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News for 06 March 2015

All the news for Friday 6 March 2015

Ireland, Canada, Austria and Russia advance to semi-finals in San Diego

300th International Cap for Kwan Browne   

Yan Huckendubler, PAHF

300th International Cap for Kwan Browne. Photo: © 2015 Paul Winstanley)

Ireland destroyed Trinidad & Tobago (12-2), Canada defeated Italy (4-0), Austria squeezed past the USA (2-1) and Russia needed shoot-outs to push aside a valiant Chilean team and reach the semi-finals of the World League Round 2 in San Diego. Canada is the only Pan American team in the last quartet of the competition.

QF1: Ireland vs. Trinidad & Tobago 12-2 (ht: 4-2)

First quarter-final of this World League R2 pitted Ireland, unbeaten winner of Pool A, to Trinidad & Tobago, still in quest of a positive result in this competition. Before the match, Trinidadian Kwan Browne was honored for his 300h International Cap, an outstanding achievement in international hockey.

It did not take long for Ireland to stake their claim on the qualification for the semi-finals, with Stephen Dowds at the conclusion of a swift movement in the first minute of play. They added promptly a second goal by their captain John Jackson in the 7th minute, but Trinidad & Tobago, boosted by the arrival of the warm Californian sun and harangued by Kwan Browne, reacted well and forced a penalty-corner, scored by Browne recovering well from a mistrapped ball to celebrate in style his milestone Cap achievement.

Browne, in fine form, added another penalty-corner in the initial minute of second quarter and the teams were back square. Ireland might have been a little surprised by this come-back but maintained their pressure and regained the lead in the 19th minute by Paul Gleghorne, making the best of a bobbled penalty-corner with an innocuous shot that somehow escaped the defender on the line.

The match was certainly not a one-way affair at that point, with Trinidad & Tobago dangerous on swift counter-attacks. Ireland had a more structured approach and added their fourth goal by Peter Caruth, well positioned on the far post to deflect a cross after a decisive back line progression by Michael Watt. They reached half-time of this lively match with a two-goal cushion (4-2).

Trinidad were all over the Irish circle early in second half and earned a penalty-corner, but Kwan was denied this time. It acted as a wake-up call for Ireland and they forced a penalty-corner of their own on the next action, deflected just in front of goal-keeper Andrey Rocke by Shane O'Donoghue for the fifth Irish goal and a 3-goal lead. Conor Harte added another penalty-corner in the 40th minute and the match looked as well as folded, with a seemingly unsurmountable 4-goal lead.

With Trinidad & Tobago fading in the final stages of the match, as was the trend since the beginning of the competition, Ireland added two more goals in third quarter (8-2), then four in fourth quarter for a final score of 12-2. They cruised into semi-finals where they will face the winner of the quarter-final between Canada and Italy.

QF2: Canada vs. Italy 4-0 (ht: 2-0)

Second quarter-final of the day opposed top-ranked Canada to Italy, the good surprise of the competition so far with excellent performances. Canadian captain Scott Tupper was honored before the match for his 200th International Cap, a remarkable milestone.

Italy survived a hot situation in front of their keeper Francesco Padovani in the opening minutes of the match, then Canada obtained a penalty-corner, upgraded to a penalty-stroke after a defender stopped the ball with his foot on the line. Scott Tupper made no mistake from the spot, giving Canada an early lead.

Canada dominated play but could not further finalize their actions, kept at bay by the disciplined and compact Italian defense. It is only in the 24th minute that Gabriel Ho-Garcia forced another penalty-corner after a 50-meter run and a decisive circle penetration, and Scott Tupper doubled his tally for the day to give some breathing space to Canada.

Tempters got somewhat heated at the end of the period and both teams played short for a while, but no more goals were scored and half-time was reached with a meagre two-goal lead for the North Americans.

Same pattern prevailed in third quarter, with Canada dominating the proceedings but rushing their passes, or shots on goals, thus keeping Italy very much within striking distance. The quarter ended with unchanged scoreline and Italia getting more daring around the Canadian circle, although Dave Carter in the Canadian goal was never in pressing danger.

Canada kept control the game in the last quarter but certainly did put any urgency in their play and did not generate many opportunities. They could not take advantage of a rare penalty-corner and finally scored their third goal in the 56th minute by Brenden Bissett at the end of a quick exchange of passes in the Italian circle.

Scott Tupper, celebrating in style his milestone Cap, completed a hat-trick in the final action of the match at the end of counter-attack that swept the whole pitch and Canada seemed happy with the 4-0 win that qualified them for the semi-finals against Ireland, although they will certainly have to work harder if they want to advance further in the competition.

QF3: Austria vs. USA 2-1 (ht: 1-0)

Host team USA had high hope for this competition but were up against strong opposition with an Austrian squad impressive in pool matches. As they are used to, the USA started the game at full speed, applying strong pressure on the Austrians and not hesitating to take their chances close to their circle.

Best American chance of opening quarter was in the 10th minute for William Holt, unleashing a powerful shot that had Austrian goal-keeper Mateusz Szymczyk beaten but was saved by a defender on the line. Austria had a penalty-corner opportunity on their rare incursion in USA territory but to no avail and first quarter ended scoreless.

Play continued fairly balanced in second quarter, with a good chance for Pat Harris. Austria were weathering the storm calmly and scored on one of their first push forward in the 27th minute by Alexander Bele to take a tenuous lead at half-time.

Austria tried to take control of play in third quarter but the Americans were working very hard and not leaving them any leeway. Pat Harris had another chance in front of an empty net but could not control the bouncing ball; he earned a penalty-corner on the play but it was shot wide. The Europeans were calmly setting their plays, making the Americans run after the ball, but the USA were rewarded for their hard work in the 45th minute when captain William Holt deflected in goal from short range a free hit played quickly in the circle through the Austrian defense, much to the pleasure of the local fans enjoying the game in the Californian sun.

Play was tense in the fourth quarter, with both teams careful not to expose themselves but still trying to earn the decision before full time. Austrian captain Benjamin Stanzl forced a penalty-corner after a powerful run thought the whole American defense, but the USA survived the attempt, plus a repeat. Michael Körper hit the post just after following a long solitary run and score was still tied going into the final minutes, setting up a torrid end of match.

Dominic Uher finally grabbed the benefit of the match for Austria after a long run along the right wing and the back line, managing to slide the ball under the sliding American goal-keeper. The USA pulled their goal-keeper in the final minutes, but it was too late and Austria were relieved to hear the horn and book their ticket for a semi-final against the winner of the match between Russia and Chile.

The USA were clearly disappointed to have let the decision slip away, but could take solace in the fact that they played a strong game, possibly their best of the competition.

QF4: Russia vs. Chile 2-2 (ht: 1-0 - shoot-outs: 5-4)

Before the match, Chilean Martin Rodriguez was honored for his 100th International Cap.

Play was animated in opening quarter but neither team managed to take an ascendant on the opposition, and no real goal scoring chances were manufactured. The Russians seemed less dominant than in their pool matches, possibly feeling the now intense afternoon Californian heat. They maintained their structure but the swift Chilean counter-attacks were sometimes creating havoc in their midfield and defense.

Igor Siniagin was taken down in the circle in the 21st minute and converted the penalty-stroke himself to finally open the scoring for Russia. Play was intense, but no further opportunities were created and the Russians walked into the half-time break with their meagre one-goal advantage and not looking especially confident.

Russia tried to speed up their ball circulation in second half to make the Chileans run but the South Americans were not overly bothered and managed to force a penalty-corner. They thought that they had scored but, after some confusion, the goal was denied. Alexis Berczely had another chance soon after following a quick pick-up close to the circle but his shot was high over Marat Gafarov in the Russian goal.

Chile came back level in the 40th minute by Nicolas Renz after a perfectly executed penalty-corner variation that fooled the Russian defense. However Russia rebuilt their lead with a few seconds left in third quarter after an individual exploit from Nikolay Komaro who, blocked in the corner of the circle, managed to squeeze between two defenders and lobbed Adrian Henriquez in the Chilean goal from an improbable angle.

There was the feeling that the match could still swing one way or the other and intensity increased a few notches in the final quarter, with a few cards distributed by the umpires. Chile tried and tried, and were rewarded with a goal by Martin Rodriguez with still three minutes left on the clock. Both teams played short on yellow cards in the final minutes and the deadlock could not be broken, so the result had to be decided, for the first time in this competition, with a series of shoot-outs! 

All Russian shooters managed to score but one Chilean failed and Russia squeezed through to the semi-finals, while the Chileans could be legitimately disappointed to have missed by so little what would have been a significant exploit.

Schedule for Day 5 (Saturday March 7):
Cross-over 5-8: Trinidad & Tobago vs. Italy
Cross-over 5-8: USA vs. Chile
Semi-final: Ireland vs. Canada
Semi-final: Austria vs. Russia

PAHF Media release

Late Second Half Goal by Austria Leaves Team USA just Short of Advancing to World League Round 3

ICHULA VISTA, Calif. – In dramatic fashion, sweltering temperatures accompanied the Men’s Hockey World League Round 2 Quarterfinals on Thursday. The U.S. Men’s National Team faced Austria in the third match of the day with ambitions of qualifying for Hockey World League Round 3.

Every second on the pitch was precious and spent meticulously, with the USMNT grabbing the ball off the starting line and keeping possession. When the ball did filter down to Austria’s attacking end, USA goalkeeper Chris Rea (San Diego, Calif.) kept the score at zeroes with a clean glove save. Although the United States was able to fire off multiple shots, the attempts didn’t translate into goals ending the period with a score of USA 0, Austria 0.

Going into the second quarter, hard hits off target left the USMNT unable to obtain a result. Just before the umpires announced a closed half, in the 27th minute of play, Austria’s attacker Alexander Bele struck fast, sliding a ball past the goal line and making the score USA 0, Austria 1 going into halftime.

Just minutes into the third quarter, the USMNT’s urgency to score became undeniable and unavoidable. Team USA earned their first penalty corner of the game where William Holt’s (Camarillo, Calif.) drag flick went just over the crossbar, leaving another scoring chance unanswered on the pitch. A green card given to USA’s Captain Pat Harris (Moorpark, Calif.) in the 25th minute of play followed by a yellow card to Tom Barratt (Greensboro, N.C.) in the 38th minute left the United States a man down. Despite the setbacks, a dip in intensity didn’t occur and in 45th minute Aki Kaeppeler's (Stuttgart, Ger.)  open field goal tip tied the game, making the score USA 1, Austria 1.

Going into the final quarter of play locked at one goal each, both teams understood the gravity of the final 15 minutes. An intense battle to the finish was to be written. Austria was able to earn back-to-back penalty corners with 9 minutes remaining, but a combined effort by Team USA’s goalkeeper Rea and the solid defense kept the ball out. With the clock winding down, Austria broke the tie in the 58th minute on a goal by Dominic Uher. Austria’s late goal was enough to fortify their spot in the semifinals and made the final score USA 1, Austria 2.

"Our program is continuously growing in a positive direction and today's match proved that," said Head Coach Chris Clements. "The improvements of our group not only throughout the tournament but also on a daily basis are allowing us to play at this level. Our players dedication to the program and our plan is unquestionable and I could not be prouder of the steps that they take everyday. Our game plan was executed as we had envisioned and although the the end result was not there, everything else was."

With quarterfinal play finishing up, the next matches will be played on Saturday, March 7. The USMNT’s opponent and playing time will be determined at the completion of today’s other quarterfinal matches. Be sure to follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter for live updates on all USMNT matches at the Men’s Hockey World League Round 2. #HLW2015 #RoadToRio

USFHA media release

Tupper hat-trick leads Canada to World League 2 quarterfinal win over Italy

Canadians will face Ireland in semifinal Saturday afternoon

Shaheed Devji

On the shoulders of captain Scott Tupper, who scored a hat-trick in his 200th international match for Canada, the Canadian Men's National Field Hockey Team advanced to the FIH Hockey World League Round 2 semifinal after defeating Italy 4-0 in the tournament quarterfinal Thursday in Chula Vista, California.

Canada mounted the pressure early forcing Italian goalkeeper Francesco Podavani to make a theatrical save in the first moments of the match.

The early chances resulted in a penalty corner earned for the Canadians and after a failed attempt, Canada was awarded a penalty stroke.

Defender Scott Tuper, in his milestone match, lined up for the shot and converted confidently to give Canada the 1-0 lead.

Canada kept control through the remainder of the first quarter but despite their chances, were not able to add to the lead in the first fifteen minutes.

In the second quarter, Canada continued its possession and offensive pressure earning several penalty corners but were not rewarded with a goal until late in the first half.

Tupper netted his second of the game and fourth of the tournament on a remarkable drag flick in the twenty-fourth minute to give Canada the 2-0 lead heading into the half.

Late in the game, Brenden Bissett scored his second of the tournament on a powerful shot to give Canada a commanding 3-0 before Tupper added his third of the game in the final minute to complete the hat-trick and close out the scoring at 4-0.

David Carter, who made his third start of the tournament, teamed up with the back-line to keet the door closed in the second half. Carter earned his second win and first shutout of the tournament in his 99th career match for Canada.

Canada will face Ireland in the tournament's first semifinal at 1:00pm PST on Saturday. Ireland, the tournament's second ranked team behind Canada, advanced to the semifinal round by handily beating Trinidad and Tobago 12-2 earlier on Thursday.

Field Hockey Canada media release

Canadian captain Scott Tupper reaches 200 matches for Canada

Shaheed Devji

2014 Commonwealth Games - Scott Tupper. (Photo: Yan Huckendubler)

Ask Scott Tupper how he’s reached two-hundred international field hockey games played for Canada and he’ll tell you he’s been “a bit lucky.”

This statement isn’t untrue, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

While Tupper – like any other athlete who has enjoyed a long and fruitful career in sport – has certainly needed luck to be on his side to avoid major injury during his career, and for the timing of being mentored by Canada’s most experienced field hockey players, he has also done his fair share of work to reach this elusive milestone.

When Tupper takes to the field for the 200th time in Canada’s World League Round 2 quarterfinal match versus Italy on Thursday morning in Chula Vista, California, he’ll do so knowing his actions are just as much a part of his success as luck.

After playing in his first senior international matches in 2005, Scott was not named to the Men’s National Team in 2006.

The former AAA ice hockey player for the Vancouver Thunderbirds, who was only nineteen at the time he was left of the roster, could have easily been turned off from the sport by the experience.

But he wasn’t.

“I was in the weight room a lot,” he says of his year-off. “I put on a lot of muscle and worked hard on my skills.”

“I’ve always said it was something that maybe made me better.”

In 2007, coaches – specifically Louis Mendonca – took note and selected Scott to the National Team. And he never looked back.

“Louis selected me when a senior player couldn’t go on the first training tour,” he remembers. “I was a little bit lucky for that, but worked hard and I guess I made an impression on him because he continued to select me after that.”

That determination, that dedication, that fire within pretty much sums up what Scott Tupper is all about.

He has gone on to be a part of Canadian teams that have competed at nearly every major tournament field hockey has to offer: Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games, World Cups and Olympic Games.

In 2008, as a twenty-one year-old, Tupper played at the Beijing Olympics alongside many Canadian veterans such as Canada’s all-time cap leader Ken Pereira (348).

None had more of an impact on Tupper’s career though than Rob Short, who played in 346 international matches for Canada. The two roomed together in Beijing and Tupper was able to learn as much off the field from Short as he did on it.

“I’ve learned a lot from him, mostly about what representing Canada meant to him and the pride he took in that,” Tupper says. “It’s something I respected a lot and try and carry over into what I’m doing.”

When Tupper joined a team full of veterans like Short, he wasn’t out of place. In fact, he fit in right away.

“He just sort of brought of maturity at a young age which you don’t see a lot of in our sport, or any sport,” says Short. “As soon as he stepped into it, he seemed to understand what his role was but he also had this quiet leadership ability.”

When veterans like Short and Pereira moved on, that leadership ability was quickly formalized when Tupper was given the captaincy.

“He’s a smart guy, and an awesome player,” Short adds. “We knew he would one day be a captain for Canada and there as no doubt about that pretty much from the moment he stepped in there.”

In his role as captain for the past several years, Tupper has learned to approach the game a bit differently.

“I think you take an added responsibility but its kind of nice. I enjoy it,” he says. “It makes you think about your own role and the team a little bit more holistically.”

“You have to balance your individual wants and desires with what is best for the team.”

2014 Commonwealth Games - Scott Tupper. (Photo: Yan Huckendubler)

For Tupper, who is in his fourth season of playing club hockey in Europe – the first two in Germany, followed by two in Belgium – it’s always team first.

“It’s no secret that Scott is probably the backbone of this team in more ways than one,” says Anthony Farry, head coach of the Canadian Men’s National Team.

“He’s more so the guy that actions are louder than words and now he’s really starting to fill out the verbal side of his leadership too in terms of bringing guys along with his talk.”

Where he’s taking them is exactly where he wants to go with his own career: back to the Olympic Games.

“While I played a lot of minutes when I was younger, I wasn’t in a leadership role quite as of yet,” he says. “It would be really something that I’d be proud of to make that transition and be one of the leaders and help take this group to where we want to go.”

As Canada attempts to finish in the top three at World League Round 2 and move on to World League Round 3 for a shot at Olympic qualification, Tupper is focused on the immediate task in front of him.

Reflecting on his career, and the 199 matches that came before Thursday’s quarterfinal isn’t quite a priority. And for a guy that has always been about the game on the pitch, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

“I remember being worried or thinking about getting my first cap and being a little bit infatuated with it,” he remembers. “As I get older it’s not really about how many I play as long as I’m playing well.”

And with a bit of luck, he’ll have many more chances to do just that.

Field Hockey Canada media release

Canada blanks Italy in field hockey World League quarter-final

Scott Tupper records hat trick

Canada's Scott Tupper scored a hat trick to lead the national team past Italy Thursday in the men's field hockey World League quarter-final in San Diego, Calif. He is seen here celebrating after scoring a goal against Poland during a match in in New Delhi, India. (Saurabh Das/The Associated Press)

Scott Tupper celebrated his 200th cap by scoring a hat trick on Thursday, leading Canada's men's field hockey team to a 4-0 quarter-final victory over Italy in World League Round 2 in San Diego, Calif.

The 28-year-old from Vancouver scored on a penalty stroke in the fourth minute and a penalty corner in 24th minute, and then capped off his hat trick with a goal in the 60th minute.

"In the first half, to be able to get a couple corners, and to convert them was nice," Tupper said. "I think it's always easier to play the game with a lead, you play a little bit more freely and comfortably, and then to put a couple field goals in towards the end was also nice."

Brenden Bissett of New Westminster, B.C., scored Canada's other goal.

"Obviously it's always special to play for Canada, whether it's once or 10 times or 200," said Tupper, Canada's team captain. "I take a lot of pride in putting on the jersey every time. There's a lot of really amazing players I've played with over the years. . . it's just nice to wear the same jersey and try to do those guys proud, and hopefully set an example for the guys that are coming up later."

The Canadians, who went 2-1 in Pool B play, face Pool A winner Ireland in Saturday's semifinals.

The World League is an Olympic qualifier for field hockey. If the Canadians finish top-three in Group 2, they'll advance to the World League semifinals in June, where a top-six finish would earn them a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

A gold medal at this summer's Pan American Games would also put Canada into the Olympics.

The Canadian Press

WL2 Ireland 12 vs 2 Trinidad & Tobago

Ireland powered through to the semi-finals of the World League round two with a 12-2 win over Trinidad and Tobago with nine different scorers on the mark in San Diego.

The result means Ireland will play again on Saturday in the final four against either Canada for a place in the tournament’s final but, more importantly, for a place at World League round three where the Olympic qualifying berths will be doled out.

Stephen Dowds gave them a superb start, scoring from the game’s first attack and it was 2-0 when Paul Gleghorne picked out John Jackson in the circle to score.

They were, however, given a scare when Kwan Browne – on his 300thinternational appearance – scored twice in quick succession to peg the score back to 2-2 early in the second quarter.

But quickfire goals from Gleghorne and Mikey Watt gave Craig Fulton’s side a 4-2 half-time lead and they cut loose after the big break to run out handsome winners.

Shane O’Donoghue made it 5-2 from a corner switch while Conor Harte and Dowds also scored from set pieces amid a run of five goals in nine minutes as Trinidad folded, a recurring theme in this tournament.

Watt’s second stretched the lead to 8-2 at the end of the third quarter before Chris Cargo, Gleghorne, Eugene Magee and Alan Sothern piled on four more goals in the closing stages.

"It was a pleasing performance today given the doggedness of the Trinadand Tobago performance, especially in the opening quarter,” manager Peter Jackson said afterwards about the performance. 

“They should be given credit for never giving up and, as in all tournament hockey, the opposition must be given total respect. 

“We played in a controlled fashion and moved the ball well, especially on the break. We scored some clinical and stylish goals on interchange phases but the most pleasing aspect of the game was that we had nine differnet goal scorers. That doesn't happen too often in a hockey match.”

The focus switches now to their game with Canada in the semi-finals.

“We will rest up for a bit, given the 5am start today, then prepare and train tomorrow for Saturday's semi-final. Canada are a very experienced team and will provide us with a different challenge, one we are looking forward to".

That tie will take place at 9pm (Irish time) in San Diego.

Hockey World League round two, quarter-final

Ireland 12 (S Dowds 2, M Watt 2, P Gleghorne 2, J Jackson, S O’Donoghue, C Harte, C Cargo, E Magee, A Sothern) Trinidad and Tobago 2 (K Browne 2)
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, S Dowds, K Shimmins, M Darling, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S O’Donoghue
Subs: J Bell, A Sothern, E Magee, P Caruth, B McCandless, D Carlisle
Trinidad and Tobago: S Eccles, K Browne, A Toussaint, N Grant, M O’Connor, M James, M Pierre, S Daniel, J Reynos, T Marcano, A Rocke
Subs: K Emmanuel, J Vieira, C Modeste, T Baptiste

Irish Hockey Association media release

Smith’s South Africa target glory in Cape Town

Will favourites make home advantage count at men’s Hockey World League Round 2 event?

(Photo: Stanislas Brochier)

The third and final Round 2 event of the men’s Hockey World League gets underway in Cape Town this weekend as France, Czech Republic, Egypt, China, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Switzerland and host nation South Africa all fight it out for a place in the Olympic qualification phase of the competition.

The three highest finishers in the eight-team men’s tournament, which takes place at the Hartleyvale International Hockey Stadium between Saturday 7th and Sunday 15th March, will each be guaranteed a place in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals (Round 3), where coveted berths at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are available.

Top ranked South Africa (FIH World Ranking: 13) will be looking to take full advantage of the home setting and have named a squad packed with both talent and experience. The team is captained by talismanic defender Austin Smith, a player who comes into the this event on the back of winnin

g the 2015 Hero Hockey India League with Ranchi Rays alongside team-mate and penalty corner expert Justin Reid-Ross. Goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse, midfield star Tim Drummond and electric forward Lloyd Norris-Jones also claimed medals in the HHIL, being central figures in the Delhi Waveriders squad that took Bronze.

South Africa compete in Pool A alongside Egypt (WR: 21), China (WR: 28) and Switzerland (WR: 38). While China and Switzerland – who reached Round 2 by finishing second behind Russia at last year’s HWL R1 tournament in Sveti Ivan Zelina (CRO) - are both more than capable of rattling a few cages in Cape Town, the strongest challenge that Smith’s men will face in Pool A is expected to come from talented African rivals Egypt. The Egyptians qualified for this event by winning the HWL R1 event in Nairobi, Kenya last year and always raise their game in matches against South Africa.

Pool B is an all-European affair, with France, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan and Belarus going head-to-head. France (WR: 18) are the top ranked team in the Pool and have a talented group that includes brothers Hugo and Tom Genestet, the latter being the team captain. The Czech Republic (WR: 20) squad is also blessed with masses of ability and in 33-year-old goalkeeper Filip Neusser they have one of the finest shot-stoppers on the planet. However, the Czech team could only manage a second place finish in the home Round 1 event in Hradek Kralove, with Pool B rivals Belarus (WR: 35) emerging as winners to gain plenty of confidence coming into the Cape Town event.  Azerbaijan (WR: 31) also claimed a Round 1 tournament victory by triumphing in Muscat (OMA) and will be keen to make a big impression in this Round 2 event.

A total of nine qualification places for the HWL Semi-Finals are available in Round 2, with the top three finishers at each of the tournaments in Singapore (SIN), San Diego (USA) and Cape Town (RSA) all being certain to compete in the next phase. Malaysia, Poland and Japan all qualified for the Semi-Finals thanks to top three finishes at the event in Singapore (SIN) earlier this year, with three more coming from the tournament currently taking place in San Diego (USA). To learn about how the teams progress through the competition in the hope of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, click here.

You can keep track of all the action from Cape Town on the official tournament microsite.

FIH site

In-form India set sights on Rio

Ritu & co strong favourites ahead of Hockey World League Round 2 event in New Delhi

(Photo: FIH)

Eight international women’s teams have the chance to progress along the Road to Rio this weekend when the second of three Hockey World League Round 2 events gets underway at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, India.

The tournament, which takes place between Saturday 7th and Sunday 15th of March, will see Malaysia, Russia, Poland, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Thailand and host nation India all fighting for a top two finish in order to guarantee a place in the HWL Semi-Finals, where the coveted berths at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are on offer.

Like all of the Round 2 events, the competition in New Delhi will witness a clash between teams that came through the first phase of the competition against sides that were automatically given a bye through to Round 2 due to their higher placement in the FIH World Rankings. The highest ranked teams will enter the tournament in the Semi-Finals.

As the top ranked team and also having that all important advantage of playing on home soil, it is little surprise that India (FIH World Ranking: 13) come into the Round 2 event as clear favourites. Despite an average of just 22.7 years, the squad contains five players who have each surpassed the 100 international appearances marker, with team captain Ritu Rani being the squad’s most experienced athlete with 193 caps. Another Rani well worth watching out for is 20-year-old super-striker Rani Rampal, who wears shirt number 28 and was named player of the tournament at the 2013 Junior World Cup as her team claimed the Bronze medal.

India’s Eves compete in Pool A against three teams that took part in Round 1: Poland (WR: 26), Ghana (WR: 30) and Thailand (WR: 45). The Indian girls begin their HWL campaign against Ghana this Saturday.

“We are excited about playing Ghana in the opening match as it will be the first time that we will have played against them”, said India captain Ritu Rani, 23. “Our sole target is to perform well and get into Round 3 in order to move a step closer to qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The team is confident following recent victories against Germany and Spain in Valencia, which has certainly motivated us to put on a great show in the League.”

Like Pool A, Pool B also contains three teams that battled through Round 1 to maintain their dreams of reaching Rio. Malaysia (WR: 21) were winners of the Round 1 event in Singapore, where the finished ahead of Pool B rivals Kazakhstan (WR: 32) and Singapore (WR: 43) as well as Pool A competitors Thailand. Malaysia are the top ranked team in the Pool and will be targeting top spot, although third-ranked Russia (WR: 23) arrive in New Delhi with a squad that is more than capable of making a big impression.

In the women’s Hockey World League, a total of seven qualification places for the HWL Semi-Finals are available from the Round 2 events in Montevideo (URU), New Delhi (IND) and Dublin (IRL).  The reason for seven rather nine qualifiers is because both Spain and Belgium, two nations ranked between 12-19 at the time of seeking entries, are hosting Semi-Final tournaments later this year and have therefore already qualified.

The top two finishers from Montevideo, New Delhi and Dublin are certain to qualify for the Semi-Finals, being joined by the highest ranked of the third placed finishers from those three events.  Italy and Uruguay recently confirmed their places in the Semi-Finals with a top two finish at the event in Montevideo, while Azerbaijan face a nervous wait until the end of the Round 2 events before knowing if they are the highest ranked of the third placed finishers. To learn more about how the teams progress through the competition in the hope of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, click here.

You can keep track of the tournament in New Delhi on the official tournament microsite.

FIH site

India to begin its campaign against Ghana

Uthra Ganesan

The Indian women’s hockey team will be hoping to repeat its feat from two years ago and emerge victorious at the Hero Hockey World League Round Two beginning here on Saturday.

While the number of teams has increased from six in 2013 to eight now and the format changed, India continues to be the favourite to win the competition.

If anything, the opposition has only weakened since then, when India went down to Japan for its only defeat in the 2013 edition. Both the finalists would go through to the next round, which would be the qualification event for Rio Olympics.

This time around, the World No. 13 host will kickstart its campaign against Ghana, ranked 17 places below. While both the coach and the players are guarding against complacency, there is no denying the sense of ease around the team for the opening game.“Yes, it might be a bit easy for us because of the rankings and we should win but you can’t take anyone lightly. Also, we have never played them before and it is difficult to plan for a team that you know nothing about,” admitted captain Ritu Rani.

India’s only concern would be the fitness of drag-flicker Jaspreet Kaur, suffering a finger injury, and striker Rani, returning from a six-month long lay-off due to a dislocated shoulder. Coach Roelant Oltmans, though, has allayed any serious issues.Ghana, on the other hand, knows it is up against odds. Having had little practice before the tournament, the players admit they have their task cut out. The difference in the team’s levels can be gauged from the fact that the total number of matches played by Ghana is 278, while Ritu alone has 193 caps.The other teams in India’s group — Poland and Thailand — too should be easy pickings for India, though the format of the competition means all teams go through to the quarterfinals regardless of the result in the league stages. However, India will be hoping to avoid Malaysia, the second-highest ranked team in the fray at 21 — placed in Group B along with Russia, Kazakhstan and Singapore — before the final.The tournament will be telecast live on DD Sports.

March 7: Malaysia vs Kazakhstan 1.15 p.m., Russia vs Singapore 3.30 p.m., Poland vs Thailand 7.45 p.m., India vs Ghana 8 p.m.

The Hindu

The challenge now is to get better: Oltmans

Having worked extensively with the Indian men’s hockey team for more than a year, Roelant Oltmans is now concentrating on the women’s team and said his past experience in working with women’s teams is coming in handy.

Indians hope to advance to the next round at the Hockey World League Round 2, starting at the Major Dhyan Chand National stadium here from March 7, and Oltmans is optimistic.

“I have coached women’s teams before. I know there are a lot of physical differences between men and women. But these girls are eager to learn. They work hard and try to improve every moment we are on the ground. I see a lot of progress. They are getting better,” the Hockey India High Performance Director said after a high-intensity training session on Wednesday.

About the progress being made by the team, Oltmans was appreciative. “They need a bit of polishing. If you look at Asian Games, the girls performed quite well. We tested them a few days ago and, at the moment, they are better than what they were at the Asiad. These girls are very competitive. They have improved throughout the last year and the challenge now is to get better.”

Acknowledging that qualifying for the Rio Olympics would be a big challenge — Indian women have only participated once, in the inaugural edition in 1980, and finished fourth — Oltmans said it was achievable.

“For this tournament, our aim is to be in the top two to make sure the next step can be taken. I will step back then and Anthony Thornton, who is arriving here on March 9, will start his work,” he added.

Men’s physical trainer Matthew Eyles has stepped in to work on the players’ fitness and was seen pushing them through a series of innovative drills.

Oltmans said the team would get its own trainer very soon. “We had a meeting today and have finalised the person we want to be working with women’s team but there are some details that need to be worked out now and very soon the girls will have their own trainer,” he said.

The Hindu

Indian women's hockey team gears up for World League Round 2

NEW DELHI: Ranked highest in the tournament, Indian women's hockey team begin its campaign against Ghana on the opening day of the FIH World League Round 2 at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Saturday.

High on confidence after their good show at the recent tour of Spain, the Indian women would look to start their campaign on a winning note.

The home side are no doubt the favourites to win their first match but it may not be a cakewalk as Ghana proved their mettle in the World League Round 1 by defeating Tanzania 17-0 and entering the second phase of the league to take on bigger challenges.

The eight-team World League Round 2 holds importance as each team will look at making it to the World League Round 3 which is the final stage of qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Divided into two pools of four teams each, India are placed in Pool A with women from Poland, Ghana and Thailand, while Malaysia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Singapore are placed in Pool B.

The inaugural game of the League will see Malaysia clashing with Kazakhstan and then Russia taking on Singapore and Thailand facing Poland before India play Ghana in the last match of the day.

The Times of India

Nur Aisyah will miss World League opener with stomach bug

By Aftar Singh

KUALA LUMPUR: Forward Nur Aisyah Yaacob will miss the opening Group B match against Kazakhstan in the women’s World League Second Round at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.

National coach Mohd Nasihin Nubli said yesterday that 18-year-old needs more time to recover from a stomach upset she had since Tuesday.

“We will be banking on Fazilla (Sylvester Silin) to deliver the goals from the penalty corners instead,” said Nasihin.

The national team had their first training session on the competition venue and Nasihin said the pitch was bumpy.

“We hope it will not affect our performance. Hopefully we’ll get used to it after the friendly against Poland tomorrow.

“The players are in high spirit and are looking forward to giving their best.

“I hope the players can combine well against Poland. I also hope they can adapt well to the pitch and chilly conditions,” said the former international.

Malaysia, who are ranked 21st in the world, are seeded second in the tournament and will play their other matches against Russia on Sunday and Singapore on March 10.

World No. 13 and top seeds India are drawn in Group A with Poland, Ghana and Thailand.

The top two teams will qualify for the World League Semi-finals in Belgium and Argentina. The World League is the qualifying tournament for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The Star of Malaysia

Location confirmed for the men’s HWL Semi-Final in Argentina

(Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)

The location for the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final event in Argentina this June, has been confirmed.  The Semi-Final leg for the men’s competition will take place in the ‘Centro Nacional de Alto Rendimiento Deportivo’ (CeNARD), Buenos Aires, in Argentina starting on the 3rd June and ending on the 14th June 2015.

It is the first time in its history, that the CeNARD will host a hockey event of this size and prestige, and a hockey event with so much at stake.

The HWL Semi-Final will consist of ten teams who will be battling it out for places in the HWL Final and for qualification places at the next Olympic Games.

The top four teams go forward to the HWL Final which will be held in India in December 2015, and the top three teams will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

Alongside the hosts, the teams confirmed so far are Spain, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The remaining four will be announced in late March, upon culmination of the HWL Round 2 events which are currently in progress.

“Having this type of hockey in Buenos Aires is amazing because people can see the dynamics of the live game, which is very different from how it looks on television," said Mariano Ronconi, one of the Argentinean coaching staff.

In preparation for the event, a new hockey turf will be installed, with similar characteristics to the turf used at the 2014 World Cup in The Hague. Additional stands will be arranged for the fans which are expected to be packed, as excitement and action are guaranteed at this hockey fiesta.

FIH site

Indian hockey has benefitted from HIL


The 3rd edition of the Hockey India League is over and while Roelant Oltmans has traded his temporary Uttar Pradesh Wizards jersey for the India one as the national High Performance Director, he insists that the fallouts from the HIL are more lasting than the one-month tournament.Currently in charge of the Indian women’s team for the upcoming Hockey World League Round 2, Oltmans believes the Indian men have benefitted vastly from the HIL. “The league is fantastic for hockey in India. In the first year the Indian players were absolutely not at the level of the foreign players here. But this year, the Indians were matching them in every department. There is always some overseas player who has an outstanding tournament but with the exception of one or two, overall the levels are equal,” Oltmans said here.Seeking long-term results from the HIL Oltmans said the target was to lift the levels of not just the national campers but every player. “One of the most important reasons for HIL is to improve the level of players. Apart from the guys who are already in the national team, we have seen several youngsters who have shown they can match the top level. Harmanpreet Singh is one we all saw. There is a lot of improvement in the teams’ structures also and I think it was a very high quality event,” Oltmans added.

Goalkeepers disappoint

However, Oltmans admitted that the one area of concern was goalkeeping with not many Indian keepers impressing the Dutchman. “For me, at this moment, Harjot Singh is absolutely the number two. Let’s be happy that Sreejesh has taken a huge step in the last one year. I think he really became one of the better goalkeepers in the world and that’s a great effort, from where he came to where he is now. Harjot too has the potential to become a very good goalkeeper.“But, we have to be honest, the other Indian goalkeepers did not impress too much and we need to work very hard to improve their level. One of the things to do would be to see our Indian goalkeepers get more chances of playing in the HIL. Most teams prefer their foreign goalkeepers and that’s an area we have to look carefully at.

“Adrian (D’Souza) is part of the Indian lot. The best way to get a chance is to show your performance. His performance in the tournament has not been exceptional. But that doesn’t mean we put a final cross through him. We have followed him of course, and we need to see if he gets that second chance or not. Abhinav Pandey was good (on the junior tours) but he did not play the HIL. So we have to make sure they get their chances to reach the same international standards as our other players do,” Oltmans said.

The Hindu

Hofman and Stockmann hoping to delight Bloemigans

After a year out from the Euro Hockey League, Bloemendaal superstars Jaap Stockmann and Rogier Hofman cannot wait to play in the competition, especially in front of their world famous fans, the Bloemigans.

The Haarlem club has been one of the marquee venues for the EHL’s knock-out games, memorably being the location for Teun de Nooijer’s glorious farewell game in 2013.

That day, Hofman scored twice in the 2-0 final win over Belgium’s Dragons and he cannot wait to return to the world’s best club competition.

“It is always something special to play in Bloemendaal,” he says. “Playing in front of you home crowd is always nice and important matches always bring a crowd with everyone in orange cheering for us.”

Beyond winning the title for a second time, Hofman pin-points the 2013 FINAL4 game against Dutch rivals Amsterdam as one of the most memorable games of his career.

“These are the games you start playing hockey for in the first place. For me, winning the EHL for a home crowd was amazing, especially the semi-final against Amsterdam was special. Coming from two goals behind to win in a shoot-out gave us so much confidence for the final.”

Stockmann echoes his sentiments: “The EHL is an amazing league to play. I have played two EHL tournaments in Bloemendaal and the home crowd always loves it and comes up in very good numbers.

“The whole village of Bloemendaal is excited to be the host ground of such a high profile event.”

Their panel of superstars spent much of the winter at far-flung destinations with players like Stockmann one of four heading to the Hockey India League while five of their panel have been in South Africa with their national teams in South Africa.

The rest of the Bloemendaal hosting panel went to Germany for a training camp but now all are back in situ and looking forward to creating new memories.

“It feels good to be back and complete as a group. Our players are triggered from the experiences abroad and are keen to play and improve before the start of the EHL so there is no time to laid back and relax!”

The hosts play the fourth game of day one of the KO16 against Polish champions Pomorzanin Torun and, while Bloemendaal are favourites, both Hofman and Stockmann agree “we are definitely not going to underestimate them”.

Whatever happens, they are likely to be greeted by a raucous home crowd, willing the best from their heroes going in search of EHL title number three.

Euro Hockey League media release

Milo Cup: Odds favour Div One teams

By Jugjet Singh

THE MHC-Milo-NSC Junior Hockey League Milo Cup knock-out stage highly favours Division One teams to dominate Friday, as they are far ahead of the Division Two qualifiers.

League champions SSTMI Thunderbolts are too good for 1Mas Perlis, while Petaling Jaya City Council (PJCC), UniKL Young Guns and SSP-MSP-Thunderbolts all went through a toughter time in Division One, and are hardened by their experience.

However, 1Mas Perlis are not awed, neither afraid of Thunderbolts who will be gunning for their fourth consecutive JHL double after lifting the League title.

The tiny state finished champions in Group B of Division Two: “The odds are definitely against us, but we are not going to bow out without a fight. I know my players will keep their heads up and show no fear against them (Thunderbolts),” said 1Mas Perlis coach Wira Osman.

On paper it should be easy pickings for the defending champions, however, Thunderbolts coach Wan Roslan Wan Rahman is not planningto take matters lightly and has prepared his charges to come out with guns blazing.

“On paper we are the better team but I dont' believe on relying on past match results so my players have been grilled to give a hundred per cent to make the second leg much easier," said Wan Roslan.

The most inconsistent team of the season title goes to PJCC, who were looking at the league silverware at one stage, but fell to third after losing steam at the tail-end.

“No doubt we were close to laying our hands on the Division One title at one stage, so finishing third is rather disappointing.

Consistency was our biggest problem, however, the team are now focused on making the final of the Milo Cup and our first step is to beat the Johor team (SMKDBL PH Johor)," said PJCC coach Azlansaufi Ahmad Sufian.

Division One runners-up UniKL Young Guns will also be hoping to put aside their erratic form when they play Division Two champions Nur Insafi-Penang Hockey.

UniKL have been on a roller-coaster ride throughout their campaign so coach I. Vickneswaran is keeping his fingers crossed that his side shows up with the right mindset today.

“A team must fire on all cylinders consistently, however that is something that we have failed to do this season.

“On paper we may be the better side, but take nothing away from Nur Insafi, as they have some really talented players that can trouble to us if we gave them too much space,” Said Vickneswaran.

FRIDAY: MILO Cup q-finals (First Leg): SSTMI Thunderbolts v 1Mas Perlis (Kangar, 4.45pm); SSP-MSP-Thunderbolts v Bukit Jalil SS Juniors (Temerloh, 4.45pm); Petaling Jaya City Council v SMKDBL PH Johor (National Stadium, 4.45pm, Pitch I); UniKL Young Guns v Nur Insafi-Penang HA (National Stadium, 4.45pm, Pitch II).

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

A generation inspired – junior Hockey Club membership up by 40%

Junior players enjoying a game of hockey at Old Silhillians Hockey Club

England Hockey is delighted to announce its latest figures revealing that Club Hockey participation amongst under 16’s has grown by 40% since 2011. Overall participation in clubs is also up 16% on 2011 as hockey clubs continue to welcome new members every year.

The inspiration of hockey’s successful teams at London 2012, where the women’s team won a bronze medal and 630,000 watched the hockey on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, was linked to the Hockey Nation campaign run by Great Britain and England Hockey that gave tens of thousands of people a chance to play during the Games. This has developed into a legacy of continued growth.

Hockey clubs have reaped the rewards of the improved profile of the sport, focussing on a link with schools to provide excellent opportunities for young players. Programmes such as Quicksticks – a small-sided version of hockey for 7-11 year olds – in Primary Schools have also been hugely successful in allowing new players to take part in the sport from an early age. There are other adapted formats which make the game accessible whatever the age or circumstances of the participant. Click here for more information.

Hockey is a sport for everyone, of all ages, with both an even split in genders and players of any ability taking part. The recent growth has also been driven by women who were inspired by the Women’s National team and have been embraced by clubs, whether they are young players new to the sport, or adults returning through England Hockey’s extremely successful Back to Hockey initiative. Club membership is now split evenly 50% male and 50% female whilst international teams compete side by side in international tournaments – something few sports can boast.

Sally Munday, Chief Executive of England Hockey said: ‘We are so proud of our clubs who have created more and more opportunities for people to take part in the sport and latest figures are testament to their commitment and capability. As a National Governing Body we are working hard to raise the profile of the sport and use the visibility of our successful teams and athletes to grow the game.

“This is just the start with the four years ahead providing an exciting opportunity to further increase the momentum. We are hosting the European Championships in August this year and have two other major events leading up to the Women’s World Cup in 2018 all on home soil. We hope these will continue to give the platform for continued growth.”

As the driving force behind the boost in numbers there are some fantastic stories around increased memberships at hockey clubs across the country. London Wayfarers Hockey Club did not have a junior programme in 2010 and after starting up their junior section four years ago they now have just under 400 U18s signed up. It’s a similar story of success for Bromsgrove and Formby Hockey Clubs; Bromsgrove’s junior programme has 238 junior members and Formby has more than tripled the size of its junior section from 111 to 342 members since 2011.

Matthew Dean, Junior Section Captain at London Wayfarers, said: “We’ve now got nearly 400 young people taking part in hockey and our junior membership is thriving. I think the increase in numbers over the last four years is down to a couple of things; more schools in our area are playing hockey and I think the increased exposure of the sport at a national level is having an impact on the number of people who want to pick up a stick and start playing. We’ve worked closely with our local schools to make sure the right signposting is in place as it’s vital to provide that link from school to club.”

Hockey’s visibility and legacy from 2012 is further cemented by its legacy stadium on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre – which opened in May last year and which England Hockey will be using to host major international and club events in the years to come, including the EuroHockey Championships 2015 this summer.

[England Hockey’s strategy is based around a ‘virtuous circle’ where international success drives the visibility of the sport, which fuels a growth in participation. This then feeds back into creating international success via the talent pathways in junior hockey, and so the virtuous circle continues. The growth in junior membership is evidence of this virtuous circle in action, and this has also provided a platform for England Hockey’s commercial growth, with many more spectators attending its events, and increased opportunities for sponsors.]

Hockey invited people to ‘be part of it’ during the Olympics in 2012 – and the latest figures show increasing numbers are doing that every year.

England Hockey Board Media release

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