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News for 21 June 2015

All the news for Sunday 21 June 2015

Can Great Britain cause a China crisis and who will take THAT third spot for Rio

Great Britain and China to contest final, but Las Leonas and Die Danas have all to play for

Great Britain and China will meet in the Hockey World League Semi-Final’s final after they both confirmed Olympic places in Valencia, leaving Germany and Argentina to battle for the third automatic spot on Sunday evening.

For Great Britain and China, it will be a repeat of their closely fought battle in the group stage when the former won out 2-0 with Sophie Bray sealing the deal with a pair of goals – one in the first five minutes, the other in the last five.

Whether Great Britain can repeat the feat will be their big challenge but they look in good shape to do so having won all six of their games so far in the competition, five of them courtesy of clean sheets from Maddie Hinch.

But China have saved their best form for the back-end of the competition as they followed up their quarter-final win over Ireland with a dramatic late 2-1 victory over Argentina in the semi-final.

Wang Mengyu was the heroine, plundering the winner in the closing phases of the tie with a superb drag-flick. With a defensive line-up – led by Cui Quixia – tightening up by the game, they will look to put up a similar battle in the final.

The third place playoff should be an equally exciting battle, especially as the third Olympic ticket is still on the line. Argentina were stunned by a penalty corner brace from Wang Menyu to turn the tables in their semi-final.

Now, they face a German side against whom they have a decent record in recent years, winning their last competitive meeting in the Champions Trophy 1-0 while they were also 3-0 winners in the World Cup last summer.

German coach Jamilon Mülders said meeting Argentina is “exciting” but while he says his side will be the “underdog”, he is delighted with the improvement his side has made in the past 12 months and is looking forward to the challenge.

“Our progress has been visible, though. We have stepped up since the World Cup and our way of playing is much, much better. Better for us; better to watch and the results are better. The chances we create, the corners we score is all getting better and better but Argentina is still Argentina.”

USA will meet Spain in what could be a pivotal tie in the Olympic shake-up when they battle for fifth and sixth place. The Americans produced their best performance to date when they beat Ireland 6-1 with Lauren Crandall finding her form from corners and Katie O’Donnell showed her menace from play.

Spain look set to be without Begona Garcia following a disciplinary hearing in the wake of her pair of yellow cards against South Africa. The hosts impressed early on against South Africa in their playoff game but captain Roccio Ybarra admitted they will need to improve on certain aspects of their play when they meet the world number five side.

Ireland play South Africa for seventh and eighth place at 11.30am in a repeat of day one’s action. Ireland won that one 4-1 but South Africa will be keen to finally land their first win of the competition. The Irish will be without Shirley McCay who is suspended following three yellow cards in the tournament.

FIH site

Backs to the wall: Great Britain fend off German barrage to claim place in final

Great Britain face China in final, while Germany take on Argentina

"Across the pitch people were willing to put their bodies on the line." This was the verdict of Helen Richardson-Walsh after Great Britain withstood a fraught final quarter to beat Germany in the second semi-final of the Hockey World League Semi-Final.

Lily Owsley’s seventh minute goal was all that stood between Great Britain and Germany as Great Britain earned their place at the Olympic Games in 2016 via a 1-0 win.

It was a fascinating game of cat and mouse with Great Britain taking the role of speedy counter-attackers and Germany the side with all the possession but less of the invention around the circle. As such, Lily Owsley scored from just such a counter-punch, a brilliant team move at pace that cut through the heart of the German defence. Helen Richardson-Walsh picked out Sophie Bray who located Owsley who controlled, a move that sent Kristina Reynolds too far across goal and the striker popped home for 1-0.

Nina Hasselmann almost got an instant riposte only to be denied by Maddie Hinch’s diving save. As Die Danas pushed on, though, they were more and more vulnerable at the back with Alex Danson and Bray wreaking havoc.

The latter embarked on a 70-metre run that ended with Danson chipping across the face of goal, ensuring the minimum margin reamined into half-time.

Eileen Hoffmann was denied by the width of the post with a behind the back deflection early in the second half while the Germans ran up a number of second half corners. Great Britain, meanwhile, should have done better with a couple of counter-attacks. In particular, Bray was set through one-on-one with Reynolds but the keeper stood tall and saved.

Several German corners were kept out in the closing stages, including two in the last two minutes, but Hinch was unbeatable for a fifth clean sheet in six games and Great Britain are off to the Olympic Games once again.

Jamilon Mülders, the German coach, said: “We had enough chances to turn things around, especially from the corners in the last quarter. There was a big difference in our performance in the first quarter compared to the last quarter.

“The will to win, speed and speed of the ball was a big difference to the earlier stages but there was not enough options at the corner. Maybe the luck we had two days ago we didn’t have today – that’s sport!”

"Today, it felt like it did pre-London," continued Helen Richardson-Walsh. "Every little hit, every bit of pain, the team worked so hard, but this feeling is worth it."

The midfielder, who has made a return to the squad following long-term injury, added: "This was the sort of game that makes you feel so tense. We really had our backs to the wall, everything boiled down to the final few minutes. To win this game was brilliant."

FIH site

Wang double defeats Las Leonas

China's journey along Road to Rio gets underway

China have claimed their place in the final of the Hockey World League Semi-Final – and a berth at the 2016 Olympics – after grinding out a victory over Champions Trophy holders and world number three Argentina.

Wang Mengyu provided two vicious penalty corner strikes to fire China through to the final after a match that saw Las Leonas unable to make many incisive moves and China defending with real intent.

Wang said afterwards it was an “awesome feeling” to qualify for the Games, especially as her side have rarely beaten Las Leonas.

“In my time with the team, we have never won a match against Argentina. This is our first time and I am very happy we have done it at last and in such a brilliant occasion, to win an Olympic place.”

China over-turned Argentina who had earlier led via a corner of their own from Carla Rebecchi in the 24th minute in a game where chances were few and far between. China, for the most part, laid a compact base and launched overheads from the back to try and use their swift forwards.

In defence, their tackling and protection of their own circle was immense, with Cui Quixia getting through a wealth of work, frustrating the threats of Delfina Merino and Rebecchi from open play for the most part.

It meant Las Leonas got little traction in the first half until they earned a flurry of penalty corners around the 25 minute mark. From one of those, Rebecchi nailed a low flick past Li Dongxiao. Wang equalised, though, within a few minutes with a rocket of her own down the glove side for 1-1 at half-time.

And, as time went on and despite a deficit in terms of possession, China created the cleaner chances. Florencia Habif being called upon to make an amazing save from a Xi Xiayun volley.

China made the decisive breakthrough when they earned one last corner with four minutes remaining. Wang, once again, got everything behind it and Belen Succi was powerless to keep it out and the goal was enough to put China in Sunday’s final.

Carla Rebecchi said she was "very unhappy" with her team's performance, but conceded that China's strategy had been the perfect answer to Argentina's attacking ability.

"It was hard for us to get into the match, they defended all over the pitch and we were unable to take our chances when they fell to us. That was the difference today, on other occasions we can usually be relied on to create opportunities to score. Today, we didn't stop penalty corners and we didn't make the chances today."

FIH site

Riera rocket floors South Africa

Spain and USA in fifth place playoff

"It is out of our hands now." The disappointment was etched on Shelley Russell's face as Spain put paid to South Africa's hopes of a fifth place finish at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Valencia. Russell was referring to South Africa's chances of getting to Rio 2016, their place at the Olympic Games in doubt after they failed to reach the position at this tournament demanded by their sports governing body.

"We just kept making mistakes, poor delivery, missed chances. We created chances in the last quarter, but hey, if we can't put those away…" The result means South Africa will play off against Ireland for 7/8th position – a match Ireland's Shirley McCay will miss through a one match suspension after receiving three yellow cards in the tournament.

Fifth place will be contested by host nation Spain and the USA, offering both sides the slenderest of hopes of Olympic qualification – although nothing will be confirmed until after the culmination of the five continental championships later this summer. Spain's Begona Garcia Grau will miss the game following her one match suspension for receiving two yellow cards for the same offence in the game against South Africa.

In the first game of this penultimate day of action, Lauren Crandall and Katie O’Donnell struck twice as USA found their scoring mojo to beat Ireland 6-1 and keep alive their Olympic hopes as they advance to the 5th/6th place playoff in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Valencia.

The Irish had beaten USA 2-0 in the group stages but the world number five side were too strong and were assured and in control for most of the match. In their first meeting, the US let slide eight penalty corners but there was no repeat performance.

Lauren Crandall knocked in two before the ten minute mark, the first after a smart dodge right and her bouncing shot clipped the top of Emma Gray’s pads en route to the goal. The second was far more direct, scooting through Gray’s defences.

Gray subsequently made a trio of great stops in the second quarter but was powerless to stop O’Donnell making it 3-0 in the 35th minute. She turned delightfully in mid-circle to create space and powered home. She added another six minutes later from a corner rebound.

Anna O’Flanagan – with her fourth goal of the tournament – reduced the deficit in similar fashion from Ireland’s second corner. But the US came back strong and were 5-1 up when Paige Selenski picked up the pieces from a scrappy attack that was initially cleared off the Irish line by Shirley McCay but only as far as the striker. She showed little mercy in picking out the top corner.

Jill Witmer then completed the rout two minutes from the end when she finished off a one on one chance in style.

Speaking after the match, Witmer said: "I had a similar one on one situation in our game against Germany and I didn't score. I knew I had to lift the ball and it came off this time.

"We got the momentum early in the game. Cran (Lauren Crandall) got us off to a great start and we played with great energy. After the pool match we felt we were underdogs in this game."

Darren Smith, Ireland's coach, said: “We started poorly and they are a pretty aggressive side. To be successful, we needed to keep it relatively compact. The two-goal lead forced us to step out and play and they unpicked us. They were clinical, took their chances and played at a fierce pace. The damage was done in the first ten minutes and we were stuck behind the eight-ball.”

In the second match, early goals from Alicia Magaz and Lola Riera put Spain on course for a 2-0 win over South Africa, to the delight of the home support.

They maintained that advantage to the end as the African side’s travails in front of goal continued once more. South Africa will play Ireland in the seventh place playoff.

The hosts got off to a dream start when Magaz popped home at the second time of asking in just the fourth minute, popping home from Xantal Gine’s selfless pass when both were in behind the opposition defence.

In the 11th minute, Riera picked out the top corner with a ripper of a drag-flick to double the lead, one which was richly deserved on the balance of play.

South Africa did grow into the tie but Illse Davids could not find a clean connection with the pick of their first half chances and Maria Lopez de Eguilaz was able to clear comfortably. They held sway for much of the second half but were unable to make any inroads into the lead and when Spain cleared a last minute corner, the result was confirmed.

Roccio Ybarra, captain of Spain, said: “We’re happy because of the result but a little bit disappointed with the way we played, especially the second half. “USA is going to be a really good challenge. We both are really fit, in good condition and playing really well so it will be a really good fight for the fifth position.”

FIH site

Elena celebrates golden century

Hockey World League provides stage for 100 match celebration

Elena Eskina became the 38th umpire to reach the golden whistle milestone – 100 international games – when she umpired Argentina against China in the semi-final stage of the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Valencia.

Elena and her colleagues celebrated after the match, and the likeable umpire revealed that "besides a deep love for hockey, it is the umpiring team that makes it all worthwhile."

It has not always been easy for Elena to pursue her international umpiring career. She travels to Belarus and Ukraine to umpire internationals, a fair hike from her home country Russia.

Umpire manager Renee Cohen, said: "When Elena first joined the international umpiring circuit, she was very shy. Now she is a tiger on the pitch, she has grown in confidence."

Elena agreed with this assessment. "I started umpiring in 2002, my first match was Germany against Argentina – two giants of the game. I felt so small. I was very uncertain and just felt I didn't know anything."

At 39, Elena has eight more years at the coalface of umpiring. These are eight years she fully intends to see out. "I am always looking to the next game, I might really enjoy a game, but then it is in the past and I am looking to my next game."

FIH site

Great Britain secure Olympic berth with Germany win

Lily Owsley celebrates scoring the only goal. Credit World Sport Pics Stanislas Brochier

Great Britain booked their place at the Rio Olympics with a backs-to-the-wall display to see off Germany in a tense semi-final of the World League in Valencia. Lily Owsley’s well taken strike in the first half was the difference between the two sides but Danny Kerry’s team were indebted to goalkeeper Maddie Hinch who kept out a string of late German penalty corners to preserve the lead and secure a place in tomorrow’s final and crucially, a spot at next year’s Olympics.

The game started in cagey fashion with both sides aware of the high stakes. Hollie Webb had Great Britain’s first effort on goal, cutting in from the right and blasting a backhand strike over the bar. It wasn’t long before they took the lead, however. A strong run from Susannah Townsend freed Helen Richardson-Walsh. With a three-on-one situation developing, Richardson-Walsh fed Sophie Bray who laid it off to Lily Owsley to spin and slot in a lovely cool finish.

Germany had a penalty corner with nine minutes on the clock but Owsley, this time defending, did well charging out to block Nike Lorenz’s shot. The rebound fell to Nina Hasselmann who let fly only to be denied by a fine save from Maddie Hinch, keeping it 1-0 at the break.

Sophie Bray had GB’s first chance of the second quarter, cutting in from the left to get a clear sight of goal. Kristina Reynolds dashed from her line and made a superb block to deny the East Grinstead forward. Germany stepped their press higher up the field in attempt to put Danny Kerry’s side under pressure but the defence stood firm and kept them at arm’s length. Great Britain started to threaten on the break and a lovely run by Danson won their first penalty corner. Laura Unsworth’s slapped pass hit the No15’s body and the chance was gone. With three minutes left in the quarter Germany almost pulled level. Charlotte Stapenhorst’s looping effort almost dropped in, landing on the top of the net. At the other end Owsley showed the defence a clean pair of heels and crossed for Joie Leigh, diving in bravely to draw another good save from Reynolds, and it was still 1-0 at half time.

Great Britain had chances to increase their lead in the third quarter. Townsend did brilliantly to turn the ball over and break forwards all on her own. She left the defence trailing but couldn’t find the finish and Reynolds saved. Then Bray and Danson combined well but the latter’s shot from a tight angle was wide. Germany rallied and forced three consecutive penalty corners but some excellent defence from GB saw off the danger. They had a penalty corner of their own on quarter time but Kate Richardson-Walsh’s slap was charged down and dropped away to safety.

In the final quarter Great Britain had another gilt-edged chance to double their lead. Bray broke into the circle with just Reynolds to beat but the goalkeeper blocked as the No19 tried to slide the ball under her. Great Britain continued their pressure and went close to a second goal after a Kate Richardson-Walsh penalty corner was just out of reach of Joie Leigh at the far post.

Germany began to throw everything at Great Britain and forced a number of penalty corners. Hinch showed her class with a string of fine saves including an excellent stick save from an awkward bouncing shot by Luisa Steindor and another superb low stop to deny Hannah Kruger. Germany forced one last penalty corner with seconds left on the clock but Hinch cleared the danger once more and despite the late barrage, Great Britain held on and took the win, the place in the final, and most importantly, the slot at the Rio Olympics.

Quotes – Great Britain Goalkeeper Maddie Hinch

Words can’t really describe the feeling. We came here with qualification in our mind and we’ve taken it one game at a time and done a job. To reach a final and book a spot at Rio, we can’t be happier. We’ve got a great team back home and an incredible goalkeeper coach in John Hurst, so I felt good coming into this competition and once the nerves settled I enjoyed myself.

You can’t fault us. We’re hard to score against and we’ve scored some nice goals. At the minute we’re learning and making progress and we’ll keep doing so. I’m excited for the future. I would never say the pressure is off. There is a gold medal to win tomorrow and we’re here to take it.

Head Coach Danny Kerry:

For 15 minutes we were awesome. After that we won ugly. That in itself is a quality which we have worked hard to drive into the team. We should have been out of sight with the clear chances we created, after we didn't take them the game became nervy with so much at stake. Our character showed through and we are now officially Rio-bound.

Great Britain 1 (1)
Lily Owsley 7 (FG)

Germany 0 (0)

Great Britain Hockey media release

Great Britain women stamp Rio Olympics berth with dramatic win over Germany

Early Lily Owsley strike paves way for thrilling evening in Valencia as Great Britain qualify for 2016 Olympics in dramatic fashion
By Rod Gilmour, Valencia

Rio bound: Great Britain women confirmed Olympic place after thrilling win over Germany Photo: STANISLAS BROCHIER

As the shadows lengthened at the Campo de Hockey and with Germany sustaining insurmountable late pressure, Great Britain women somehow clung on to record a famous victory here on Saturday night and secure their berth at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Their 1-0 victory was achieved in dramatic circumstances as goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, along with her miserly defence which had conceded only two goals in five previous matches, kept out four late, frenetic penalty corners to deny the European champions.

Hinch was superb between the posts, as were midfield pair Hannah Macleod and Susannah Townsend, the latter setting up the only goal of a breathless evening in the eighth minute. After weaving into the Germany half, Helen Richardson-Walsh pushed to Sophie Bray in the circle before Lily Owsley, with her first of the tournament, found an empty net.

Great Britain celebrate only goal of the game in Valencia

It was a quick and incisive break, world-class finishing in the circle by Britain’s two young forwards and indicative of the attacking play that Danny Kerry's side has employed all week in Valencia. But oh how the smattering of British support was made to watch on anxiously for the remaining 52 minutes.

Even Kerry, the women’s coach, was forced to admit afterwards that “the sheer pressure of Olympic qualification ain’t pretty”. However, he was perhaps referring to the closing stages, as Great Britain’s six performances in reaching Sunday’s final against China have generally been sublime.

“I am so proud of the team and there is such belief with us at the moment,” said Hinch, after withholding Germany’s late barrage. “It was nervy but I never felt like they would score - and that’s a nice feeling to have.

“I’ve not had a huge amount to do all tournament and when the shots have come in I’ve felt like I’ve just done my job.”

And that was certainly true on a sultry Saturday evening here, especially when Bray, the tournament’s top scorer with five goals, missed a fine chance in the final quarter with only the goalkeeper to beat. It paved the way for Germany to muster seven penalty corners, but despite plenty of theatrics in the circle, stoppages and video referrals as the equaliser was sought, Britain gamely held on.

“We’re conditioned so well and running is just second nature,” said the tireless Townsend. “You could see out there the way we work hard for each other. It is a massive relief to qualify for Rio.

“We set up ourselves up to defend well which enables us to attack well. It’s our game plan and as you can see from two goals conceded, we are the best defensive team here. Now we are looking to be one of the best attacking teams. It’s coming together nicely.”

Alex Danson, right, is one to watch in final, according to China captain

Wang Mengyu, the China captain who led her side to a 2-1 win over a strangely subdued Argentina, had earlier admitted that “No 15, I’m not sure of her name” was Great Britain’s key player ahead of Sunday’s final, for her “overall performances”.

That number belongs to Alex Danson. “She has skill and the ability to control the game,” Wang said of the 30-year-old, another stand out performer. In truth, China will have to cope with more than Danson. Both teams, assured of their Olympic place, will have the pressure off them and it could make for an open game, despite China’s defensive tendencies.

The hockey doesn't stop there either. By the time the women’s World League title is decided, Great Britain men will have played their first Olympic qualifying game against hosts Belgium. Barry Middleton and Co, it's over to you.

The Telegraph

Valiant Green Army fall to USA in 6-1 Defeat

Photo Credit: Stansilas Brochier

The Irish women’s bid for an Olympic spot came to an end as they fell 6-1 to world number five side USA in Valencia at the World League Round 3.
It means that Ireland will contest the seventh and eighth place playoff on Sunday in their final game of the tournament, knowing that they are out of the range of potential qualifiers for Rio 2016.
Two goals in the opening ten minutes from Lauren Crandall put Ireland on the back foot. Katie O’Donnell added another couple to make it 4-0 in the third quarter before Anna O’Flanagan – with her fourth goal of the competition – got one back. But later strikes from Paige Selenski and Jill Witmer completed the rout.
For Irish coach Darren Smith, it was a “devastating” outcome from a tournament filled with fine performances. Wins over South Africa, Uruguay and USA saw Ireland advance to the quarter-finals as group winners where Ireland pushed world number seven side China all the way but ultimately lose in a shoot-out with Olympic qualification on the line.
Coming back from that defeat, Smith said that bouncing back from that crushing defeat was always going to be a huge psychological battle.
“The girls put their heart and soul into this tournament, trying to get an Irish team to the Olympics. Today, we weren’t at the races. Against China, we were.
“We were devastated after China. It’s hard to say how much of an impact that had. Cut and dried, from a match point of view, we were slow out of the blocks and it took the game away from us. Maybe it could have been a factor but it is hard to know. We worked bloody hard to get the girls back up but that’s life.”
To come so close and miss out in such cruel fashion, Smith added that Olympic qualification was within touching distance and says that there is certainly the potential to break through in the coming years.
“We know if the team qualifies, the public are going to love it and the hockey public will love it. As a Kiwi, I would love to see Ireland at the Olympics. It would be fantastic for the sport in Ireland and, for me, the sport is healthy. It just needs that little boost and I am telling you, it will come.”
For now, Smith’s side have to pick themselves back up for the seventh place playoff, a tie that offers extra world ranking points but little else.
“The psychological side of things will be the hardest tomorrow. Not just the loss but the nature of the loss. We were well beaten but we’ll work hard and understand that we are representing our country. We have to man up and be ready to go; seventh is better than eighth.”
Ireland play at 10.30am (Irish time) in that tie.

World League Round 3, 5th-8th place playoff
Ireland 1 (A O'Flanagan) USA 6 (L Crandall 2, K O'Donnell 2, P Selenski, J Witmer)
Ireland: E Gray, Y O’Byrne, C Sargent, E Smyth, N Evans, S McCay, M Frazer, L Colvin, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan
Subs: K Mullan, G Pinder, A Connery, C Watkins, K Dillon, A Meeke, A McFerran
USA: A Widdall, M Gonzalez, K Kolojejchick, R Dawson, M Vittese, J Reinprecht, K O’Donnell, M Kasold, K Falgowski, K Sharkey, L Crandall
Subs: S Fee, J Witmer, K Reinprecht, P Selenski, C van Sickle, A Manley, J Briggs
Umpires: H Sanders, M Reydo

Irish Hockey Association media release

HWL2015 Antwerp (M): India & Pakistan edge wins in Pool A

Following four exciting matches in the women’s competition, the FINTRO Hockey World League men’s competition kicked off in Antwerp on Saturday with two close matches between recognised giants and rising stars of the game. Both matches were played in Pool A, with India edging to a 3-2 win over France while Pakistan battled past Poland 2-1. More details about the day’s games can be found below.

Pool A
India 3-2 France
Ninth ranked India were pushed all the way by 18th ranked France in their opening Pool A match at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals but eventually emerged winners thanks to a last minute strike from Ramandeep Singh.

France - winners of the HWL Round 2 event in Cape Town - stunned their illustrious opponents when they took a surprise 1-0 lead thanks to a fine strike from Olivier Sanchez. India hit back with two goals in quick succession with Manpreet Singh and Devindar Walmiki both finishing off excellent team moves to give the eight times Olympic champions a 2-1 lead at half time.

France levelled the scores in the 43rd minute when Simon Martin-Brisac crashed a powerful shot past India shot-stopper Sreejesh, giving the Europeans hope that they might claim a share of the points before a diving Ramandeep guided a loose ball into an unguarded net in the dying stages.

Speaking after the match, Martin-Brisac said: “There is no consolation in the manner of our loss because we really wanted to get something from the game. To concede so late is very disappointing, but we know we played a good game. We remain confident and will continue to work hard.”

Indian Head Coach Paul van Ass said that, due to the unpredictability of opening matches, that he certainly wasn’t expecting an easy time. “The start of a tournament is always special, there never an easy match as no-one will give an inch. The good part is that we managed to make the third goal, which was really important.”

Pakistan 2-1 Poland
2014 Champions Trophy Silver medallists Pakistan edged out brave Poland 2-1 in an absorbing contest that brought an entertaining first day of the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp to a close.

The Greenshirts dominated the early stages of the match and took a deserved lead when Muhammad Irfan slammed a penalty corner drag-flick into the bottom right corner after just four minutes. However, Poland’s defence tightened up and reduced their opponents to rare chances, with Shafqat Rasool going closest to adding to the Pakistan tally just before half time.

Poland goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski produced two tremendous saves in the third quarter, showing cat-like reflexes to deny both Rasool and Muhammad Dilber to keep his team in the game going into the final quarter.

Pacanowski came up with another fine save to from a Muhammad Imran penalty corner flick before Poland’s Pawel Bratkowski slammed home ripping penalty corner of his own to tie their scores with nine minutes to play.

Pakistan were not to be denied, however, with Muhammad Waqas showing a poacher’s instinct to force the ball home from close range to give his side all three points.  

“The first match is always difficult and Poland played a very physical game”, said Pakistan’s Rashid Mehmood. “We are pleased to win but we feel we should have converted so many more of our chances.”

Poland’s Bartosz Zywiczka, who suffered a head injury in the match, is reported to be doing well.

More information about the competition including video clips, imagery and official tournament information can be found on the competition website.

#HWL2015 #RoadToRio

FIH site

HWL2015 Antwerp (W): Italy surprise as Oranje & Black Sticks triumph

Day 1 of the women’s competition at the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals proved to be a good one for the Netherlands, New Zealand and host nation Belgium, who were all winners as the mammoth Olympic qualification event got underway in Antwerp. It was also a fine day for Italy, who claimed a superb draw against Korea. More details about the day’s games can be found below.

Pool A

Korea 1-1 Italy
A last gasp equaliser from Giuliana Ruggieri gave Italy a point against higher ranked Korea as the two Pool A opponents started their competition with a 1-1 draw. Italy, 16th in the FIH World Rankings and winners of the Hockey World League Round 2 event in Montevideo, gave an excellent account of themselves against the world number 9, fighting back from Park Mihyun’s early goal and deservingly claiming a leveller thanks to Ruggieri’s perfectly executed penalty corner deflection penalty corner two minutes from the end.

“It was a great result for us because Korea are a really tough side, so it was a good beginning for us”, said a joyous Maria Garraffo reflecting on Italy’s fine performance. “It was such a good feeling to score late and we also created a lot of chances, which gives us a lot of confidence for the matches ahead.”

Netherlands 11-0 France
World number 1 side the Netherlands cruised to a comfortable win over France in the second Pool A match of the day to make a clear statement of their intent to defend their Hockey World League title and secure a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. France - who accepted a late invitation to compete in the event in place of Azerbaijan - put up a valiant effort but found life tough going against the reigning World and Olympic champions, with Lidewij Welten and Maartje Paumen both netting hat-tricks.

“It was a good game for us and we played at a quick tempo”, said Caia van Maasakker, another Netherlands scorer, after the game. “It was hard for France to come here so late, but I think that they did their best. We have trained hard for this tournament, so hopefully we can get a top three finish.”

Pool B

New Zealand 12-0 Poland
New Zealand got their Pool B campaign off to a flying start with a 12-0 win over Poland in what was the first match of the entire event. Gemma Flynn netted four times in the rout, with team captain Anita Punt and Olivia Merry both netting doubles. Punt’s second goal was the unquestionably the best of the game, smashing a thunderous volley into the roof of the Polish net from the top of the circle.

New Zealand’s Brooke Neal was rightfully pleased with her team’s performance on the opening day, stating: “It was an excellent team effort from the girls, we stuck to our structure really well today. We had a really good build-up coming into this event and we are really pleased with our fitness levels as we have been working hard on that in order to compete at the top level.”

Belgium 1-0 India
Host nation Belgium secured a 1-0 win over India in their opening match of the competition, with Liselotte van Lindt’s second half penalty corner effort giving the Red Panthers all three points against the Eves. Van Lindt fired home a penalty corner follow-up five minutes after half time, although arguably the game’s most crucial moment arrived a minute later when Belgian defender Stephanie de Groof showed incredible reflexes to deny a certain goal with a stunning clearance off the goal-line.

“I think in the first half we played with too much stress, we were feeling the pressure to perform in front of the home crowd”, said De Groof, a member of the home club KHC Dragons. “We dominated in the in the second half, and we knew that we didn’t need to win the match by lots of goals - it was just about making sure we won.”

Referring to her stunning goal-line clearance, she said: “I don’t know if I could do it again! It was just a reaction, but I know it was a big moment for us.”

More information about the competition including video clips, imagery and official tournament information can be found by clicking here.

#HWL2015 #RoadToRio

FIH site

Black Sticks unstoppable in World League opener

Gemma Flynn scored 4 goals in the Black Sticks rout of Poland. Photo courtesy Kiwi Hockey

The Black Sticks Women have opened their FIH World League Semi-Final campaign in clinical fashion with a crushing 12-0 win over Poland.

New Zealand were in control from the opening whistle and never gave world number 23 Poland any chance to make an impact on the game.

After leading 5-0 at halftime, the Black Sticks turned the pressure up even more and ran rampant with a further seven goals in the second half.

Striker Gemma Flynn played an outstanding role with a four goal haul while captain Anita Punt and Olivia Merry both scored doubles.

The stat sheet told the story of the game with New Zealand dominating possession and generating 39 shots on goal to Poland’s two.

Defender Brooke Neal also celebrated her 50th test appearance for the Black Sticks.

Head coach Mark Hager was pleased with the way his side opened their tournament ahead of tougher competition.

“That was a win we had to get under the belt and I thought we were quite clinical in some areas so it’s a pleasing result,” he said.

“I thought Gemma was fantastic. Along with her four goals, she also set up a lot of chances for others and was really on top of her game.”

Flynn gave credit for the win to her team-mates and said everyone really stepped up.

“It was a good team effort, we don’t care who puts the ball in as long as it’s in the net.

“We’ve been waiting for this tournament all year so it’s exciting to be here and good to come away with a good result in our first game.”

Punt opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, finishing a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper after receiving a fantastic ball into the circle from Flynn.

Flynn scored her first goal of the game with a terrific piece of athleticism, running back for a loose ball before pivoting and shooting in the same movement.

Her second goal was just as good, smashing home a lifted pass across the face of goal from Stacey Michelsen. Flynn added two more goals with one in the third and fourth quarters.

Punt’s second goal was a perfect display of hard hitting power while Olivia Merry picked up her brace from similar positions, reading the goalkeeper well and flicking into the back of the net both times.

The Black Sticks now have a two day rest period before their next clash against India at midnight on Tuesday (NZ time), with LIVE coverage on SKY Sport 2.

A top four finish at the World League Semi-Final would earn the Kiwis a spot at the World League Final at the end of the year, while the tournament also doubles as an opportunity to qualify for Rio with a top three placing securing an automatic berth.

BLACK STICKS 12: (Gemma Flynn 4, Anita Punt 2, Olivia Merry 2, Rose Keddell, Petrea Webster, Kirsten Pearce, Liz Thompson)
Halftime: Black Sticks 5-0

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Black Sticks women smash Poland at World League semifinals

Gemma Flynn, seen here in action against Argentina, scored four times against Poland. Photosport

The Black Sticks opened their FIH World League women's semifinal campaign in clinical fashion with a crushing 12-0 win over Poland.

New Zealand were in control from the opening whistle and never gave world number 23 Poland any chance to make an impact. After leading 5-0 at halftime, the Black Sticks turned the pressure up further, as striker Gemma Flynn netted four times while captain Anita Punt and Olivia Merry both scored doubles.

New Zealand had 39 shots on goal to Poland's two in a match that saw defender Brooke Neal play her 50th test.

Coach Mark Hager was pleased with the way his side opened their tournament ahead of tougher competition.

"That was a win we had to get under the belt and I thought we were quite clinical in some areas so it's a pleasing result," Hager said.

"I thought Gemma was fantastic. Along with her four goals, she also set up a lot of chances for others and was really on top of her game."

Flynn gave credit for the win to her team-mates.

"It was a good team effort, we don't care who puts the ball in as long as it's in the net," she said..

"We've been waiting for this tournament all year so it's exciting to be here and good to come away with a good result in our first game."

Punt opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, finishing a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper after receiving a fantastic ball into the circle from Flynn.

Flynn scored her first goal of the game with a terrific piece of athleticism, running back for a loose ball before pivoting and shooting in the same movement.

Her second goal was just as good, smashing home a lifted pass across the face of goal from Stacey Michelsen. Flynn added two more goals with one in the third and fourth quarters.

Punt's second goal was a perfect display of hard hitting power while Olivia Merry picked up her brace from similar positions, reading the goalkeeper well and flicking into the back of the net both times.

The Black Sticks now have a two-day rest period before their next clash against India at midnight on Tuesday (NZ time).

A top-four finish at the World League semifinal would earn the Kiwis a spot at the World League Final at the end of the year, while the tournament also doubles as an opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics - a top-three place secures an automatic berth.


Indian Men's team downs France 3-2

s2h team

Indian Men's Hockey team started their World Hockey League Semifinals campaign with an effective 3-2 win over France at Antwerp, Belgium. With goals coming from Young Manpreet Singh, Debutant Devinder Walmiki and Ramandeep Singh, which guided there team home. Indian team puts up a brilliant show while dominating in the field with over 60 percent possession in the game. And to everyone's delight India's seasoned players Sardar Singh and PR Sreejesh starts up with an impressive effort to mark their presence felt in the big event.

While it was the India Men Hockey team who made the initial attack, it was France who managed to score the early goal in the 3rd minute as Olivier Sanchez scored a brilliant field goal and giving his team the much required lead. Undeterred by the goal, India continued their attack and the next minute India had a chance on the goal as Lalit Upadhyay passed the ball to Satbir Singh in the D and who hit the ball hard at goal post but was saved by the opponent goalie. Seconds left in the first quarter Satbir yet again entered the semi circle with the ball but was blocked by the France goalie, denying the opportunity to score. This resulted in the quarter ending at 1-0 in favour of France.

Looking at the equalizer goal, in the 18th minute India continuing their attack, saw Satbir Singh charging from the right flank as he passed the ball to Ramandeep Singh standing right in front of the goal post but the latter missed the target as the ball was hit wide of the goal. India had their chance on the penalty corner in the 27th minute and Manpreet Singh did no mistake in finding the nets and giving India the much required equalizer goal. The goal even marked Manpreet Singh’s first ever drag flick goal. India totally charged up post the first goal saw Dharamvir Singh in the 27th minute passing the ball to Devindar Walmiki at the D and he on his part hit a brilliant field goal and taking the score to 2-1.

The third session saw France upping the ante as they looked to equalize the game. They got their first penalty corner in the 35th minute but was hit wide if the goal as they were yet again not successful in levelling the match. Within two minute France yet again attacked but Sreejesh was ready to deny the much required goal by the opponents as he saved brilliantly. France finally managed to equalize as in the 43rd minute Simon Martin Brisac scored though a field goal and taking the score to 2-2. Seconds left for the quarter to end, India was in the D of the opponents looking at taking the lead again but failed to capitalize resulting in the third session closing with the game levelled at 2-2.

With the fourth quarter being the decider session, both the teams knew they had no scope to make mistakes and the only way to win will be to score and take the quick lead. India had a chance on penalty corner with just 5 minutes left into the game, Jasjit taking the flick was off target, resulting in India losing the opportunity. The goal finally came in the 59th minute as Sardar Singh beating two opponent players entered the D as he passed to Akashdeep Singh and who on his part quickly passed it on to Ramandeep Singh, and he made no mistake in finding the nets, taking the score to 3-2. This resulted in the winning goal for India as they beat France by 3-2.


India beat France 3-2 in Hockey World League opener

Vineet Ramakrishnan

NEW DELHI: India were given a tough fight in their opening fixture of the FIH Hockey World League semifinals at Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday by the resilient French team, but managed to scrape past the 18th ranked team with a thrilling 3-2 win.

After France had shocked India by taking the lead in the third minute courtesy an Olivier Sanhez strike, India fought back well to score two goals in two minutes to take the lead by the halftime. Manpreet Singh converted a penalty corner while Devindar Walmiki intercepted a Dharamvir pass to find the back of the net.

France enjoyed most of the possession in the first two quarters and ran the inexperienced Indian defence close, only to be denied by goalkeeper and vice-captain PR Sreejesh. Rival goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann was also in top form and saved two certain goals.

France had better penetration than the Indian forwards and they were rewarded with the second goal when Simon Marin found the net with a hard shot jab in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter both teams got their chances and it was Sardar Singh's brilliance two minutes before the close of that eventually made the difference.

After getting the ball in the midfield the Indian skipper shimmied past two French defenders triggering a counter-attack that ended when Ramandeep Singh pounced on a loose ball inside the D and romped home the winning third goal.

The Times of India

Indian men survive French scare

Indian men’s hockey team fired in a goal two minutes from the final hooter through Ramandeep Singh to pull off a 3-2 win over France and begin their FIH World League Semifinals campaign on a winning note here on Saturday.

Ramandeep lunged forward to slam the ball into the France net in the 58th minutes courtesy the spadework of captain Sardar Singh to clinch the victory for India.

Olivier Sanchez (third minute) and Simon Martin Brisac (43rd) lifted the French team through flash strikes and India scored twice in the space of four minutes through Manpreet Singh (26th) and Devindar Walmiki (29th) to bring to level terms. The game was heading for a draw when captain Sardar sent in a reverse hit into the circle where Akashdeep Singh stopped it and the ball went toward the right where Ramandeep made no mistake with the opportunity in the 58th minute.

France stunned the Indians with an early goal in the third minute with unmarked striker Oliver Sanchez firing in from close range after getting the ball from the left.

Indian striker Satbir Singh shot wide off the target at the other end and the story of mis-passing and wayward shooting thereafter gave France the lead at the end of the first quarter.

The French had another good look at the Indian goal in the 22nd minute on a counter-attack as Brisac created the opening by charging into the scoring zone, where Sanchez failed to capitalise on another chance off custodian P R Sreejesh’s pads. India got the equaliser in the 26th minute from a penalty corner conversion by Manpreet Singh, who sent a low drag-flight into the left corner just past goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann’s reach.

Three minutes later, Sardar initiated an Indian move through his flank-changing pass from left that saw Dharamvir dart into the circle and send a diagonal pass for Devindar Walmiki to fire in. His stinging shot went in off the near post even as the French custodian tried to cover the angle. The Indian defence had a torrid time in the third quarter during which France came back to draw parity in the 43rd minute when a collision at the top of the circle between striker Tom Genestet and Indian defender Gurmail Singh sent the ball to Brisac, whose firm drive beat Sreejesh to finish in the Indian goal.

Women falter

Indian women failed to capitalise on several openings and suffered a 1-0 loss to host Belgium in their opening match.

A goal-line save by Stephanie de Groof from India’s first penalty corner in the 36th minute ensured that the Belgians held on to the lead they had earned just a minute ago from a penalty corner conversion at the other end.

The results: Men: Pool A: India 3 (Manpreet Singh, 26, Devindar Walmiki 29, Ramandeep Singh 58) bt France 2(Olivier Sanchez 3, Simon Martin Brisac 43).

Women: Pool B: New Zealand bt Poland 12-0; Belgium 1 (Stephanie de Groof 35) bt India 0; Pool A: Korea 1 drew with Italy 1; the Netherklands bt France 11-0.

The Hindu

Indian hockey coach Paul van Ass satisfied with 3-2 win over France

ANTWERP (Belgium): India's 3-2 win over France in their opening match of the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals was unconvincing but head coach Paul van Ass said that he was satisfied with the result.

Van Ass said he had not expected the campaign opener to be an easy outing and his boys managed to earn full points by scoring a late winner in a Pool A match.

"Winning the first match is the important thing. What was significant was not that we allowed the rivals too much space inside our territory, but the fact that we managed to score the third goal and earn full points," said van Ass after the match.

"There is always some unpredictability at the start of any tournament," he added.

India scored the winner two minutes from the final hooter through Ramandeep Singh to pull off a 3-2 win over France and begin their campaign on a winning note on Saturday night.

Ramandeep lunged forward to slam the ball into the France net in the 58th minute after the scores were levelled at 2-2, courtesy the spadework of captain Sardar Singh at the KHC Dragons Stadium.

The French were shattered at conceding the late match-winner to India.

France's livewire striker Brisac said it was a massive disappointment to concede the goal with just two minutes left on the clock.

"We were confident and we played a good game, but there is no consolation for conceding the goal so late in the match," said Brisac.

"We wanted at least one point from this game and came very close to securing that," he added.

India next play Poland on June 23.

In the other Pool A match on Saturday night, Pakistan beat unheralded Poland 2-1.

For Pakistan, this tournament is the last opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, having lost the Asian Games gold medal to India who became the first team to secure passage to the Rio Games.

The Times of India

Indian men start campaign with gritty win

Manpreet Singh scored the equaliser against France on Saturday. File photo

Antwerp, - India fired in a goal two minutes from the final hooter through Ramandeep Singh to pull off a 3-2 win over France and begin their World League Semifinals campaign on a winning note here today.

Ramandeep lunged forward to deflect a Sardar Singh cross into the France net in the 58th minute to clinch victory for India.

India’s defence was given a harrowing time by the fast overlapping French strikers, who capitalised on counters to twice stun them.

Olivier Sanchez (third minute) and Simon Martin Brisac (43rd) lifted the French team through flash strikes and India scored twice in the space of four minutes through Manpreet Singh (26th) and Devindar Walmiki (29th) to first equalise and then take the lead.

The game was heading for a draw when captain Sardar sent in a reverse hit into the circle where Akashdeep Singh stopped it and the ball went toward the right where Ramandeep made no mistake. France stunned the Indians with an early goal in the third minute with unmarked striker Sanchez firing in from close range after getting the ball from the left.

Women lose to Belgium

The Indian women’s team failed to end a losing streak to Belgium, beaten 1-0 in their first match. Liselotte van Lindt scored the winner for Belgium in the third quarter of the match with a penalty-corner conversion, giving the Red Panthers three points.

Cheered by passionate supporters in the stands, the Belgians started on a brighter note. They came close to scoring in the first quarter when Emma Puvrez sent the ball in from close range. However, when the Indians opted for a video referral, the goal was overturned. India raised their game after that, but the deadlock continued. It was finally broken in the 35th minute when captain van Lindt made no mistake with a clinical follow-up after a good penalty corner save from Indian goalkeeper Savita.

The Tribune

Women team lose 1-0 against the host

Indian Women's team lost their opening game against the host Belgium with a mare 1-0 margin at Antwerp. Both teams showed great attacking hockey and some brilliant stick work as the host struck the game's first and the last goal at the Hockey World League Semifinals.

India started very quickly as they went on the attack immediately. They were successful in giving the early jitters to the opponents as they easily penetrated the D and tried to capitalize but were unable to do so. Post that the entire quarter witnessed both teams maintaining a good pressure on each other as they tried to score through chances that they created in the semi-circles. But with no goals added to the scorecard the first quarter ended at 0-0. The second quarter was a similar story as both the teams were unable to add any goal during the session. India had a chance to score in the 23rd minute as a long shot towards the goal post was saved by the Belgium goalie. Seconds left for the first half to end Belgium got the first penalty corner to their name but was saved brilliantly by Savita as she ensured that the opponents did not go past her. With 0-0 on the scorecard the second half was crucial for both the teams.

The third quarter witnessed great action as the session went on to yield the first goal of the match. In the 35th minute, Belgium had another chance on the penalty corner and was saved brilliantly by the Indian goalie but Lieselotte van Lindt scored on the rebound giving no chance to Rajani to stop this time. The very next minute, India had their first chance on the penalty corner and a chance to equalize, but was saved by the Belgium goalie which created a chance for Ritu Rani to score on a rebound but Stephanie De Groof saved for her team. With the sole goal scored by Belgium they led the game 1-0 at the end of the third quarter.

India looking for the equalizer goal, got their second chance on the penalty corner in the 52nd minute but was saved yet again by Belgium and keeping India away yet again. The Indian eves tried creating opportunities to score and equalize the game but not successful in adding to the scorecard, India lost the game 0-1 to hosts Belgium in their opening match. The FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final 2015 will witness the Indian Eves taking on New Zealand on 23rd June 2015 at 17.30 IST.


Indian women suffer 0-1 loss to Belgium

ANTWERP: Indian women failed to capitalise on several openings and suffered a 0-1 loss to hosts Belgium in their opening match of the Hockey World League Semifinals on Saturday.

A goal-line save by Stephanie de Groof from India's first penalty corner in the 36th minute ensured that the Belgians held on to the lead they had earned just a minute ago from a penalty corner conversion at the other end.

Indian goalkeeper Savita saved two shots from De Groof before Belgian captain Lieselotte van Lindt capitalised on the rebound with a diagonal shot into the net in the 35th minute.

The Indian women, who had grimly held on against some early Belgian raids, forced their first penalty corner within a minute of conceding the goal. Deepika Kumari's penalty corner drive was blocked by diving goalkeeper Aisling D'Hooghe, sending the round to captain Ritu Rani whose flick was heading into the goal, but for a diving clearance by De Groof.

The Indians, ranked one spot behind Behind Belgium's number 12 world ranking, pushed hard and created some openings, but the equaliser eluded them in the Group B match. Against a team that fell back to bolster their defence, India managed to force a penalty corner in the 42nd minute, but the set-piece was not executed well and the ball got cleared.

The Indians had earlier successfully appealed for a back-stick to get a Belgian goal cancelled in the first quarter.

In the other Group B match, Gemma Flynn slammed four goals as New Zealand fired a dozen goals past Poland. Captain Anita Punt opened the account for the Black Sticks in their 12-0 triumph in the eighth minute before Flynn came into the frame with a flash strike in the 13th minute. She was again on target through a field goal in the 15th minute and later scored two more goals in the 32nd and 47th minutes. Punt fired her second goal in the 34th minute. Matching her two-goal feat was Olivia Merry (19th and 48th minutes).

World champions The Netherlands stamped their authority with a 11-0 triumph over France, who only on Friday were confirmed a spot in the tournament after Azerbaijan's withdrawal, while Asian Games champions South Korea were held to a 1-1 draw by Italy in Group A. Dutch captain Maartje Paumen converted three penalty corners and Lidewij Welten joined her with three goals as the French were swept off their feet.

South Korea, who have already secured a qualification for the 2016 Olympics by winning the gold medal at the Incheon Asian Games, surged ahead through a 10th minute field goal from captain Kim Jong-Eun, but Italy equalised two minutes from the final hooter from a penalty corner strike by Giuliana Ruggieri.

The Times of India

The thrill of Antwerp is Nikkin

K. Arumugam

Notwithstanding the fact that much of the sheen which otherwise would have been there in the Hockey World League Semifinal League 2015 will not be there for India as it had already qualified for the Rio Olympics. Still the event that starts today at Antwerp, Belgium, evokes some interest from Indian perspective as it is first serious avenue to make baby step decisions on the new coach Paul van Ass and also a few stars are on the sternest test of their career which may make or mar their future.

Antwerp is perhaps the only event where Indian men can play freely without any pressure of achieving any target, as the main purpose every other participant is to book the Rio ticket exactly where Indian men are comfortably placed.

Indian men are the only team in Antwerp, while South Korea on the distaff side, to have already booked the Rio seat by virtue of Gold at the last Asian Games, one of the five continental routes to the Olympic berths.

The suspense element that the tournament of the day -- which involves 10 teams in one continent while the other ten in the other -- is definitely Olympic qualification especially such as whether Pakistan, which had missed last World Cup, will be able to make amends here to make the Rio grade.

But what interest can already-qualified India have at Antwerp?

Winning the Semifinal title, as we expect in such events like the Asian Games, the Asia Cup, the Commonwealth Games etc?

Definitely not.

Because semifinal league title itself is not gold, because its midway event; there is one more step called HWL Finals yet to be.

At least India will have a task to finish at top six so that to qualify for the next step, HWL Finals, but India already made it by virtue of host.

Honestly speaking, HWL is a kind of labyrinth that not many can understand its structural shenanigans.

For example: India plays first match against France today.

How this match is categorized?

First league match of Pool A. Which league? Its semifinal League. What is semifinal league? Its Hockey World League’s Semifinal League. This first match, or for that matter the first four matches for any team, carries minimum three ‘League’ in its label!

So, France match is first league (or pool) match of Semifinal League of Hockey World League for India. Understood?

As such, honestly speaking the labyrinth of Leagues is such that one League real lost its real meaning of League!!

Even if India wins Antwerp common fan cannot relish as it is halfway of a League!

Leave the leagues headache as it is.

Indian interest lies on two counts at Antwerp.

Firstly, this first real test for new coach Paul van Ass. That will definitely start with knock-out phase.

First four matches are played just to relegate one team from each pool, while four from each pool will play out Quarterfinal League.

Apart from the much expected India-Pakistan match which is definitely a TRP winner for official telecaster Star Sports channel, others are nothing but academic. There is some merit to play these matches well simply because these matches are telecast alive.

But the new coach’s acumen will come in for sharp focus from Quartefinal stage onwards.

Paul team had two notable missings, both by injuries; V Raghunath and SV Sunil.

That Paul is a trier came to the fore when he opted one drag flicker and boldly inducted two youngsters in Devinder Walmiki and Lalit Upadhyay.

Return of elder of Devinder, Yuvraj after a long break due to injury and injustice is another focus area.

Lalit is a sharp forward while Devinder is a proven all rounder – he shone as a dragflicker, forward / medio in the WSH, and continued the all rounder calibre in Indian Railways winning the latest Hockey India National Championship.

But the question is, how much time will the duo get to play?

Paul, being a successful European coach will be a miser in terms of giving time to players, as he will try to trade off energy balance among all players.

In this scenario, the new comers might turn out to be gainers as successful coaches don’t go by big names, who are hardly substituted by coaches who lack confidence in themselves.

The next question is, will the duo who may get equitable time on the field grab the opportunity that come their way.

We have to wait and see.

It is easy to perform reasonably in invitational tournaments and bilateral series but not that easy in the internationally acclaimed tournament such as HWL SFL 2015.

Captain Sardar had been on the downhill for long. Gurbaj is ever reliable. Goalie Sreejesh, who conceded a silly goal against Pakistan at Bhubneswar in the semifinal, that cost India a medal, need to be more alert if he has to keep the tag of match winner, which made his a darling of hockey world at present.

Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh are two puzzles and bogs us down for long, as the duo had not been performing as much as expected. The duo had got sufficient break, exposure and experience, but had been stagnated.

These two sher-e-Punjab need to prove their continued selection is merit based not image based.

Rupinder Pal, definitely a match winner, seemed to have lost the confidence of new coach, who seem to count on old but new face like ……….. Singh; but thank his stars for come back.

With a long reach, fighting spirit, and with the added advantage at penalty corners, Rupinder has many positives in him, and its here in Antwerp he has to showcase them so as to count for Rio journey.

Antwerp therefore definitely is a test case for Rupinder Pal.

Brendra Lakra, just been declared as the Best Player of 2014, and with that Rs.25 lac, is a vital cog. He is a bit on decline, and its here in Antwerp he may steady his performance and prove his critics wrong.

Yuvraj, a favourite and lucky mascot of Michael Nobbs, is an opportune forward, and will prove his selection is genuine. He has an eye for goals.

A couple of goals at Antwerp set his career continue to flourish. In India, he is domestically sidelined as top notch teams such from Airlines and Oil Sector shunned him, leaving him to find a sage heaven in star-neglected Railways.

His younger sibling, Devinder is no more a thin, struggling player whom he was when made debut at Johor four years ago, but a well-built, seasoned campaigner, who worked hard and waited for long to hit the headlines.

His selection itself is a news now, and if he gets his due share of play time it will then do a world of good for him.

Nippy Nikkin Thimmaiah is one star whose every move will inject adrenalin in every Indian fan.

His hat-trick against mighty Australia is still fresh in everybody’s mind, as this has changed the fortune of otherwise dull campaign of recent Azlan Shah Cup.

A hat-trick against Australia is not any Indian achieved against Australia on the synthetic turf, and the history beckons him now.

He is one forward the nation can count on.

The thrill of Antwerp is definitely Nikkin.


Pakistan wins opening match against Poland

By Nabil Tahir

Muhammad Waqas after scoring the winning goal. PHOTO: MATCH SCREENSHOT

KARACHI: With hits and misses from both sides, Pakistan won their opening match 2-1 against Poland at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinals in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday.

Muhammad Irfan scored the opening goal for the Greenshirts in the fourth minute of the game. A penalty corner was fired a low and hard into the bottom corner to give Pakistan the lead.

In the second quarter, Muhammad Rizwan Junior received a penalty corner but he failed to convert it allowing Poland to consolidate their defense. Pakistan though went into the half ahead 1-0.

Head coach Shahnaz Sheikh gave a pep talk to the squad ahead of the final quarter which saw the Greenshirts throw everything into the game to extend their lead. But a resolute Poland held on, before Pawel Bratkowski successfully converted a penalty corner in the 51st minute to level the scores 1-1.

With nine minutes remaining Pakistan’s Umer Bhutta was awarded a penalty corner which Muhammad Waqas took. He took the hit with Muhammad Imran and Irfan at the head of ‘D’ area. Imran passed the ball back to Waqas who put the ball into the back of the net to restore Pakistan’s lead.

Poland mounted a charge on Pakistan’s goal in the last five minutes of the match. Though the Poles lost Bartosz Zywiczka due to injury, they managed to secure a penalty corner.

But the Greenshirts held on to secure the win.

Pakistan will now take on world number one Kookaburras on June 24 at the same venue before confronting arch rivals India on June 26. A win in either match will secure progression to the next round.

Meanwhile, in the other match India beat France 3-2.

The Express Tribune

Pakistan beat Poland 2-1 in tense HWL opener

Mohammad Waqas scored the winning goal in the dying minutes of the 4th quarter

Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Waqas were the heroes as Pakistan defeated a plucky Poland side 2-1 in their opening Hockey World League 2015 match on Saturday.

Pakistan, who need to finish in the top three of the Hockey World League semi-finals table to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, started the game at a typically frenetic pace and created several chances in the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Poland's goalkeeper Maciej Pacanowski stood like a wall as Pakistan continued to attack in an opening blitz which appeared to be a well thought out strategy to open up the opponents.

Mohammad Imran's Greenshirts finally broke through in the 4th minute as Irfan fired in a low shot off a penalty corner.

Going into the first half, the scoreline could have been worst for Pawel Bratkowski's Poland side had it not been for some very athletic saves by his man in goal.

Poland found their defensive shape in the third and fourth quarters as Pakistan lost some of its intensity from the opening salvos. Shafqat Rasool and Mohammad Dilber came close to scoring but, once again, Pacanowski proved to be too good for them.

Bratkowski then scored against the run of play with a little over 9 minutes left to level proceedings. But just as it seemed Poland were going come out of this battle unhurt, Waqas tapped home a rebound from a penalty corner to put Pakistan in front again.

Imran's team kept their nerve to earn three points from the tense match against a surprisingly resilient opponent.

"We created a lot of chances but we did not make the most out of them," Imran said after the match.

"But we really needed these three points and to start off with a win is always good for the confidence."

Pakistan will take on a mighty Australian side next on June 24.


Malaysian hockey team to begin Olympic quest

By Jugjet Singh

The Malaysian hockey team will begin their Olympic quest at 6pm Malaysian time today when they meet China in the World League Semifinals at the KHC Dragons Stadium in Antwerp, Belgium.

Losing is not an option even though the forecast is a chilly 16 degrees celsius with rain thrown in. Malaysia need three points from this match to keep their Olympic flame burning.

Saturday, Asian giants India and Pakistan struggled to get off in Group A and just enough for three points. India struggled to beat France 2-1 while Pakistan were also jittery and could only beat Poland 2-1. For the record, Malaysia beat Poland 8-0 in the World League Round Two to win gold in Singapore.

New Straits Times

Skipper Razie bent on winning opener against China in Belgium

By S. Ramaguru

Skipper Razie (left) is promising a win against China in the Gourp B opener of the World Hockey League in Antwerp.

ANTWERP (Belgium): “We are not going to fail.”

National skipper Mohamed Razie Rahim sounded a clear warning that he and his team-mates will not falter in their Group B opening match of the World Hockey League Semi-Finals.

Malaysia need to finish among the top three to qualify for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“We came here on a mission to qualify for the Olympics. Beating China is a must to reach the quarter-finals and there are no two ways about it. All our preparations have been geared towards beating China as well as our second match against Ireland (on June 25),” said Razie after the team’s training session.

Malaysia are No. 12 in the world, but Razie said they would not be fooled by China’s 31st ranking.

“China’s low ranking is no indication of their abilities. Our matches against China have always been close and we expect another close encounter,” added Razie.

Malaysia last played China at the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea in September. Malaysia won 3-1.

“We have been watching China’s recent matches on video and we know their strengths and weaknesses.

“I have never felt better executing penalty corners and will try to give the team an early boost. We need to douse the Chinese fire by scoring early goals,” said Razie.

The only concern for the Malaysians is the unpredictable weather. It has been chilly with a slight drizzle and the temperature hovering around 17°C.

Weather aside, Malaysia coach Tai Beng Hai is also confident that China can be beaten.

“It will be a close match, but we can win it. My players have been giving their best and although we were hit by a tragedy and goalkeeper S. Kumar had to fly home, the target still remains the same. We need to beat China and then Ireland to qualify for the quarter-finals,” said Beng Hai.

Veteran goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin, 37, will be the first choice goalkeeper with youngster Mohamed Hafizuddin Othman the replacement for Kumar.

Malaysia’s path in the tournament is clear cut. They cannot afford to mess up the first two matches.

The Star of Malaysia

China ready to upset the formbooks in Belgium

By S. Ramaguru

ANTWERP (Belgium): China are the lowest-ranked team in the World Hockey League Semi-Finals, but they are determined not to be the whipping boys.

The world No. 31 side will open their campaign against 12th-ranked Malaysia in Group B in the Olympic qualifying tournament. The top three sides will qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

China team manager Yang Liu believes they are capable of making a winning start.

“Our aim is to defy the ranking. We know we have an almost impossible task. But we would like to think we are capable of some upsets … maybe a win or two,” said Yang Liu at the K.H.C Dragon Stadium, the venue of the tournament.

China have played Malaysia 43 times and won on only eight occasions. Malaysia have a 29-win record while six matches ended in draws.

To date, China’s only foray in the Olympics came in 2008 when Beijing was the host nation. They finished 11th place out of 12 teams.

They qualified for the Semi-Finals after finishing second in Round Two in Cape Town earlier this year. Their most significant win was the 2-0 triumph over hosts South Africa, the world No. 13.

China’s last match against Malaysia was at the Asian Games in South Korea last Sptember. The Malaysians won 3-1.

For Yang Liu, past records do not matter.

“We take one step at a time. We have made some upsets coming here so we want to keep doing that. It will not be easy but we hope to try very hard.

“Malaysia are heavily favoured to beat us.  We are unperturbed. We really have nothing to lose. Every win will be a bonus for the team,” said Yang Liu.

Liu Yixian and Sun Long are the main players for China, who are coached Cui Yingbao. The player to watch is 20-year-old Li Zecheng, who was named Young Player of the Tournament in Round Two. Another young talent in the team is 19-year-old Meng Lei.

Captain Sun Tianjun is the most experienced player with 144 international caps. Tianjun and Lu Fenghui, who has 130 caps, are the only two surviving members of the 2008 Olympic team.

The Star of Malaysia

Last-gasp Bain goal gives Scotland win against Wales

Scotland's Kenny Bain fires the home side's winning goal against Wales. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

A last minute winning goal from Kenny Bain and an Alan Forsyth first half hat-trick sealed an enthralling 4-3 win for Scotland Senior Men in their second international match against Wales at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre today.

But the Scots were made to sweat on their success, surviving a dramatic second half Welsh comeback that included two goals from Gareth Furlong and one from Rupert Shipperley, as the visitors bounced back from being 3-0 down at half-time to level the score at 3-3 late in the second period.

However, Bain’s vital intervention two minutes before full-time ensured Scottish success, the national side going 1-0 up in the three match series after this afternoon’s victory.

Scotland were afforded two penalty corner chances as early as the second minute as they opened the match with attacking intent clearly in mind; Wei Adams’ first attempt was illegally blocked and William Marshall’s shot was mopped up by the visitors’ defence and cleared to safety.

The home side’s early pressure paid off in the sixth minute though as Kenny Bain surged into the scoring circle with a penetrating run and his cross was coolly finished off by Alan Forsyth at the back post to break the deadlock.

With Wales under the cosh from Scottish advances in the opening stages, their goalkeeper David Kettle was called into action in the 13th minute to repel a ferocious drag-flick from Adams, but he could do nothing about an excellent penalty corner set-play four minutes later, which resulted in Alan Forsyth blazing an unstoppable shot into the net to put the Scots 2-0 up.

Indeed, it looked all over for the visiting side after the Surbiton striker sealed a first half hat-trick in the 19th minute, netting from close range to put Scotland firmly in control of the contest and Wales desperately needing to re-group and gain composure.

It was left to Gareth Furlong to grasp the mantle for his side, his rasping 23rd minute drag-flick dragging the Welsh back into the encounter at 3-1 as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Excellent play from Scotland captain Chris Grassick almost led to a fourth goal for Alan Forsyth shortly before the half-time interval but the shot was blocked by Kettle and removed from the danger-zone.

Scotland captain Chris Grassick takes the initiative against Wales. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

With the last action of the first half, Rupert Shipperley’s deflection on Furlong’s penalty corner drag-flick was directed agonisingly wide of the target.

Scotland's Alan Forsyth looks as his shot finds the back of the net. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Wales provided the first goal-mouth action of the second half, but Huw Jones’ final shot was dreadfully lacking in power, giving Scotland goalkeeper Gavin Sommerville the easiest of saves.

In the 43rd minute, good play from Grassick and Alan Forsyth set up Bain but alas for the Amsterdam striker, his control let him down on this occasion, the ball running over the far touchline.

The Scots were afforded three penalty corner opportunities within a minute midway through the second half, but neither Adams or the Forsyth brothers could find a successful route past Kettle in the away goal.

Missed chances were to hurt Scotland, and in the 55th minute Furlong registered his second goal of the game, dispatching another penalty corner past Sommerville to put Wales firmly back in the match at 3-2.

The left hand post was to prove Alan Forsyth’s nemesis in the 59th minute, his shot cannoning off the upright to safety, before Robert Mugridge was left looking on despair at the other end of the pitch, his connection with a cross narrowly missing the target as his side pressed for the equalising goal.

With seven minutes left on the clock, the visitors left the home side stunned when Shipperley coasted in unmarked in amongst the Scottish defence to rifle the equalising goal past Sommerville to the delight of his team-mates and the Welsh bench.

Scotland's Gavin Byers shields possession. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

Having surrendered a three goal advantage, it was to Scotland’s credit that they responded strongly and a penalty corner was awarded to the Scots shortly before full-time. A crafted set-play saw David Forsyth fire a shot on target that Kettle could only divert into the path of Bain and the former Kelburne man made no mistake, lashing the ball into the net to send the home support into raptures.

Yet, the natives were made to suffer three nail-biting moments as Wales were awarded three penalty corners right on the full-time hooter. Fortunately, Furlong’s trio of attempts were unsuccessful, leaving Scotland Head Coach Derek Forsyth and his charges relieved to come away with a win.

The two sides meet in the third and final encounter tomorrow at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre, with a 9am pushback.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Mixed fortunes for Scottish junior international teams

Jamie Golden gets in a shot on goal against Ulster in Glasgow. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

A number of Scotland's junior international teams were in action today, recording mixed fortunes from their matches against Ulster and England.

Scotland U21

Scotland U21 Men went down to a 6-2 defeat against England at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre.

Luke Taylor opened the scoring early in the match from a penalty corner, before Sam French put the visitors 2-0 up from open play.

However, Jack Kinloch brought the Scots back into the match in the 31st minute, converting a penalty stroke.

Jack Kinloch executes a penalty stroke for Scotland. Photo Credit: Duncan Gray

The equaliser for Scotland came in the 42nd minute when Jock Breckenridge turned the ball into the net.

French restored England's lead at 3-2 with a great penalty corner drag-flick high into the net, before Chris Proctor extended his side's lead late in the second half with a well taken field goal into the bottom right corner.

Taylor grabbed England's fifth goal in the 63rd minute, scoring from a penalty stroke that went in off the bar.

Will Calnan rounded off the scoring right on full time giving England a 6-2 win.

A Scotland U21 Development side lost 2-0 to Ulster U21s, Matthew Bell and James Lorimer scoring for the away side.

Scotland U16 Development

In Belfast, Scotland U16 Girls Development followed up their 5-2 win over Ulster yesterday with a 1-1 draw in today's encounter. Ellie Watson scored the goal for the young Scots, deflecting a penalty corner into the net.

Back in Glasgow, Scotland U16 Boys Development lost narrowly to Ulster, going down 4-3. Kyle McGhie, Fraser Calder and Ronan Vennard were the Scottish goalscorers, only for Owen McElhinney's two goals added to strikes from Aaron Grimshaw and Chris Lormer giving the Irishmen the win.

Scottish Hockey Union media release

Scorpions sting Titans in hockey contest

By Elizabeth Mburugu

Kenyatta University Edith Bunyasi when they played women League at City park. Orange scored 10-0. PHOTO; JENIPHER WACHIE

Strathmore University’s Scorpions laboured before they defeated Kenyatta University 1-0 in a national women’s league match at City Park Stadium yesterday.

A first half strike from Strathmore’s forward Gilly Okumu settled the match, which was characterised by lackluster displays from both sides.

Strathmore’s coach Meshack Senge was not a pleased man following his team’s wanting performance, and he accused his players of being too comfortable and to casual.

“I was disappointed by what I saw on the pitch today. That performance was shambolic and not up to the standards we are usually familiar with. This is a game we should have won by a wider margin, but what I saw on the pitch, is shocking and totally unacceptable,” an agitated Senge said.

Senge handed starts to several rookies with up to five first team players absent as the team struggled to get hold of the game. Both teams were happy to sit back in the opening stages of the game. The game’s first chance came in the 20th minute when Denise Odongo was fed by Yvonne Karanja, but her shot was easily saved by KU’s goalkeeper Selline Ouma.

Laura Gichau and Karanja were the only outstanding players for Strathmore and it was no surprise that the two combined to create their team’s goal. Gichau did well to wrestle possession in midfield before releasing Karanja down the right.
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The pacy winger beat two KU defenders before she set up a brilliant cross for Okumu, who finished off with finesse for her second goal this season. The goal sprung KU to action and they pulled more bodies forward in search of the equaliser.

They were presented with a golden opportunity to get matters level when Strathmore’s defender Angie Mayaka’s error in her own circle gifted KU’s Rahab Nyathe with the ball, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, Nyathe squandered the chance as she fired wide to the disbelief of her teammates.

Strathmore failed to utilise their only penalty corner of the half as Winnie Ingati shot wide moments before halftime.

The Standard Online

Parkites hand Petrotrin Oilmen first hockey loss

Nigel Simon

Damion Bright scored for the second straight match as Queen’s Park handed table toppers Petrotrin its first loss of the season in  T&T Hockey Board Men’s Championship Division, 2-1 at the National Hockey Centre, Tacarigua on Thursday night.

Going into the match, the Oilmen (25 points) had a four point lead over defending champions Notre Dame and could have taken a major step towards regaining the crown.

However, the Parkites coming off a 2-2 draw with Notre Dame had other ideas and took the lead as early as the second minute through Jerazano Bell while Bright made it 2-0 ten minutes later which his team held until the end of the first quarter,

In the second period, Petrotrin went on an all out offensive to get back into the match and it was rewarded by a 30th minute goal from Atiba Whittington to trail 2-1 at the half-time interval.

A lot more was expected from both teams in the final two periods, but for all their efforts both Petrotrin and Queen's Park failed to add to their tally as the Parkites held on for a vital win to improve to 19 points from 12 matches and two left to play while the Oilmen remained on 25, four more than Dames.

Paragon is fourth with 13 points from nine matches, while Defence Force has 12 from 11 matches in fifth spot.

Last night, Petrotrin had another chance to inch closer to the crown when it faced Defence Force while Courts Malvern came up against Notre Dame while in the lone Women's Championship Division encounter, Notre Dame also came up Courts Malvern.

At the top of the Women’s Championship Division standing is Georgetown Cricket Club of Guyana which ended its 12-match campaign with 20 points while the trio of defending champion Paragon, Harvard Checkers and Shandy Carib Magnolias, are all on 13 points.

However, Magnolias has five matches to play while Paragon and Notre Dame has four and Checkers three to complete their campaigns.



Men’s Championship Division:

QPCC 2 (Jerazano Bell 2nd, Damion Bright 12th) vs Petrotrin 1 (Atiba Whittington 30th)

Upcoming T&THB matches


Under-19 Boys: Courts Malvern vs Fatima, 2pm

Men's Championship: Paradise vs Defence Force, 3;30pm
Men's Championship: Fatima vs Paragon, 5pm
Women's Championship: SC Magnolias vs Paragon, 6.30pm
Trinity Men: Paradise vs Carib, 8pm.

Tomorrow (Sunday)

Courts Malvern vs Paradise, 12.30pm; Petrotrin vs Notre Dame, 6.30 pm
Women's Championship: Ventures vs Courts Malvern, 2pm; Harvard Checkers vs Notre Dame, 5 pm
Trinity Men: Paradise vs Shape, 3.30pm; Notre Dame vs Paragon, 8 pm.

Current T&THB selected tables:

Men’s Championship:

Teams    P    W    D    L    F    A    Pts

Petrotrin    10    8    1    1    36    14    25
Notre Dame    11    6    3    2    29    16    21
QPCC    12    5    4    3    29    21    19
Paragon    9    4    1    4    22    23    13
Defence Force    11    2    6    3    22    21    12
Malvern    11    2    4    5    16    21    10
Fatima    11    2    3    6    16    30    9
Paradise    9    2    0    7    16    41    6

Women’s Championship:

GCC    12    6    2    4    22    20    20
SC Magnolias    7    4    1    2    20    8    13
Paragon    7    3    4    0    17    7    13
Checkers    8    3    4    1    8    4    13
Notre Dame    7    3    1    3    12    13    10
Malvern    6    1    2    3    7    13    5
Ventures    7    0    0    7    1    22    0

The Trinidad Guardian

Schools hockey continues in Suva

Vishaal Kumar

Jonathan Steven of St Marcellin Primary School controls the ball against his Marist Brothers Primary School opponent yesterday. Picture: ATU RASEA

THE Suva Primary Schools Hockey Association continued with its weekly competition at the National Hockey Centre in Suva yesterday.

With recent bad weather affecting its scheduled plans and the competition got back on track with players exhibiting a ray of skills at Laucala Bay turf.

The association has been running on its own finances and has been without any major sponsors for the last four years but are still optimistic for a good season.

Association President Sanimeli Pita said despite the financial woes the association still managed to run on its own.

"We had a slow start to the season but we are slowly picking up the pace in our competition. We have five more weeks to go before the finals," Pita said.

"The most important thing we have noticed is the skills level of these young players is improving week by week.

"We are looking to invite more schools to take part next year with the current seven that is taking part now."

In week eight of the competition the association will host the super eleven tournament which will coincide with the finals.


Under 8

SMPS 6 vs. TLC 0, TLC II 1- MGM 0

Under 10

VPS 0 vs. SMPS 2, SMPS 3 vs. MBPS 0, VPS 0 vs. TLC 2, MBPS 0 vs. MGM 0

Under 12

MGM 1 vs. TLC 1

The Fiji Times

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