learn to tackle that

"The pitch was nice and it was great to have a good home crowd and to have so many people along. Hopefully there will be plenty more down tomorrow as it really does make a massive difference with us.

"Just like any other game, just need to go out there and enjoy it, hopefully we will get a good crowd again which will help us."

Earlier in the evening, England and Argentina finished all square with a 2-2 draw.

England opened the scoring in the 11th minute, courtesy of a carefully guided Alastair Brogdon flick into the bottom corner after the Wimbledon forward had latched onto a fine through pass from captain Barry Middleton.

Argentina and England played out a 2-2 draw in Glasgow. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Argentina were back on level terms in the 23rd minute though, Manuel Brunet taking advantage of indecision in the English defensive ranks to fire the ball past England goalkeeper George Pinner from close range.

With the sides level at half-time it was England who started the second half the stronger side and they were awarded a penalty corner in the 48th minute. Juan Vivaldi was alert to parry Ashley Jackson’s drag-flick, but Mark Cleghorne was quick to react and dispatch the ball past the Argentinian ‘keeper.

England striker Ashley Jackson in action against Argentina. Photo Credit Duncan Gray

Nevertheless, Argentina were soon back on parity with a wonderful solo effort, Agustin Mazzilli dancing through the attentions of four English defenders to slip the ball past Pinner in the 56th minute.

Scotland Senior Men: Jamie Cachia (Sheffield), Gareth Hall (Beeston), Michael Bremner (Kelburne), Dan Coultas (Holcombe), Alan Forsyth (Surbiton), Chris Grassick (Surbiton), Ian Moodie (Edinburgh University), Ross Stott (East Grinstead), Chris Nelson (Kelburne), Kenny Bain (Hurley), William Marshall (Sheffield), Iain Scholefield (Qui Vive), Niall Stott (East Grinstead),David Forsyth (Qui Vive), Nick Parkes (Surbiton), Gavin Byers (Sheffield), Gary Cameron (Grange), Gavin Sommerville (Western Wildcats)


FT Scotland (Kenny Bain 7’, Chris Grassick 65’, Gary Cameron 68’) 3-4 Belgium (Tanguy Cosyns 20’, Boon 22’, 51’, Loick Luypert 41’)
FT England (Alastair Brogdon, Martin Gleghorne) 2-2 Argentina (Manuel Brunet, Agustin Mazzilli)

Scottish Hockey Union media release

England men draw with Argentina

Ashley Jackson battles with Matias Paredes during England Men's match against Argentina in the Four Nations tournament at Glasgow, April 25 2014. Photo: Rodirigo Jaramillo.

England Men had to settle for a 2-2 draw from their opening match of the Four Nations tournament in Glasgow on Friday evening, with Argentina defending deep and hitting them on the attack.

Wimbledon’s Ali Brogdon gave England the lead after just three minutes, but Manuel Brunet ensured Argentina were level with a 24th minute goal. Mark Gleghorne scored from a 47th minute penalty corner, but England’s lead only lasted seven minutes before a superb individual goal from Agustin Mazzilli ensured the points were shared.

“We made too many errors across the whole game,” said England Head Coach Bobby Crutchley. “However there were plenty of good signs that came from our performance. We now have a great opportunity to learn from this game as we move forwards to the Scottish game tomorrow.”

England drew first blood after just three minutes through Wimbledon forward Ali Brogdon. Captain Barry Middleton created space just inside the Argentine half and, after a one-two with East Grinstead’s Ashley Jackson, slotted the ball through some static defenders into the circle for Brogdon to deflect into the bottom right corner of the net.

Argentina pulled level after 24 minutes. England let an Argentine defender step up into England’s half, and they maintained that momentum down the left of centre where, after reaching the circle, Manuel Brunet fired home.

They went in search of another goal, but strong and patient defending from England negated their efforts and, by the end of the half, Argentina were sat deep and seemed happy to be level.

Both sides came out seemingly more willing to attack, but after a good spell of opening pressure from Argentina, it was England who retook the lead from their first penalty corner on 47 minutes. After the initial shot from Ashley Jackson was saved by the goalkeeper, his team-mate at East Grinstead Mark Gleghorne was on hand to quickly control and slot home the rebound.

While Argentina were a man down with Andino having received a yellow card, England missed their second penalty corner which was fired over the goal, and four minutes later Argentina were back level.

A stellar run from Agustin Mazzilli, who caught England napping as he rounded five defenders, saw him lift the ball over a sliding George Pinner in the England goal to pull his side level.

England went in search of a third goal to ensure they started the tournament with a win, but Argentina sat deep and looked content to take a point.

Hosts Scotland take on Belgium in the evening’s second match which began at 7pm.

England are next in action on Saturday afternoon (3pm) when they play Scotland, prior to the Argentina versus Belgium clash. England then face Belgium on Monday (11am), before placement matches on Tuesday.

England 2 (1)
Alistair Brogdon 3 (F)
Mark Gleghorne 47 (PC)

Argentina 2 (1)
Manuel Brunet 24 (F)
Agustin Mazzilli 54 (F)

England Hockey Board Media release

Let’s introduce the teams in Pool A

(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

New Zealand, Japan, Poland and Ireland are the teams battling it out in Pool A at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan, Malaysia. Let’s get some more information on them!

NEW ZEALAND - current world ranking: 6
The mighty Black Sticks are considered by many to be tournament favourites for the Champions Challenge 1, which is hardly surprising considering their impressive displays in recent months. The team, mentored by globally respected ex-Belgium coach and former Australian international Colin Batch, claimed a superb silver medal at the Hero Hockey World League Final in New Delhi and have set their sights on getting among the medals at the upcoming Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands. Batch has named a strong squad for the tournament, with 11 players each having amassed more than 100 international caps. Defender and team captain Dean Couzins recently surpassed the 300 appearance mark and joins Phil Burrows in the 300 club.

JAPAN - current world ranking: 14
The Japan men’s team – known as “The Samurais” – come into the Champions Challenge 1 tournament in Kuantan on the back of a series loss against Pool A favourites New Zealand. The Asians produced a fine, battling display to overcome a two goal deficit to claim a 2-2 draw in the series opener before losing the next two fixtures 2-0 and 5-1 against their higher ranked opponents. Japan – who finished as runners up to Pakistan in the 2013 Asian Champions Trophy – have featured in four previous editions of the men’s Champions Challenge 1, having claimed 5th place on three occasions (Kuala Lumpur 2001, Antwerp 2007 & Quilmes 2012). They will be determined to get among the medals in Kuantan, something that they are more than capable of achieving if they play to their potential. At 30 years of age, goalkeeper Katsuya Takese is the oldest member of the Japan squad named for this tournament, with Takuro Sasaki being the youngest at 22. Sasaki will be making his senior international tournament debut in Kuantan. The squad contains five players that have in excess of 100 international caps: Koji Kayukawa (100+), Tomonori Ono (120+), Kei Kawakami (160+), Katsuyoshi Nagasawa (110+) and Hiroki Sakamoto (100+).

IRELAND - current world ranking: 15
Ireland are making their second successive appearance in the Champions Challenge 1, having debuted at the 2012 edition in Quilmes, Argentina. The “Green Machine” proved themselves to be the surprise team of the tournament, producing a string of classy, confident performances before eventually taking the bronze medal thanks to a Peter Caruth’s stunning Golden Goal winner against Malaysia. The Irishmen will be hoping to achieve even greater things this time around. The team is coached by former South African international star Craig Fulton, who took charge in March following the mutually agreed departure of Andrew Meredith at the end of 2013. Ace goalkeeper David Harte, captain John Jackson and Eugene Magee are the most experienced members of the squad with over 420 combined caps between them, while 31 year old Maurice Elliott is set to feature in his first senior international tournament.

POLAND - current world ranking: 18
2011 world indoor silver medallists Poland may be coming into this tournament as the lowest ranked team, but they certainly should not be under-estimated. The squad contains plenty of talent, with Tomasz Gorny, Bartosz Zywiczka and team captain Pawel Bratkowski – who takes the armband in place of the injured Dariusz Rachwalski – being the stand-out players in the group. The absence of talismanic attacker Rachwalski is a big blow to the Polish squad, but you can guarantee that the side will be fit, organised and ready to take on all opponents at the event in Kuantan. Poland, coached by Karol Sniezek, have featured in the two most recent editions of the Champions Challenge 1. The side finished a creditable sixth at the 2011 event in Johannesburg, South Africa,   although their 2012 campaign in Quilmes, Argentina was less successful, finishing eighth. They also endured a tough time at last year’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships, with a seventh place finish resulting in relegation from the elite tier ahead of the 2015 edition of the tournament. The team will be determined to produce a strong performance in Kuantan. At the age of 31, Philipp Weide is set to make his international debut in Kuantan. Weide is one month younger than Ireland’s Maurice Elliott, who is also set to make his international debut in Kuantan. Goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak (33) is the oldest player in the Poland squad, with Adam Chwalisz (21) being the youngest. Matuszak (110+) and Gorny (120+) are the only players in the Polish squad named for this event to have made over 100 senior international appearances.

FIH site

Let’s have a closer look at the teams playing in Pool B

(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

Korea, Malaysia, Canada and France are playing off in pool B at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan. Now we will take a closer look at these teams.

KOREA - current world ranking: 7
Korea enter the Champions Challenge 1 tournament as the continental champions of Asia, a title that they claimed on Malaysian soil last year thanks to victory over India in the final of the Asia Cup in Ipoh. A repeat of that success at the event in Kuantan would not only seal a place at the elite Champions Trophy in 2016, but would also boost Korean confidence ahead of this summer’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands. The side, coached by Shin Seok Kyo, showed signs of good form at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, claiming three wins, one draw and one defeat in the famous invitational event. Notably, the Koreans faced two of their Champions Challenge Pool B rivals at the event, comfortably defeating Canada 3-0 before earning a 2-2 draw with host nation Malaysia. The defeat came at the hands of tournament champions Australia, with the world number 1 ranked side running out 5-1 winners. Korea have been the runners-up in each of their three appearances (2003, 2005 and 2012) in the Champions Challenge 1, with a first place finish very much the target in Kuantan. The Korean squad contains the most international experience out of all of the teams competing in Kuantan, with only five players having played less than 100 games for their country. The 18 member team have a combined total of almost 2400 international appearances, which is an average of over 130 caps per player. Four players have surpassed the 200 caps mark - You Hyo Sik, Yoon Sung Hoon, Hong Eun Seong and Jang Jong Hyun. Lee Nam Yong, another member of the 200 club, was forced to withdraw from the tournament through injury, being replaced by Cho Suk Hoon.   

MALAYSIA - current world ranking: 13
Like pool B rivals Korea, host nation Malaysia will be using the Champions Challenge 1 event as a key element of their preparation for the upcoming Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands. A successful campaign in front of their passionate home fans in Kuantan could be the springboard to even greater accomplishments in Europe later this year. The team is coached by former Malaysian international Muhammad Dhaarma Raj, who stepped up from coaching the men’s U-21 team following the recent departure of South Africa’s Paul Revington. The new coach has made a successful start to his reign, guiding the team to a second place finish behind Australia, the current world number 1 ranked team, at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in March. The Malaysia side selected for the Champions Challenge 1 is crammed full of experience, with five players – Selvaraju Sandrakasi, Shahrun Abdullah, Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib, Aslan Misron and goalkeeper Subramiam Kumar – having made more than 200 international appearances. With well over 320 caps, Malaysia captain Aslan Misron has made more international appearances than any other individual competing in this event.  

CANADA - current world ranking: 16
Canada return to Malaysia for the second time in two months, following their participation in March’s Sultan Azlan Shah Cup invitational tournament. The team secured a fourth place finish at that event, their best on record, although defeats against fellow Pool B rivals Korea (3-0) and Malaysia (3-1) suggests that they will have to further raise their game if they are going to improve on their 6th place finish at the 2012 Champions Challenge 1 in Quilmes, Argentina. The squad selected by head coach Anthony Farry contains three players named in the 2013 Pan American Elite Team, with ace defender Scott Tupper being joined by strikers Matthew Guest and Mark Pearson on the 16-strong shortlist which recognises Pan American hockey’s most impressive performers. Tupper (170+ caps) and Pearson (140+) are two of five players who have made more than 100 international appearances for Canada, with Philip Wright (130+), Richard Hildreth (110+) and David Jameson (190+) also having surpassed the milestone. Defender Benjamin Martin is expected to make his 50th international appearance during the tournament in Kuantan.

FRANCE - current world ranking: 17
France, coached by legendary national team player Frederic Soyez, are a team very much on the up. The side produced an outstanding performance on home soil at the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in St. Germain last year where they finished second behind Belgium, defeating fellow Champions Challenge 1 competitors Canada and Poland to snatch four wins from their five matches. They also claimed silver at the EuroHockey Championship II, sealing promotion to the elite tier EuroHockey Championship for 2015. Perhaps the most telling evidence of a change in French fortunes came at the Hero Hockey Junior World Cup in New Delhi late last year, when the young guns defied all expectations to reach the tournament final before losing out to Germany. Ten players from that hugely successful junior squad have been named in the senior team for Kuantan, including 18 year old Cristoforo Peters-Deutz, the tournament’s youngest player, and Hugo Genestet, brother of fellow squad members Tom and Martin. France are more than capable of punching above their weight in Kuantan, with a shot at the medals certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

FIH site

Who to watch out for in Kuantan

Malaysia's Faizal Saari in action. (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Although hockey is a team sport it is always worth taking a closer look at some of the outstanding individuals in the squads at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan.

Phil Burrows is the most-capped player in Hockey New Zealand’s history having played 312 international matches, while team-captain Dean Couzins recently became the second Black Stick to reach the 300 club.

One day before the tournament kicks off in Kuantan, Phil is celebrating his 34th birthday. Like his team-mates, he is also looking forward to the opening match between New Zealand and Ireland. “This will be a tough match, we need to see how well we can deal with the heat”, Burrows says. His concern is well-founded; the match starts at 3.00 pm local time and New Zealand haven’t trained at the pitch at this time of day so far.

Burrows has been a member of the Black Sticks squad for more than 14 years now and he is still considered to be one of the world’s finest strikers and a true talisman for his team. “I’m in my 15th year now and I’m still enjoying it”, Burrows says. When asked whether he is planning to retire after the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in The Hague, he said: “No, I will carry on. The Olympic Games in Rio are a major goal for me.”

Burrows agrees that the silver medal recently won at the Hero Hockey World League Final in Delhi early this year has given his team a lot of self-confidence. “We know that we can compete in the top tournaments”, Burrows says also pointing out the importance of this silver medal for Hockey New Zealand. After the success in Delhi the Black Sticks are considered by many to be tournament favourites in Kuantan.

Faizal Saari is the star in the Malaysian team. He is an eye-catching and supremely skilful attacker who regularly gets his name on the score-sheet. "We are excited about this tournament“, Faizal said. Despite only being 23 years of age, Faizal has already played an impressive number of 137 matches for Malaysia.

His team is one of three teams in Kuantan which has also qualified for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup kicking off in The Hague on May 31st. Before impressing in The Netherlands, team Malaysia would like to grab the ticket for the Champions Trophy 2016 here at the CC1 in Kuantan. “We have been preparing well, and it’s time to do our best, it’s not going to be easy but we will try our best" said Faizal who recently played hockey in Berlin for TC Blau Weiss. His team mate, Kevin Lim, plays for local rivals of Berliner HC.

Canadian team-captain Scott Tupper missed much of his team's preparations for CC1 as he has been playing club hockey in Belgium for RC Brussels and starred in last week's Euro Hockey League KO16. His team defied all expectations by reaching the last four, meaning the 27-year-old was still involved in EHL business until Monday.

“This was a pleasant surprise because we didn’t except to win our first and our second game”, Tupper explains. “My flight was originally booked for Monday but then I sent an e-mail to the team manager asking whether it would be ok to come later.” His request was approved by Team Canada, so Tupper was able to participate in Monday’s bronze medal which his Racing Club eventually lost to Belgium rivals KHC Dragons.

“This was already a busy week for me and it will be another busy weekend”, Tupper says. Regarding his expectations on Canada’s performance in Kuantan he adds: “We are expecting high quality matches. We want to finish well by trying to push into the semi finals.”

FIH site

Malaysia look forward to CC1 despite withdrawal of goalie Jamaluddin

Malaysia are looking forward to the competition (Photo: FIH)

The National hockey team could do with lots of support from all Malaysians, and a graceful touch of Lady Luck when they march into the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan tomorrow.

National head coach Muhammad Dhaarma Raj and his motley band of ‘courageous soldiers’ as he fondly refers them, are on a special mission – to improve on their fourth placing at the 2001 and 2012 editions and in the process qualify for the coveted 2016 Champions Trophy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dhaarma Raj trimmed the squad down to 18 players, dropping three more after the last friendly match against Poland which the Malaysians won 2-1. Those dropped are Muhamad Ramadan Rosli, Mohd. Shahrun Nabil and Razie Rahim while defender Azlan Misron has been selected to wear the skipper’s band to lead the squad.

In the absence of senior goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin who is nursing a knee injury, Dhaarma Raj has placed his investments on S. Kumar and Juniors goalkeeper Mohd Hafizzudin Othman for the job between the goalmouths.

The others selected are Kevin Frederick Lim, Muhammad Marhan Mohd Jalil, Mohd Fitri Saari, Faizal Saari, Mohamad Shukri Abdul Mutalib, Muhammad Firhan Ashari, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, Faiz Helmi Jali, Tengku Ahmad Tajudin Abdul Jalil, Muhammad Rashid Baharom, Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin, Muhammad Sharil Saabah, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Muhammad Azri Hassan and Ismail Abu. 

Malaysia kicks off its campaign against France in a late match in Saturday’s opening proceedings after New Zealand, ranked World No.6, and South Korea, face a fascinating Ireland and Canada respectively, while the Japan-Poland match is also expected to draw lots of attention.

The French have included 12 players who finished second in the Junior World Cup last year and arrived with a bruised ego following 5-1 and 7-2 defeats against Belgium in two test matches in Europe last week but soothed that pain with a 4-3 win over Japan in a warm up match in Kuantan on Wednesday.

FIH site

Title target

TOUGH: History stands against Malaysia’s bid to end drought


MALAYSIA have no previous medals to show from the Champions Challenge 1, but will aim for the sky beginning today at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium.

Malaysia’s best finishes in the tournament have been fourth — achieved in Kuala Lumpur and Argentina in 2001 and 2012 respectively.

The target in Kuantan, however, is to win the title and qualify for the 2016 Champions Trophy on merit, as Malaysia have only played at that level as hosts in 1993 and 2007.

Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah had said recently: “Lets go for the gold medal and qualify for the Champions Trophy, as a good performance in Kuantan will also boost the confidence of our players for the World Cup.”

In Kuantan, the other World Cup-bound teams are New Zealand and South Korea.

Malaysia played well to finish second behind Australia in the recent Azlan Shah Cup but in the Champions Challenge, they might find the going tougher when they face South Korea or New Zealand in the knock-out stage.

National coach K. Dharmaraj yesterday dropped three players after his side beat Poland 2-1 on Thursday.

Ramadan Rosli, Shahrun Nabil and Razie Rahim were left out while defender Azlan Misron has been selected to wear the skipper’s band.

In the absence of senior goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, who is nursing a knee injury, Dharmaraj picked Junior World Cupper  Hafizzudin Othman as back-up for No 1 S. Kumar.

Tournament favourites New Zealand, Ireland, Japan and Poland are in Group A while Malaysia, Canada, France and Korea are in Group B.

“I have been cracking my head for the last 10 days to select the best side, as it is never easy to drop players who are about the  same standard. It was a difficult choice but since only 18 are allowed, I had to drop Ramadan, Shahrun and Razie,” said Dharmaraj.

On the lofty target: “We are here to keep the momentum running from the group stages to the knock-out, and of course, every team here want the gold medal.”

SQUAD: S. Kumar (gk), Hafizuddin Othman (gk), Azlan  Misron, Kevin Lim, Izad Hakimi, Shukri Mutalib, Ahmad  Kazamirul, Faiz Helmi, Azri Hassan, Fitri Shaari, Marhan Jalil, Nabil Fiqri, Tengku  Ahmad Tajuddin, Faizal Saari, Shahril Saabah, Ismail Abu,  Rashid Baharom, Firhan Ashaari.

New Straits Times

Fitting Malaysia hold Champions Challenge ender

By S. Ramaguru

KUANTAN: Malaysia hosted the first Champions Challenge I tournament in 2001. So, it is only fitting that the country is given the honour of hosting the last of the series.

The tournament in Kuantan will be the eighth and last men’s Champions Challenge I competition following the introduction of the Hockey World League.

The biennial Champions Challenge I provides the winners with a route to the prestigious Champions Trophy. As such, the winners here will play in the 2016 Champions Trophy.

Since 2009, the competition involves eight men’s teams from around the globe. Those who competed in the first-ever Champions Challenge I included India, South Africa, Argentina, Malaysia, Japan and Belgium.

Argentina are the most decorated team in Champions Challenge I history, taking three titles in four appearances (2001, 2005, 2007 and 2012). South Korea, who have yet to win, have emerged as runners-up in each of their three previous appearances (2003, 2005 and 2012).

The other teams who have won the tournament are India, Spain, New Zealand and Belgium.

The tournament in Kuantan will feature two top-10 teams – New Zealand and South Korea. They will be challenged by Malaysia, Japan, Ireland, Canada, France and Poland.

New Zealand have won only once in three appearances in the Champions Challenge I, defeating Pakistan for the gold medal in 2009.

This year, France will be making their first appearance in the series.

New Zealand are the favourites in Group A, which also has Japan, Ireland and Poland. Group B features South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and France.

The Star of Malaysia

Champions Challenge: We're in it to win it

By S. Ramaguru

KUANTAN: Last month, newly-appointed coach K. Dharmaraj guided the national hockey team to a second placing in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament in Ipoh.

This time, he’s hoping to go one better at the Champions Challenge I tournament, which starts at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.

This is a far cry from the fifth-placing target they had set for themselves in 2012 in Argentina. Then, Malaysia came out fourth.

But Dharmaraj believes that they can win the tournament “as we will have home ground advantage”.

He also insisted that the Champions Challenge I would give him an insight into what’s in store for the future – especially with the World Cup coming up in four weeks’ time.

The recent six-Test match series against China in Kuala Lumpur and the warm-up games against Ireland and Poland here have also given Dharmaraj more options to pick his final squad.

Dharmaraj also deserves praise for not being afraid to wield the axe on under-performing players or those he feels do not fit into his plans.

That probably explains the exclusion of former skipper and experienced midfielder Mohd Shahrun Nabil. Mohd Ramadan Rosli and Mohd Razie Rahim were the other two players dropped when the final 18.

“I have in mind the structure that I want to implement and also the players I deem fit for it. It was a difficult choice in dropping the players but, at the end of it, we have to see who will fit into the system that we want to play,” said Dharmaraj.

In the Champions Challenge I, Malaysia are in Group B with France, Canada and South Korea. Group B comprises New Zealand, Japan, Poland and Ireland.

Malaysia should be able to start their campaign with a bang as they will be up against newcomers France, who have 12 juniors in their side and are grooming the team for the future.

Malaysia can take heart that the group matches mean nothing as all eight teams will make it to the quarter-finals.

So, the group matches against South Korea and Canada will provide useful practice for Dharmaraj’s men as well.

But Malaysia still want to finish top of their group so that they can avoid the big teams, like world No. 6 New Zealand, in the last eight.

The Group B favourites are South Korea, who come into this tournament as the continental champions of Asia.

The Koreans also showed signs of good form at the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, where they beat two of their Champions Challenge I group rivals – comfortably defeating Canada 3-0 and drawing 2-2 with Malaysia.

South Korea have been runners-up in each of their three previous appearances – in 2003, 2005 and 2012. Thus, they will be looking to win this time.

 New Zealand are also considered the tournament favourites and the team, coached by former Australian international Colin Batch, claimed a silver at the Hero Hockey World League Final in New Delhi in January.

They are also one of three teams in Kuantan who will be in action at the World Cup in The Hague from May 31-June 15. The other two are South Korea and Malaysia.

So, expect the action in Kuantan to likely to be hot and spicy.

The Star of Malaysia

Heat is on Black Sticks to perform in Malaysia


LEADING THE CHARGE: Hugo Inglis will be an important contributor on attack for New Zealand at the Champions Challenge tournament in Malaysia, beginning tonight. Michael Bradley

Overcoming the searing Malaysian heat will be a key obstacle for the New Zealand men's hockey team at the second-tier Champions Challenge tournament.

The Black Sticks' opening two pool games against Ireland  and Japan get under way at 3pm local time, which will provide an early test for the side.

With temperatures in the Malaysian city of Kuantan expected to be in the early 30s tonight and tomorrow, hydration and recovery will be vital for the Kiwis.

"The heat is one thing, but the humidity that comes with it is really sapping from an energy point of view," coach Colin Batch said. "It will be challenging in the heat."

The Black Sticks have spent the past few days acclimatising to the Malaysian conditions after being based in Perth, where they played two warm-up games against world No 1 Australia.

They beat Canada 7-0 in a lead-up clash for the tournament on Wednesday. Batch was happy with what he saw, but said their opponents had been in the country only a day, after  a 24-hour flight.

New Zealand, who are ranked sixth in the world, will be expected to top their group with Japan (14th), Ireland (15th) and Poland (18th) sitting several places below them.

Batch expected a defensive-orientated style of game from their group opponents, who would try and pounce on the counter-attack.

"Most teams we play here, we'll have to make the play. Teams will park in their back 50. We've got to be patient and find our way through those areas."

Japan are a familiar foe for the Black Sticks. New Zealand beat them 2-0 in a three-game series in Tauranga last month.

The other group comprises Malaysia, South Korea, Canada and France.

Batch believed Malaysia and South Korea would be the sides to watch out for come the knockout stages.

The winner of the tournament advances to the top-tier Champions Trophy for 2016.

New Zealand have named an experienced squad, including players with 100 caps or more.

They will be eager to build on the strong form they showed at the World League final in India in January, finishing second.

The Black Sticks have a settled look to their team, with just two changes since then.

Penalty-corner specialist Andy Hayward and striker Jared Panchia return, with Jacob Smith and Joe Bartholomew dropping out.

Batch said it was an important tournament for the squad's fringe players, who will be looking to push their claims ahead of next month's cup in the Netherlands and the Commonwealth Games.

The playing group in Malaysia were the frontrunners for those tournaments later in the year, Batch said.

However, players such as Cory Bennett, George Muir, Brad Shaw and Shay Neal were back in New Zealand knocking on the door.

Potent striker Nick Wilson is still recovering from a serious knee injury.


Pearson about to earn his 150th international cap

Mark Pearson will be earning his 150th international cap when the national men's field hockey team participates in the eighth annual Men's Champions Challenge in Kuantan, Malaysia.

The 26-year-old forward from Tsawwassen made his national team debut in 2005 against Scotland. He played for Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and helped his country win silver at the 2011 Pan American Games. Teammate Ben Martin will be earning his 50th cap during the Malaysia trip.

"Having guys achieve milestones like 150 or 50 caps is significant and shows their quality and commitment to the program and there's no doubt both Mark and Ben contribute a great deal both on and off the pitch," explains Canadian head coach Anthony Farry.

"Both these guys embody leadership in different ways and I'm hopeful they will be around the group for some time yet."

Canada finished sixth at the 2012 Champions Challenge in Argentina, and has since exposed more than 20 new athletes to senior level international hockey. Canada looks to top its 2012 result at this year's competition in Malaysia, where world ranking points will be on the line.

Canada is coming off a fifth place finish at the 23rd Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh last month - its best finish ever at that tournament.

"This is a well balanced team," added Farry. "We have made a couple of changes from the Azlan Shah Cup squad with some of our overseas players returning to the group and this will add a bit of experience."

Meanwhile, Sara McManus continues her promising career as a member of the senior women's national team with a series of matches in Great Britain against England and Wales, starting on Sunday.

The 20-year-old defender from Tsawwassen already has 52 international caps to her credit since her senior team debut in 2010. She also is a prominent member of the UBC Thunderbirds, majoring in kinesiology at the Point Grey Campus. The series, which will be held in England, will serve as an important test for the Canadian women as they prepare for key competitions later this year.

In facing England, Canada will be taking on a team ranked number three in the world and which is in the final stages of preparation for the World Cup this summer "Against teams like England, you have no place to hide and this kind of exposure will test both our on-field and off-field systems," says women's national team head coach Ian Rutledge.

Canada will play four consecutive matches against England before three more games against Wales.

Delta Optimist

About Kuantan and the Stadium Hockey Wisma Belia

Kuantan Beach (Photo: FIH)

The Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 takes place at the Stadium Hockey Wisma Belia in Kuantan, capital city of the Malaysian state of Pahang. Kuantan resides on the east coast of Malaysia, around 280 kilometres east of Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Well over 400,000 people call Kuantan home, making it the largest city in East Coast Malaysia, while 1.5 million people live in the state of Pahang.

The city of Kuantan has a spectacular balance of stunning historical sites along with several modern activities and venues to visit. Highlights of the city include the State Mosque, the Kuantan river esplanade and river cruise, Panching Caves, Cherating turtle sanctuary and the popular East Coast Shopping Mall.

The Stadium Hockey Wisma Belia was built in 2012 and features two pitches that have previously hosted a women’s World League Round 2 event, as well as the 2009 men’s Asia Cup. The always-energetic Malaysian hockey fan base will undoubtedly help to fill the stands that have a spectator capacity of 8,000.

FIH site

Six of the best

We highlight some of the players who are expected to shine in CC1 in Kuantan and Glasgow

New Zealand's Phil Burrows in action. (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Although hockey is a team sport it is always worth taking a closer look at some of the outstanding individuals in the squads at the Pahang Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Kuantan and the Glasgow Champions Challenge 1.

Phil Burrows is the most-capped player in Hockey New Zealand’s history having played 312 international matches over a 14-year international career. One day before the tournament kicks off in Kuantan, Phil is looking forward to the opening match between New Zealand and Ireland. “This will be a tough match, we need to see how well we can deal with the heat”, Burrows says. His concern is well-founded; the match starts at 3.00 pm local time and New Zealand haven’t trained at the pitch at this time of day so far. However, the silver medal recently won at the Hero Hockey World League Final in Delhi early this year has given his team a lot of self-confidence. “We know that we can compete in the top tournaments”, Burrows says. After the success in Delhi the Black Sticks are considered by many to be tournament favourites in Kuantan.

Faizal Saari is the star in the Malaysian team. He is an eye-catching and supremely skilful attacker who regularly gets his name on the score-sheet. "We are excited about this tournament“, Faizal said. Despite only being 23 years of age, Faizal has already played an impressive number of 137 matches for Malaysia. His team is one of three teams in Kuantan which has also qualified for the Rabobank Hockey World Cup kicking off in The Hague on 31 May. Before impressing in The Netherlands, team Malaysia would like to grab the ticket for the Champions Trophy 2016 here at the CC1 in Kuantan.

Canadian team-captain Scott Tupper missed much of his team's preparations for CC1 as he has been playing club hockey in Belgium for RC Brussels and starred in last week's Euro Hockey League KO16. His team defied all expectations by reaching the last four, meaning the 27-year-old was still involved in EHL business until Monday. His Racing Club eventually lost the bronze medal match to Belgium rivals KHC Dragons. 

“This was already a busy week for me and it will be another busy weekend”, Tupper says. Regarding his expectations on Canada’s performance in Kuantan he adds: “We are expecting high quality matches. We want to finish well by trying to push into the semi finals.”

In Scotland, one player expected to sine is Korea's ace goal-scorer Park Mi Hyun. The most capped player in the current squad with well over 200 senior international appearances, Park Mi Hyun is a livewire striker with an extraordinary ability to create chances out of nothing. The 28-year-old attacker was named on the 10 strong shortlist for the 2013 FIH Player of the Year Award.

South Africa's Marsha Cox (formerly Marescia) has made more senior international appearances than any other player in the tournament, with more than 320 matches under her belt. Marsha Cox is a true icon of South African hockey and one of the most popular players in the game. This 31-year-old midfielder is a triple Olympian, having represented her country at the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games. 

The final player in our selection is one of the youngest players in the tournament. Berta Bonastre is a young player with a massive future ahead of her. Bonastre was captain of the Spain team that claimed a fifth place finish at last year’s Ergo Junior World Cup. She is the younger sister of Silvia Bonastre, who represented Spain at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Follow all the CC1 action through our live stream at youtube.com/fihockey

FIH site

U21 Women's squad play three test matches in Lille

Hannah Martin, England U21 v Spain, July 27 2013, by Frank Uijlenbroek

Between 18-21 April England's U21 women travelled out to the CREPS centre in Lille for three test matches against France.

Over the Easter weekend England women's U21 squad tested their skills against the French side at Lille's high-performance sporting centre, the CREPS. You can read more about each match below, and squad information can be found at the bottom of the page.

Match 1: England 8-0 France

England got off to a flying start in their first match of the Easter weekend, with six players all finding the net over the course of the game. Straight out of the gate, the team shot up the field and Laura Bevan was able to score within the first two minutes of play. The girls kept up the pace with Rebekah Walker scoring around ten minutes later, and while the French side were able to hold off the onslaught for a while after, once Lucy Wood made her presence felt the game was all but over. A hat-trick, with all three goals within three minutes of each other left the game 5-0 to England going into the break. The second half continued much like the first, as Mollie Rawnsley scored a penalty corner two minutes in. Two more goals from Hannah Martin and Kitty McWhirter sealed the deal for England as the first game ended 8-0.

Match 2: England 0-1 France

In quite a change of pace from Friday, it was France who took the early lead and were able to hold onto it for the rest of the match. Scoring the only goal of the game before the break, France's defence was unbeatable as England kept pushing for the leveler. Despite several penalty corners from either side, they were all either sent wide or saved as the teams got frantic hoping to get another goal on the board, and England was unable to bring the score back, giving France a 0-1 win and leaving it all to play for in the final game to see who would walk away with the most wins.

Match 3: England 4-1 France

After Saturday's performance, England were eager to prove that they could recapture their brilliance from the first match. It took them a while to find their feet, with the first goal coming after 20 minutes of play courtesy of Hannah Martin, once again making her way round the keeper to score from open play. She was joined in the first half by Holly Hunt, who scored her first of the series ten minutes later leaving the score 2-0 going into the break. France brought the score back shortly into the second half, but not to be deterred England fired two more home in the last 15 minutes with Kitty McWhirter's and Eliza Brett both scoring penalty corners within two minutes of each other. Despite a spirited effort from France to try and bring the game back, the final whistle went with the scores sitting at 4-1.

After the three games, England U21s Head Coach Kevin Johnson had this to say, “I was pleased overall with the positive progress made both on and off the pitch with the group, as we began our preparations for the Euros this Summer. Despite the blip in both result and performance quality in the second game, the squad applied themselves well over the duration of the series and made clear gains in key objectives set”.

U21 Test match squad

Laura Bevan
Eliza Brett
Lydia Clissitt
Lucie Daman
Emily Defroand
Lizzie Gittens
Kate Holmes
Holly Hunt
Saskia Janzen
Kathryn Lane
Kim Leiper
Pippa Lewis
Hannah Martin
Kitty McWhirter
Livy Paige
Mollie Rawnsley
Helen Reeves
Ellie Tait
Amy Tennant
Emma Trunks
Rebecca Van Berkel
Rebekah Walker
Alice Wills
Lucy Wood

England Hockey Board Media release

Huge wins for Wapda, Army Reds and NBP

LAHORE: Wapda, Army Reds and the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) recorded one-sided victories in the ninth Nishan-e-Haider Hockey Tournament in Bahawalpur on Friday.

Two goals from Zubair Riaz helped Wapda crush Army Whites 7-1. The winning side led the first half 3-1. Zubair hit goals in the 18th and 33rd minutes, converting both goals on penalty-corners.

Mohammad Usman (25th), Rana Umair (38th), Umar Bhutta (39th), Mohammad Irfan (45th) and Asad Bashir (65th) scored a goal each for Wapda.

The solitary goal from Army Whites came through Faraz Dar on a penalty-corner (19th minute).

Army Reds, meanwhile, registered a huge 9-3 victory against the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). The Reds led the first half 5-2.

Mohammad Imran (8th, 19th) and Abdul Jabbar (41st, 58th) banged in two goals each while Mohammad Kashif (5th), Habib-ur-Rehman (30th), Aamir Arsalan (33rd), Hamid Zafar Dar (44th) and Gulfam Idrees (59th) scored one each.

Waseem Jr (10th, 69th) and Fayyaz Ahmed (34th) reduced the margin for the PSM.

In the day’s third match, the NBP earned a creditable 6-2 win against Railways. Tousiq Arshad (11th, 41st), Sibtain Raza (14th, 57th) and Arsalan Qadir (54th, 70th) registered goals for the victors.

Zeeshan Bukhari (18th) and Umair Hamid (23rd) found the net for Railways.


Several key areas to work on before World Cup: Sardar

Sabi Hussain

New Delhi - Sardar Singh has seen many ups and downs that Indian hockey has gone through in the last few years. On the field, Sardar has spent nearly a decade taking on the fiercest rivals with unwavering grit and tenacity while guiding the team to many famous victories.

The Punjab midfielder has become the fulcrum of the team. His exemplary all-round skills made him the youngest player to captain the Indian team when he led the side at the 2008 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.

A vital cog in Indian hockey’s rebuilding process, Sardar would be up against another major challenge as captain at the World Cup, to be held at The Hague from May 31 to June 15. The challenge would be to guide a relatively young team to a “top-6 finish”.

Apart from the pressure to perform, Sardar would also have the added responsibility of inspiring the boys to take on the world’s best teams in the absence of out-of-favour seniors like drag-flicker Sandeep Singh, defender Amit Rohidas, forwards Tushar Khandker and Shivendra Singh.

Experienced right-half Gurbaj Singh, midfielder Danish Mujtaba, forwards Ramandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh have returned to provide solidity to the side. But it still would a tall order for the past masters of the game to better their eighth-place finish at the last edition of the World Cup played at home.

“We have improved a lot under our new coach Terry Walsh but still there are some areas where we need to work on before the World Cup,” Sardar told The Tribune.

“I am focusing at the start, our first game against Belgium. India have done well whenever they have started the tournament with a win,” said the 27-year-old from Rania in Moga district.

“The target is to better our previous record and finish among the top-6 nations. We could play in the semifinals too if we perform to our potential. Look, you learn so many things at training sessions but ultimately everything boils down to how you perform on match day,” he said.

India had a disappointing preparatory tour to Europe where they defeated Leiden Hockey Club 7-0 and drew 3-3 with HGC Hockey Club before losing 1-2 to Belgium, 2-4 and 1-2 to The Netherlands in their remaining build-up games.

The blue shirts would definitely be feeling the pressure when they launch their World Cup campaign on May 31. But, before that, there are several key areas which they need to address quickly at the conditioning camp beginning at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here tomorrow. “We will continue working on our aerial-ball deflection, trapping, ball release and finishing inside the striking circle and off-the-ball positioning,” said the Indian captain.

“You should see a lot of improvement in these areas. Another key area which we have identified is the lack of communication between players. Our fitness level has improved but still there is room for improvement,” said Sardar, who is closing on 200 international caps for India.

India are placed in a tough Pool A and will face Belgium on May 31, followed by matches against England (June 2), Spain (June 5), Malaysia (June 7) and reigning world champions Australia (June 9).

The Tribune

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