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News for 05 July 2015

All the news for Sunday 5 July 2015

Netherlands, Korea and Australia on the Road to Rio

Netherlands made to battle by Korea's tactical nous

The Netherlands were crowned winners of the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals as they beat Korea in a tightly contested final that was only decided by a last minute moment of magic from the FINTRO Best Player winner Lidewij Welten.

  •     In the third place match, Australia out-gunned their Oceania Rivals New Zealand 4-2.
  •     The fifth-place match saw India defeat Japan.
  •     Belgium beat Italy to take seventh position.
  •     Netherlands, Korea and Australia qualify for Rio 2016
  •     Netherlands, Korea, Australia and New Zealand qualify for the Hockey World League Final

Individual awards:

FINTRO Best Player - Lidewij Welten (NED)
FINTRO Best Goalkeeper - Sally Rutherford (NZL)
HERO Top Scorer - Jodie Kenny (AUS)
HERO Best Junior - Xan de Waard (NED)


Netherlands v Korea 2-1 (0-0)

The Netherlands and Korea played out an intriguing game that was notable for the unrelenting pressure the Netherlands placed on their rivals and the tactical nous of their Asian opponents.

Only a moment of magical trickery in the dying minutes of the game from Player of the Tournament Lidewij Welten separated the two teams. Her mazy dribble into the circle was finished off with a scorcher of a shot from Ellen Hoog.

The match was one of cat and mouse, with the Dutch seemingly finding no way through the impenetrable defence of Korea.

Margot van Geffen worked her magic to create a hole in the wall, but a desperate dive from Carlien van den Heuval saw the Dutch player just failing to connect.

In the second half, the Korea fairytale story looked as if it was getting even better as they scored from a deflected short corner, Park Eunjung (34') proving the hero as she turned Kim Jong's shot into the goal.

The equaliser came from Caia van Maasakker after great build-up play from Welten. Maasakker (44') sent her penalty corner shot flying into the bottom corner of the Korea goal. And so to the final quarter of this intriguing fixture, with the scores poised at 1-1, the teams took to the field for 15 minutes of no-quarter-given action.

First to attack was Netherlands, a powerful run by Welten halted abruptly by Jang Soo Ji. Van As followed up but her shot flew harmlessly over the goal.

The game was decided in the 58th minute when Welten ran at the Korea defence, ghosting past the despairing sticks before slipping to Hoog, whose final shot was emphatic.

Australia v New Zealand 4-2 (3-0)

Australia claimed third place and an Olympic qualification spot at the expense of Oceania rivals New Zealand. While New Zealand had their moments of pressure, the Hockeyroos set out their stall early and, despite conceding two goals, never looked like losing the match.

Australia took a decisive hold of the game with two goals within two minutes, the first from Emily Smith (3') and the second from Jane Claxton (4').

Rocked by the whirlwind, New Zealand looked at sixes and seven's for much of the first quarter and only a series of saves by Goalkeeper of the Tournament Sally Rutherford, kept the scoreline to a manageable level in that opening period.

Australia's third goal came in the 15th minute. Mariah Williams (15') put the ball away at the second attempt after her first shot rebounded invitingly.

After the break, Stacey Michelesen led the New Zealand revival. The forward weaved through the Australian defence and slotted past Ashlee Wells to reduce the deficit.

It wasn't just at the attacking end that New Zealand began to show their mettle. A combined effort from Brook Neal and Rose Keddell stopped an almost certain fourth goal, Keddell stopping the shot and Neal calmly clearing.

It was Neal who bravely saved from a Hockeyroos penalty corner minutes later, the ball was mis-fired by the usually reliable Jodie Kenny and Neal was alert to the danger posed by the rebound.

However, there was to be no stopping a rampant Australian team and Georgia Nanscawen (45') was on hand to crash home an unstoppable shot from the edge of the circle after Kenny made a beautiful pressure-easing aerial out of defence.

New Zealand came back again through captain Anita Punt (48'). She fired home a drag flick penalty corner into the top corner of the goal. Rutherford kept the Black Sticks in the game with two great saves – one from a penalty corner, the other from open play, while Wells also performed acrobatics to deny a third New Zealand goal.

"We made it really hard on ourselves by conceding two goals so early," said Olivia Merry. "Although we competed well in second part of the game, you can't give Australia a 3-0 lead and hope to chase that down."

"We were so disappointed with our performance against the Netherlands," said Emily Smith. "We wanted to show what we are capable of. We know between now and Rio that we need to find innovative ways to beat the Netherlands and we need to improve our physicality so we stop them getting players behind us."

India v Japan 1-0

In a 5/6th place match that was tense and hard-fought, Japan and India played out their own Asian championship in the knowledge that a win would keep Olympic dreams alive.

After 60 minutes of high energy play, it was a single goal by India's Rani Rani that separated the teams.

While Japan had the marginally better structure, it was India who scored the only goal, a delightfully lifted shot from Rani Rani. Just seconds earlier, Japan's defender Nagisa Hayashi had left the field injured, and her stabilising influence was missed for those vital minutes.

Japan had their chances. Akiko Kato came closest when her diving deflection just missed the far post.

Coach Yuji Nagai said that his side just missed too many chances and those mistakes were crucial in a game of this significance. This was particularly true in the final few minutes of the game as the Cherry Blossoms piled on the pressure but just couldn't find that final touch. Savita pulled off a good save from a straight shot and then watched as her team threw themselves in front of everything that Japan threw at them.

"We knew that sixth place was not enough, but fifth means we might still qualify for the Olympics for the first time in our history (India also played in the inaugural women's competition in Moscow 1980)," said a delighted Rani.

Italy v Belgium 2-4

Emilie Sinia's 200th cap celebration was made sweeter when her team overcame a spirited Italian attack to secure a 4-2 win and seventh place in the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Finals.

"We are disappointed not to have finished higher," said Stephanie de Groof. "Mentally, this win will have done us good, but we must take a stronger mental game to the European Championships. We were 35 seconds from beating Korea and fighting for an Olympic place, that was the disappointment."

The opening goal of the game was scored by Italy's Macarena Ronsissvalli (15') who picked up the slip from Martina Lecchini and placed the ball coolly past Aisling D'Hooghe in the Red Lion's goal. Belgium restored parity through Louise Versavel (19'). She picked up a ball from Aline Fobe and in one sharp move, turned and shot home.

The home team's lead was extended in the 25th minute when Stephanie Vanden Borre slapped the ball past Maria Donati. In the second half, Italy came back strongly and were rewarded with a goal in the 41st minute from captain Chiara Tiddi. The final quarter saw Belgium take the game by the scruff of the neck and put daylight between themselves and their lower ranked rivals. First Versavel doubled her tally and then Vandermeiren made it 4-2.

FIH site

Netherlands prevail 2-1 over S Korea to claim women's title

ANTWERP: World and Olympic champions Netherlands rallied to prevail 2-1 over Asian Games gold medalists South Korea in the title encounter of the Hockey World League Semifinals at the KHC Dragons Stadium on Sunday.

The Dutch women only clinched the title through Ellen Hoog's field goal three minutes from the hooter as the Koreans put up a good contest against the top-ranked team in the world. The Koreans took the lead against the run of play on their first penalty corner. Captain Kim Jong-eun's penalty corner shot was deflected by diving Kim Bo-mi past goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek in the 34th minute.

Netherlands came back strongly, but wasted seven penalty corners before Caia van Maasakker got it right to equalize in the 44th minute. The title was still not in the Dutch grasp until Hoog shot on target in open play in the 57th minute.

World Cup silver medalists Australia had to be satisfied with the bronze at this World League Semifinals, which they secured with a 4-2 victory over New Zealand in the third-place playoff. New Zealand had beaten Australia in their preliminary group encounter. Australia surged into a two-goal lead by the time the game was four minutes old through field goals from Emily Smith and Jane Claxton.

Mariah Williams made it 3-0 in the 15th minute with another strike in open play, and the Black Sticks seemed out of depth despite the fine show last week. But New Zealand fought back as Stacey Michelsen dribbled past four defenders to shoot home four minutes into the second session.

Australia stretched the lead again Georgia Nanscawen firing in the 45th minute, only for the Black Sticks to score again three minutes later through a penalty corner conversion by captain Anita Punt. Three teams from each of the two World League Semifinal competitions will qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Despite South Korea already having qualified as winners of the Asian Games gold medal, only the top-three teams from here in Antwerp have earned their Rio de Janeiro tickets. Germany, Great Britain and China secured the top three spots in the World League Semifinals in Valencia.

But Argentina, who finished fourth there, have now qualified for the Olympics as the higher ranked team from the two fourth-placed sides in the events at Valencia and Antwerp. With five continental event champions being allowed another route, there will be several dual qualifications.

In turn, that will open up Olympic spots for nations which do not make the top four of the two World League Semifinals. New Zealand will be the first choice when the countdown to qualifications start, followed by Unted States and India as the next teams in the waiting list.

The Times of India

Rio-bound Hockeyroos

Australian women beat New Zealand to win World League bronze medal

Emily Smith’s 50th international goal and a devastating opening quarter set the Hockeyroos on course to a 4-2 victory over New Zealand to win the bronze medal at the Hockey World League in Antwerp.

The result also officially confirmed the Australian women’s qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and their place at the World League Finals in Argentina later in the year.

Smith’s goal in the third minute and Jane Claxton’s volley just 60 seconds later set the tone for the victory, with Mariah Williams’ goal at the end of the first quarter earning the Hockeyroos a three goal lead at the first break.

New Zealander Stacey Michelsen pulled one back shortly after half time as the Black Sticks fought for a foothold in the contest but when Georgia Nanscawen made it 4-1 in the dying seconds of the third period it seemed the eventual outcome was assured.

It might have been more but Kathryn Slattery could only watch as her effort was desperately cleared from the goal line after a chip over the goalkeeper. The West Australian was also unfortunate to see a shot rebound off the post.

Anita Punt pulled one back for the Black Sticks with a pin-point penalty corner ten minutes from time but it was Kiwi goalkeeper Sally Rutherford who was the busier in the latter stages, denying Jodie Kenny and Ashleigh Nelson.

The Netherlands picked up the gold medal with a late comeback against Korea to win 2-1 while Hockeyroos defender Jodie Kenny was named the tournament's top goal scorer with ten goals.

Coach Adam Commens got the response he wanted following Thursday night’s defeat to the Netherlands but cautioned that the result doesn’t eradicate the memories of their two defeats at the tournament.

He said, “We’ve been threatening to do that for a while against the New Zealand team. They’re a really high class side and I thought today we executed our game plan well and were able to finish in the attacking circle. It’s probably the first time we’ve done it in this tournament so really pleasing.

“We can’t forget what happened in the semi-final and indeed the round game against New Zealand. We need to be better than we’ve been at this tournament. We’ll be really fired up and working hard over the next 12 months to ensure that we are.

Of his side’s lightning quick start, Commens said, “That set the platform and then New Zealand are chasing.

“I thought they did a pretty good job at getting back into the game and creating opportunities to score more than their two goals but at the other end we created more than enough to go five or six.

“That part of our game certainly needs to improve and it’s something that we’ll be sitting together as a group – not only the coaches but also the players – to work out how we go about improving that area of our game.”

With Olympic qualification assured more than a year out from the Games, Commens believes the next 12 months will determine who stands on top of the medal podium in Brazil.

“I’ve always said that I think that the medals are won in an Olympic Games in the 12 months before, so in 2015 you really set yourself a good platform and then you just want to do those fine details in the last three to four months leading into the Olympic Games.

“Now teams have qualified it’s the team that takes the biggest step over this next 12 months and if we can take the biggest step we can close the gap between us and the Dutch and put a gap on some of our opponents.”

A smart block by goalkeeper Ashlee Wells on Kirsten Pearce in just the second minute of the match provided the platform for a Hockeyroos side determined to play with pace and decisiveness from the off.

As the Hockeyroos broke upfield moments later, good work down the left hand side saw Karri McMahon find Kathryn Slattery who beat her opponent to the ball inside the New Zealand circle. The resulting loose ball spun into the path of Emily Smith who reacted well to divert it home for the opening goal.

A minute later it was 2-0. Georgia Nanscawen’s surging run along the right baseline set up Ashleigh Nelson for a slap shot, which Kiwi goalkeeper Sally Rutherford parried only as far as South Australia’s Jane Claxton. Claxton’s chest-high volley flew back past Rutherford into the roof of the net and the Hockeyroos were two up inside four minutes. 

In the dying seconds of the first quarter Mariah Williams bagged the third goal of her fledgling international career, scoring at the second attempt after Rutherford had blocked her initial effort from close range.

The Hockeyroos found themselves pressed deeper by New Zealand in the second period but defended the circle well. When the Black Sticks did find a way through, goalkeeper Wells was resolute behind her back line. 

Early in the third period, the pressure told. Stacey Michelsen found the space to run at the Hockeyroos defence before slotting home to reduce the deficit to 3-1.

Then, with fewer than ten seconds of the third period remaining, Eddie Bone’s aerial pass out of defence was superbly controlled by Madonna Blyth on the right of midfield. The Hockeyroos captain controlled the pass before turning inside and playing in Georgia Nanscawen who fired low inside the right post from the top of the circle.

While Anita Punt pulled another goal back for the Black Sticks with a penalty corner flick that found the top right corner, it was the Hockeyroos that enjoyed the best of the late opportunities.

Goal scorer Emily Smith said after the match, “It was very exciting. Obviously this tournament hasn’t quite gone to plan for the strik line.

“It was good that game to get a couple of field goals, get our confidence up and, yeah, it was really exciting that we got on top of them early and set the tone right from the start.

“We really had that desire to come out and provde that game against the Dutch was a one-off. It wasn’t going to define us and we have the character and the strength to bounce back from anything”.

Despite not scoring against New Zealand, Queensland defender Jodie Kenny topped the goal scoring charts with ten goals, one ahead of Dutch captain Maartje Paumen.

Anna Flanagan made her 150th appearance for the Hockeyroos in the match with the team donning black armbands to honour the memory of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh.
Hockey World League
Antwerp, Belgium

Bronze medal match

Emily Smith 3 (FG)
Jane Claxton 4 (FG)
Mariah Williams 15 (FG)
Georgia Nanscawen 45 (FG)

Stacey Michelsen 34 (FG)
Anita Punt 48 (PC)

Hockeyroos squad v New Zealand
Name (Hometown/State) Caps/Goals
Madonna Blyth (Brisbane, QLD) 308/67
Edwina Bone (Evatt, ACT) 78/2
Anna Flanagan (Canberra, ACT) 150/34
Jodie Kenny (Wamuran, QLD) 144/88
Karri McMahon (Berri, SA) 70/7
Georgie Parker (Berri, SA) 83/25
Casey Sablowski (South Coast, NSW) 228/44
Kathryn Slattery (South Stirling, WA) 22/6
Emily Smith (Crookwell, NSW) 124/50
Ashlee Wells (Morwell, VIC) 52/0
Mariah Williams (Parkes, NSW) 21/3                                                                                                                                                           
Used Substitutes
Teneal Attard (Mackay, QLD) 213/10
Jane Claxton (Adelaide, SA) 67/6
Kirstin Dwyer (Mackay, QLD) 80/2
Georgia Nanscawen (Melbourne, VIC) 162/32
Ashleigh Nelson (Wagin, WA) 182/63
Brooke Peris (Darwin, NT) 60/9
Unused Substitutes
Rachael Lynch (Warrandyte, VIC) 124/0
Classification Fixtures & Results
9th/10th: France 1-5 Poland
7th/8th: Italy 2-4 Belgium
5th/6th: India 1-0 Japan
3th/4th: Australia 4-2 New Zealand
1st/2nd: Netherlands 2-1 Korea
Final classification
1st: Netherlands
2nd: Korea
3rd: Australia
4th: New Zealand
5th: India
6th: Japan
7th: Belgium
8th: Italy
9th: Poland
10th: France

Hockey Australia media release

Black Sticks finish fourth at World League

Photo courtesy Kiwi Hockey

The Black Sticks Women have finished fourth after being defeated 4-2 by Australia in the bronze medal match at the FIH World League Semi-Final in Antwerp.

The result sees the Kiwis miss out on a top three placing and automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the Hockeyroos having now booked their tickets to Brazil.

New Zealand’s next shot at Olympic qualification is at October’s Oceania Cup in Stratford, where they can claim a spot by winning the Oceania title.

The top four finish has however earned them the right to compete at the FIH World League Final in Rosario, Argentina from 5-13 December.

At the conclusion of the tournament New Zealand come away with a record of five wins and two losses, along with 29 goals scored for and six against.

Captain Anita Punt said it was disappointing to allow Australia to take hold of the game in the first quarter and a gutting result.

“It was a really disappointing performance from us today. We didn’t start the way we wanted to and that had us on the back foot,” she said.

“We have to be better in situations like this and unfortunately it didn’t come off for us today so we will go home, regroup and come back fighting harder.”

Australia had the Black Sticks rattled early thanks to two goals in the first five minutes, with Emily Smith and Jane Claxton both capitalising on loose balls in the circle and beating goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.

To compound matters, the Kiwis lost Punt for most of the opening quarter after she copped a heavy blow to the foot and limped from the field. After medical attention she returned after the break.

Mariah Williams added to the tally late in the period to give Australia a daunting 3-0 advantage after the opening quarter.

It was a much more balanced second quarter with the best chance coming just out from halftime when Gemma Flynn dove onto a hard cross from Punt but her deflection went just wide.

Stacey Michelsen sparked some magic in the 34th minute with a brilliant solo run, dribbling side to side and beating six defenders before slipping the ball past the keeper.

But the Hockeyroos kept the pressure on and delivered a fourth goal just seconds out from three quarter time through a strong shot at the top of the circle from Georgia Nanscawen.

Punt pulled another goal back for the Black Sticks early in the fourth quarter when she rocketed a penalty corner drag flick into the top of the net.

New Zealand fought desperately in the dying minutes but couldn’t find the two goals they needed to force a shoot-out.

BLACK STICKS 2: (Stacey Michelsen, Anita Punt)
AUSTRALIA 4: (Emily Smith, Jane Claxton, Mariah Williams, Georgia Nanscawen)
Halftime: Australia 3-0

Hockey New Zealand Media release

Black Sticks finish fourth at World League Semifinal after loss to Australia

Black Sticks captain Anita Punt was disappointed with their finish at the World League Semifinal tournament in Belgium. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/ Getty Images

The New Zealand women's hockey team has missed automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics after losing to arch rival Australia 4-2 in the bronze medal match at the World League Semifinal in Antwerp, Belgium.

New Zealand's next shot at Olympic qualification is at October's Oceania Cup in Stratford, where they can claim a spot by winning the Oceania title ahead of Australia, who have now booked their ticket.

But even defeat in Taranaki would not be terminal as a fourth-placed finish in Belgium means they are well positioned to qualify; there is likely to be significant crossover between the five continental qualifier winners and those teams which finish in the top three of each of the World League Semifinal tournaments (six teams in total).

Australia has already qualified, and it is highly likely that if New Zealand do not win the Oceania Cup then Australia will, which means New Zealand would appear to be first in line for qualification on the strength of their fourth-placed finish in Belgium.

The top four finish in Belgium has also qualified them for the World League Final in Rosario, Argentina, in December.

New Zealand started the tournament strongly and won five successive matches, but fell in the semifinal to Korea and then to Australia in the playoff. The shootout loss to Korea continued a worrying trend of defeats in sudden death scenarios.

"It was a really disappointing performance from us today. We didn't start the way we wanted to and that had us on the back foot," Black Sticks star Anita Punt said of the loss to their trans-Tasman rivals.

"We have to be better in situations like this and unfortunately it didn't come off for us today so we will go home, regroup and come back fighting harder."

Australia had the Black Sticks rattled early thanks to two goals in the first five minutes, with Emily Smith and Jane Claxton both capitalising on loose balls in the circle and beating goalkeeper Sally Rutherford.

To compound matters, the Kiwis lost Punt for most of the opening quarter after she copped a heavy blow to the foot and limped from the field. After medical attention she returned after the break.

Mariah Williams added to the tally late in the period to give Australia a daunting 3-0 advantage after the opening quarter.

It was a much more balanced second quarter with the best chance coming just out from halftime when Gemma Flynn dove onto a hard cross from Punt but her deflection went just wide.

Stacey Michelsen sparked some magic in the 34th minute with a brilliant solo run, dribbling side to side and beating six defenders before slipping the ball past the keeper.

But Australia kept the pressure on and delivered a fourth goal just seconds out from three quarter time through a strong shot at the top of the circle from Georgia Nanscawen.

Punt pulled another goal back for the Black Sticks early in the fourth quarter when she rocketed a penalty corner drag flick into the top of the net.

New Zealand fought desperately in the dying minutes but couldn't find the two goals they needed to force a shootout.


Rani Rampal gives India 5th position at the Antwerp

Indian will surely be at Rio

s2h team

Antwerp (Belgium): Indian girls further cemented their Rio hopes with a hard fought win over Asian rival Japan. In the match for the fifth place decider today, ever alert Rani Ramphal of Shahbad fame bounced on to a half volley rebound from goalkeeper and whacked the ball to the right roof of cage in the first quarter, which stood rest of three intense quarters, giving India fifth position in the Hockey World League Semifinal. This win narrows distance to Rio.

The vital encounter began with Indian forwards leading the attack from the centre. This led them to win a penalty corner within the first 30 seconds but failed to score. Japan led by their skipper, Miyuki Nakagawa and their star forward Akiko Kato tried to break into the India’s D but were blocked by Indian’s superb defense line. Luck favored India, when Vandana with a superb burst of speed, broke into the opponent’s D from the left flank taking a shot at the goal and which on rebound was slammed in by Rani Rampal in the 13th minute, giving India the much required lead in the game.

The second quarter saw Indian eves constantly breaking into the Japanese D to increase their lead. Japan won their first penalty corner in the 20th minute but their forward, Miyuki Kato failed to equalize their score as the Indian defence proved to be the barrier yet again. India with strategic gameplay, good patience and superb defense were successful in keeping their lead over Japan by the end of first half.

Japan attacked ferociously in the third quarter. Japan won their third penalty corner in the 37th minute. Miyuki Kato and Yamamoto Yukari tried to level the score but were defended superbly by Monika. Keeping their lead intact at the end of third quarter, India continued to defend well.

Goalkeeper Savita displayed superb agility as she deflected all the shots on goal. Japan earned last minute penalty corner, over all 8th, but the Indian defence stood well to safeguard their citadel for the impending celebration.


Light at the end of tunnel for the Indian girls

K Arumugam

Braving three penalty corners that came after the hooter, Indian girls held on to their solitary goal lead at Bangkok in the 2009 Asia Cup semifinal. That dodged defence ensured their ticket for the 2010 World Cup.

Six good years later, now the Indian girls showcased similar latent defensive skills to climb the Rio mountain.

Indian defence, led by veteran Deepika Thakur and Sarita Lakra lent enormous support to in-form goalie Savita Punia for India to repeat Bangkok at Antwerp today in the 5-6th rank decider of the misnomer of a tournament called Hockey World League semifinal.

Today at Antwerp, Japanese were shades better team India. They were all over the places in the last 30 minutes, even earning as many as six of their 8 penalty corners in that spell. The last one that came 23 sec left in the clock could have clogged otherwise habitually choking India. But today Indian team did not buckle.

This is a great, timely victory that our girls longed for long time

Indian women hockey have thus knocked the doors of Rio Olympics, it is going to open in six months time. Being there after 35 years – only second time Olympic participation for Indian women in 2016 – is in itself a great mental block that the present team has overcome.

Women hockey is hardly an entity in India unless and of course some sexual harassment kind of news is ferreted out.

Nobody takes note of their presence, success, failures, pains and minor glories here and there. Indian women hockey won the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. It appeared as a footnote in Mumbai newspapers.

A gold win did not glitter in the media.

“After seeing the small footnote, it struck me why their achievements are so neglected. It led to the story of Chak de India” Sahni, who wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics for the film, said to me when he came for NDTV Annual Awards function.

Women hockey, yes, were a neglected lot. While almost 20 departments recruit men hockey players, only do Indian Railways give jobs for the girls.

Yet, the girls were marching.

Till 2008 did they hardly lose to countries like South Africa, Italy, Ireland against whom now they lose routinely (except at Antwerp). Women hockey’s fortunes nosedived since then as it is caught in a reckless media frenzy fuelled by irresponsible Times Now television & Times of India newspapers.

Indian women were doomed to die in that spell, and two times Commonwealth Games finalist did not reach semifinals at home in the 2010 edition.

It could not score one goal more to reach the semis, but the South African girls won’t allow. Did not reach final of last two Asia Cups even.

Despite Hockey India’s equal projection in press conferences, Annual Awards, conduct of Nationals etc media by and large remained unmoved.

We were hardy 5,6 people covering the last international outing called HWL R2 in Delhi. Once the success giving MK Kaushik left the scene, hardly did the girls get a proper coach though many including one Hawgood came and gone.

Even the present coach in Antwerp is an unknown entity till he got the appointment of his lifetime.

Even government of India did not give them due recognition when the question of awarding annual Arjuna and Lifetime labels.

The lone international tournament for women in India, Indira Cup, stopped after 2005.

So, the women hockey was almost construed as a ritual in many ways.

They have now made all of sit and take note of them.

True, India defeated just Poland in the pool, and lost the quarters heavily. But a decent show against Australia, which must have given them enough conviction in their ability, saw India scrapping through Italy via shoot out and them holding on to a solitary gem of a goal struck by Rani Ramphal today have infused fresh life into the women’s hockey in India.

Women Hockey in India has risen like a phoenix from ashes.


Indian eves keep Rio chances alive with fifth place finish

ANTWERP: Custodian Savita emerged a saviour by blocking half-a-dozen goal-bearing chances as India enhanced their Olympic qualification, following a 1-0 victory over Japan in the fifth-place playoff in the women Hockey World League Semifinals.

The match-winner for India came in the 13th minute from Rani Rampal, who capitalised on a rebound from the Japanese goalkeeper after the initial shot from Vandana Katariya in open play was blocked.

But the star of the day for India was Savita, who firmly stood between repeated Japanese raids and the Indian goal, often diving to either side to block firm shots.

In the last quarter itself, Japan forced five penalty corners and laid a seize on the Indian circle, but could not get a shot past Savita.

The Indians fell back to defend the lead and Savita paved the way for the Indian women to play in their first Olympic Games in 36 years.

Indian women's lone Olympic appearance was at Moscow in 1980. Effectively, India's fifth spot here should secure them an Olympic Games ticket when the countdown to allocate spots takes place.

Three spots each are on offer at both the World League Semifinal competitions, here at Antwerp and in the just-concluded event at Valencia.

With five continental event champions being allowed another route, there are likely to be several dual qualifications. In turn, that can open up Olympic spots for nations which do not make the top four of the two World League Semifinals.

Germany, Great Britain and China have secured the three Olympic berths from the World League Semifinals in Valencia. Three teams here at Antwerp will secure their Rio de Janeiro tickets, but South Korea have already earned an Olympic slot by winning the Asian Games gold medal.

An African champion could be the only one not to have featured among the top four teams at these two World League Semifinals, opening up more places, even if Olympic hosts Brazil are given a leeway to make the grade.

Both in the men and women's events, Brazil have been allowed a leeway of making the Olympics if they can achieve the fifth place in the Pan American Games. In the women's event, Brazil are only a reserve team in case there are any withdrawals from the Pan American Games that start in Canada in two weeks.

The Times of India

Ritu Rani says Olympic appearance will be a dream come true

ANTWERP (Belgium): As India enhanced its chances of qualifying for the Rio Games with a win over Japan on Saturday in the fifth-place playoff of the Hockey World League Semifinals, captain Ritu Rani expressed hope that an Olympic appearance would help lift women's hockey in our country.

India's 1-0 victory over Japan in the play-off for the fifth spot has brought them closer to getting to ticket to the Olympics for the first time (after a gap of 36 years) since the women's team's lone appearance at Moscow in 1980.

"This is a big moment for us all, we have been toiling hard for it," said Ritu, eyes still moist with overwhelming emotions.

"Some of us have been toiling hard for years while those coming from the junior ranks have a long way to go. I hope returning to the Olympic Games will help in lifting the women's hockey in our country," she added.

While top three from each of the two World League Semifinals will get direct qualification to Rio de Janeiro, the others will have to wait for the countdown to be applied after five continental champions are decided.

The continental championships, especially in women's hockey, mostly produce champions who have made the qualifying grade from duel routes. Only no African team features among the qualifiers from the two World League Semifinals.

The fifth place in the World League Semifinals is good enough for a berth in the Olympic line-up, but the confirmation will come later.

Making her debut for India in 2006, Ritu featured in the team that won a bronze at the Doha Asian Games, but failed to repeat the performance in the 2010 Asiad.

Last year, it was under Rani's captaincy that India finished third at the Incheon Asian Games after defeating Japan 2-1 in the bronze-medal encounter.

In 1980, the Olympic Games participation was on an invitation from the International Hockey Federation, while this time the girls are expected to win their ticket.

"We are pleased to have defended the lead that Rani Rampal got us in the 13th minute," said Ritu, who dropped back from her gamemaker's position to bolster the defence when Japan laid seize on the Indian circle in the last quarter.

Goalkeeper Savita, who has been representing the country for five years now, emerged as the star as she stood between the Japanese strikers and Indian goal, taking three shots on her body and diving in both directions to block angular shots from Japanese penalty corner shooters.

"It is by far the biggest moment of my life," said Savita, adding that she never kept a count of the penalty corners that the rivals got to take.

"I was not supposed to be bothered. My reflexes today helped in diving to the right side."

Japan forced five penalty corners in the last quarter and India managed to stoutly defend their goal.

Team manager CR Kumar, who continues to be a part of the team's coaching staff while many foreign coaches came and left, said the girls today placed one foot on the flight to Rio.

"This is the best position we could have achieved after missing the semis of this tournament," he said.

The Times of India

Barry Middleton: 350 not out.

Barry Middleton celebrates scoring for GB

7 April 2003 seems a lifetime ago to most people. Barry Middleton is probably no exception. It is however a significant date in the career of the England and Great Britain captain. It is the date he made his debut for his country.

Now on the verge of his 350th cap, it is still a game he remembers well. Not so much for the details or a stunning performance but for an injury Jon Bleby, now Assistant Coach to Bobby Crutchley picked up:

“There are a few games you remember and for me that is one of them. It was down in Canterbury with a load of the young guys who came through the Under 21s together. I remember Jon Bleby getting a ball in the face. It’s a weird one because I remember it more for that than what happened in the game. He had to go off to hospital and we always remind him about it. I can’t remember if I played well, though.”

Middleton couldn’t have known then that he was about to embark on a career that today has him reaching a landmark not many can boast as he wins his 350th international cap. He is a laid back character, as indicated in his “what will be, will be” approach to his career:

“I just get on with it really. It’s always been other people telling me what they thought I could achieve rather than me thinking about it myself. Initially I just wanted to play for Doncaster 1s. Then I moved to Cannock and then my international debut came, it just sort of happened. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful but I always just wanted to play and then play full time. I always thought about the next step rather than what I might or might not achieve.”

With the No18 a part of the furniture it is hard to envisage an England or Great Britain side that doesn’t have Middleton in it. In his time with the national team he has seen a marked change in attitude and quality as Great Britain have come from also-rans to contenders on the world stage.

“I feel like I’ve been around a long time. After Athens 2004 Jason Lee came in and changed the group, bringing in a lot of young players. We stayed together till London 2012. We had a few changes here and there but the core of that group played U21s and seniors together. After London the group changed again but we’ve kept a fairly settled core which is a nice thing. We’ve been mates since our teens and it’s great to play together for such a long time.” He adds: “We’re now all full time and we’re very lucky in that respect. It’s the first time everyone has seen themselves as a hockey player rather than someone who works and then plays hockey. It’s shown in the improvements we’ve made in the last couple of years. We’ve come to this point very quickly and we can hopefully still go places. That’s down to the professional nature of this group.”

The professionalism and the competitive nature of the GB squad hasn’t always been there. Had Middleton lost heart during the dark days, his story could have been quite different:

“The early days were weird; sometimes you questioned why you were doing it. I trained really hard and gave everything but we went to tournaments with no chance of winning. That was a strange existence and it made me want to be part of a group that could push for more. At the time it was like people didn’t realise we could achieve things. Around Beijing 2008 and 2009 we made a breakthrough and the penny dropped. People realised we could compete, the culture changed, we started to produce better players and the players we have now compared to when I started are very different. That’s why you play, though. That’s why you go to tournaments, to try and win. It seemed to take us a long time to get that.”

Winning the European Championships in 2009 is the Captain’s stand-out achievement in a long and storied career. Not only was it England’s first tournament win in Middleton’s career but he felt it signalled a change in attitude with people outside and inside the squad now knowing England were a side to take seriously.

Middleton lifts the EuroHockey Championships trophy in 2009

Milestones like the 350th cap lead to inevitable questions about the future, something he is characteristically laid back about:

“I’ve started being asked a lot about the future which means I must be near the end! Rio is a big tournament but I want to play on after that and till the next World Cup. The group we have now gives me energy to keep going and the younger guys are really positive and want to learn. They can really take us somewhere and I want to be part of that. If my body gives up or if don’t enjoy it anymore I’ve always said I’ll stop but I don’t see me losing that enjoyment any time soon. I’ll know when it’s time to call it a day.”

With talk of the end of the line albeit not for a while yet, what does the Holcombe star see as his legacy? How would he like to be remembered? Again his answer is simple:

“I’d like people to remember me as someone who enjoyed playing hockey. That’s all I’ve set out to do. It shows in the way I play. I hope the people I’ve played with have good opinions of me; I’d like to think I’ve made a difference to them, too. If not, I’ve still enjoyed it and that’s what counts!”

He certainly seems to have enjoyed the ride so far and we’ve certainly enjoyed watching Middleton over those 350 caps. Congratulations to him on his terrific achievement.

Great Britain Hockey media release

Brogdon: Redemption starts tomorrow

Alastair Brogdon breaks forwards against Aus at the World League

With almost 24 hours passing since Great Britain’s semi-final loss to World Champions Australia, Wimbledon’s Alistair Brogdon took some time to reflect on the events of that clash against the Old Enemy as well as looking ahead to tomorrow’s 3rd/4th place playoff with India.

The disappointment is still clear as the No11 talks about how the 3-1 defeat to the Kookaburras played itself out:

“We started how we wanted to and put them under pressure straight away which is normally what they try to do to you. We were quite happy with our start. It was a physical encounter and they kept that going throughout the match. It comes down to fine margins in the end and with the game at 1-1 there weren’t too many chances at either end. If we’d managed to keep it that way for longer we may have been looking at a different finish to the game.”

He adds: “The goals we gave them were mistakes which we are disappointed with. You can’t afford that against a side like them. We didn’t create a lot but if we’d hung in there at 1-1 we would have been able have more of a go at them at the end.”

Whilst there is frustration at the missed opportunity to put one over the World No1, Brogdon is keen to point out that that this is a feeling borne out of the strides the squad has made as well as the desire to be mixing it with the likes of the Kookaburras on a regular basis:

“We have improved a lot as a group. We played them before we came here and beat them and yesterday was close again. The gap is closing. They’ve done well over the years and at the World Cup no one got near them but we’re improving and getting closer. With Rio qualification secured we need to make gains over the next year so that when the Olympics come around we’re turning those losses into wins and pushing on.”

Alastair Brogdon celebrates scoring against Pakistan at the World League

“We know how good we can be. Coming into the tournament Olympic Qualification was our aim but we came here wanting to win the competition and we felt we were good enough to do so. Yesterday was a semi final we hoped we could win. We want to be winning more of those matches and getting to more finals.”

With the semi-final loss now behind the team the chance at redemption and to finish the tournament strongly arrives very quickly in the form of tomorrow’s 3rd/4th place clash with India. Despite not playing India on a regular basis, there will be few surprises for Brogdon and his teammates:

“It’ll be the usual Indian style of hockey. Very quick and skilful and they will put a lot of balls into the circle for deflections. They’ve come here with some key players carrying injuries but we expect a very hard game from them. We’ll go into it confident and hoping we can win and get third place.” He continues: “It’s important to finish on a high. We were unbeaten until last night and have improved over the tournament so to finish with a win and a third place, having qualified for the Olympics and knowing we only lost once. It’s not everything we came here wanting but it would be a slight silver lining to get that third spot.”

Great Britain Hockey media release

India face tough task against Britain in bronze play-off

ANTWERP (Belgium): Laid low after suffering a 0-4 thrashing at the hands of Belgium, India face a tough task in their bid to finish on the podium when they take on a tenacious Great Britain in the bronze medal match of the men's Hockey World League Semi-Final here on Sunday.

India, who are four places below world number five Great Britain in FIH rankings, will need to produce a much improved show than they produced in their semifinal loss against hosts Belgium in which Sardar Singh's team suffered a 0-4 drubbing last evening at the KHC Dragons Stadium.

Great Britain suffered a 1-3 loss to World champions Australia in the other semifinal, but not without giving the top-ranked Australian outfit a tough fight. It was just a few passes that went to the Australian strikers that let the British defence down.

The focus will be on the Indian ability to recover from the thrashing at the hands world number four Belgium, who the Indians have always given a good contest. Just one or two goals have separated the teams in their contests in recent years.

The Indian team has shown its mettle in recovering from a big loss to Australia and make the last-four round, and now the boys face a stiff task of doing so in the medal game.

"We have to play smart against Great Britain. We need to hang in longer and must not lose possession without fighting for it," says India chief coach Paul van Ass.

Great Britain are formidable outfit, who defeated India 2-1 through a last-minute goal in the last encounter between the two nations, during the World Cup at The Hague last year.

Having missed the grade for the Champions Trophy last year, Great Britain are doubly determined to win a medal ahead of the Rio Olympic Games next year.

Van Ass wants his team to guard against conceding early goals, which turned out to be bane for the Indians in the semifinal against Belgium. After conceding two soft goals in the initial eight minutes, India faced a tough task against the Red Lions' structured game.

"We need to take lessons from the outing against Belgium in the semifinal. It was a big learning experience for the boys. For a start, we must guard against letting in early goals," said Van Ass.

"Belgium have a structured game. It is easy to read the structure, but they did a fantastic job in executing the structure," he said.

The coach said the exposure against top international teams would help India's young players.

"The players need lessons to grow and more international outings will teach them a lot. Some boys do not have enough international experience," said Van Ass.

"We should not read too much into small errors, they will overcome them soon," said Van Ass about defensive errors that led to India conceding soft goals that put Belgium in control of the semifinal.

"We were in the contest even after conceding two early goals. I had a feeling we could come closer, but we could not capitalise on our chances," he said.

India's own inability to make the penalty corners count against Belgium was on the coach's mind. Rupinder Pal Singh was back on the pitch in the semifinal, but India still failed to score off penalty corners.

"Rupinder has been out of action for 12-13 days due to injury in a warmup game ahead of the tournament. It was not easy for him to strike form," said Van Ass, exhorting the Indian team to get it right in the bronze medal match.

Meanwhile, Australia will be the favourites going into the title encounter against hosts Belgium.

With their fire-power, the Australians have shown their ability to demolish any opponent, even though Great Britain put up a stiff contest in the semifinal.

Malaysia kept alive the chance for another Asian team to qualify for the Olympic Games after former champions Pakistan and South Korea failed to win their tickets to Rio de Janeiro.

Malaysia now must win their fifth place play-off game against Ireland on Sunday to hope for a Rio Games berth.

The Times of India

Malaysia hoping for some Irish luck in Olympic bid

by S. Ramaguru

Malaysia hockey captain Mohd Razie Rahim (left) challenges for the ball with a French player during the classification match at the World League Semi-Finals in Belgium on Friday. - FIH

ANTWERP: If there was such a thing as Irish luck, Malaysia probably need it now more than ever.

Simply because, they have to beat Ireland at the KHC Dragons Stadium in Brasschaat on Sunday to stand any chance of making it to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year.

Malaysia landed in this unenviable position after failing to qualify for the last four of the ongoing World Hockey League Semi-Finals, which would have given them a direct ticket to the Rio Games.

Now, they have to finish at least fifth and hope to earn their berth as one of the reserve teams. In the playoff for the fifth to eighth placings on Friday, they beat France 4-1 while Ireland defeated Pakistan 1-0.

In the first World Hockey League Semi-Finals held in Argentina last month, Holland, Germany and Argentina booked their tickets for Rio. Canada, who finished fourth are considered the first reserves followed by 11th-ranked Spain, who ended up fifth.

Thus, the winner of the match between Malaysia (ranked 12th) and Ireland (14th) will be next in line.

There are four tournaments to decide the continental champions – Pan-American Games, European championships, All African Games and the Oceania playoff. And if any of the winners of these four tournaments have already qualified for Rio, then their places will go to the reserves like Canada, Spain, Malaysia or Ireland.

India - who together with Australia, Belgium and Britain were in the semi-finals here - have qualified as continental champions by winning the Asian Games gold medal.

National coach Tai Beng Hai admitted on Saturday that “finishing fifth is almost like gaining an Olympic berth”.

“There are still many vacancies available when the continental championships are completed. It is for us to make sure we are in a position to take one of the spots. To do that, we need to beat Ireland tomorrow (Sunday). There are no two ways about it,” he said.

“We knew from the start that if we fail at the quarter-finals, then this (fifth placing playoff) is the only chance left.”

Beng Hai is confident that his players will put up a good show against Ireland.

“They did very well against France ... doing all the right things. There’s no reason why we cannot maintain that level and take the match to Ireland. We’ve beaten them before, so we have it in us to win again,” said Beng Hai.

Malaysia beat France 4-1 after coming back from a goal down. Earlier, Malaysia defeated Ireland 4-2 in their preliminary group match.

Skipper Mohd Razie Rahim said that the players will go all out against the Irish.

“We cannot fail now. We’re just one match away and our dream of an Olympic berth is very much alive. We’ll work harder than before,” he pledged.

Ireland are also gunning for their first-ever Olympic appearance since 1908. Malaysia last played in the Olympics 15 years ago – in Sydney 2000.

The Star of Malaysia

Olympic dream flickers for six Malaysia players

by S. Ramaguru

Malaysia's Azlan Misron (left) tackles an Australian player during the hockey World Cup at The Hague in Holland last year. - Filepic

ANTWERP: There is still hope, albeit slim, for six Malaysian players to end their playing careers with an Olympic appearance.

All they have to do is help Malaysia beat Ireland at the KHC Dragons Stadium on Sunday and finish fifth at the World Hockey League Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Belgium.

The fifth spot will make Malaysia the third reserves for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year.

The six – Azlan Misron, 32; C. Baljit Singh ,29; Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, 29; Mohd Shukri Mutalib, 29; Mohd Shahrun Nabil, 30; and Nabil Fiqri Mohd Nor, 29  – are at the tailend of their careers and have never played in the Olympics.

Even 37-year-old goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin is also looking for an Olympic swansong, having played in the 2000 Games in Sydney.

Going by their 4-2 win over Ireland in the group stage, Malaysia clearly stand a good chance of finishing fifth.

“Everything points to the fifth-placed team having a good chance to qualify for the Olympics ... and I want that team to be Malaysia,” said defender Azlan.

“With one supreme effort, we can achieve it. We know what’s at stake and also how the Irish play. We need to believe in ourselves and not let this opportunity go.”

His defensive partner Baljit even went as far as saying “we have played some good hockey and were just unlucky against India in the last-eight match”.

“We’re fully aware that we need to win this tie (against Ireland) to achieve our target (of Olympic qualification)... nothing else matters.”

Malaysia lost 3-2 to India in the quarter-finals and beat France 4-1 in the fifth-eighth classification match on Friday.

Malaysia may have missed out on automatic qualification for the Olympics, let’s hope they don’t throw away the chance of hopefully making it as one of the reserves.

The Star of Malaysia

Losing Pakistan hockey, one farce at a time

By Nabil Tahir

The silver medal won in the Champions Trophy in India was praised as a superb achievement but proved to be little more than a false dawn. PHOTO: AFP

A cloud of gloom hangs over Pakistan hockey as it reached yet another low, and for the first time since the country’s creation, the Olympics will not feature the Greenshirts. The failure to qualify comes just two years after Pakistan’s failure to reach the World Cup — also a first.

And so July 3, 2015 will go down along with August 30, 2013 in the annals of history as the darkest days in the country’s national sport, but this has been a long time coming.

The men that took to the turf in Antwerp, Belgium may have been wearing the same green donned by those that won four World Cups and three Olympic golds, but that is where the similarities of their deeds end.

Players and management alike were confident of qualifying for the Olympics before the tournament started, but a quarter-final loss against Great Britain meant direct qualification was out of the question as the Greenshirts needed to finish in the top three to qualify.

They then faced Ireland in a  bid to finish fifth. However, a 1-0 defeat against a team that they had never lost to before in their last 11 matches took away the last remnants of hope.

The Greenshirts may have won silver medals in last year’s Asian Games and Champions Trophy but this failure dents all the goodwill the team had mustered with those results.

With a revolving door policy at the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), it seems that the entire hockey fraternity is to blame for the humiliating defeat. Almost every prominent hockey player has been involved in the affairs of the sport during the last two decades but none have succeeded in bringing back Pakistan’s heydays from 1960 to 1994.

Incumbent head coach Shahnaz Sheikh had guided the team to two silver medals in the past year despite having few of the facilities and resources at his disposal that any self-respecting hockey team worth its salt deserves. The players too have played and behaved remarkably well considering that they haven’t been paid for three years now.

But rather than learning from the past, the government and the hockey federation continue to blunder along in the same way. The officials seem to be looking out only for themselves while the government has failed to take the sport seriously.

Current PHF President Akhtar Rashool and secretary Rana Mujahid were soaking in the Belgium summer but both have done little, if anything, to deserve their respective posts. What makes the whole situation even more farcical is that three coaches were not sent with the team due to a lack of funds but Rasool and Mujahid — who had no business travelling with the team — went along.

The PHF management has also failed to run the federation properly, focusing more on asking the government for funds than motivating the underpaid players or bringing in finances.

There are no two ways about it — the national sport is in shambles. But while those in charge continue to be as embarrassingly clueless and inept as ever, the government has done the sport no favours. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cancelled as many as six meetings with hockey players and officials in the past 18 months but the sport’s patron-in-chief was promptly at hand to form a committee when the players — who weren’t even given a daily allowance for the tournament — failed to perform.

The committee’s investigation will invariably lead it to the very doorsteps where it was formed but the PM will certainly not take any action against himself, nor will the PHF’s top officials punish themselves. The committee therefore is an exercise in futility — seemingly like much in Pakistan hockey these days.

For around 25 years we were top of the world; the best hockey had to offer. Now we can’t even qualify for the sport’s biggest tournaments. Something needs to give and something needs to give soon if Pakistan are to have better fortunes at the 2018 World Cup and 2022 Olympics; the top officials need to have a good hard look in the mirror if hockey is to reflect the glories of the past.

The Express Tribune

Nawaz slams Pakistan hockey team's 'embarrassing' performance

By Abdul Manan


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday expressed concern over the performance of the country’s hockey team in the World Hockey League.

The premier, who is also patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hockey Federation, said the team’s performance in 2016 Rio Olympics qualifiers was embarrassing.

Read: FIH Hockey World League: From gold dreams to black eyes — the men in green story

He sought explanation from officials from the federation and the sports ministry and questioned how a three-time gold medalist team performed so poorly. He then directed them to work on bettering their performance and regain the national sport’s faded glory.

Earlier on Thursday, Pakistan lost 1-0 to Ireland in the FIH Hockey World League Semi-finals. As a result, for the first time in their illustrious history, the Pakistan hockey team failed to qualify for the Olympics.

The men in green knew that nothing less than a win against 15th ranked Ireland in Antwerp, Belgium on Friday would suffice as they bid to finish fifth and retain any slim hope of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Despite the pressure, the side started off well and looked the better side at the start — bossing possession with 58% and receiving a penalty corner that was defended well by Kyle Good.

Pakistan also came close in the second quarter, with vice-captain Shafqat Rasool hitting an upright reverse shot just wide off the mark in the 17th minute.

The Express Tribune

Chief hockey selector, others resign as Pakistan crash out of Rio Olympics


Chief selector Islahuddin Siddiqui has resigned from his post along with the other members of Pakistan Hockey Federation’s (PHF) selection committee following the team’s disastrous showing at the FIH Hockey World League Semi-finals as the team failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in its history.

The resignation of Islahuddin comes as no surprise, as selection committee members Ayaz Mehmood and Khalid Bashir had stepped down from their post immediately after the loss to Ireland on Friday.

The backlash of the poor showing continued as hockey patron-in-chief Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also took notice of the national team’s poor performance and formed a committee to investigate into the failure to qualify.

The committee comprises of former captain Shahbaz Senior, former coach Khawaja Junaid, former PHF secretary Colonel Mudassir Azghar, Inter-Provincial Coordination secretary Ijaz Choudary and Pakistan Sports Board director-general Akhtar Ganjera, while a member of the Pakistan Olympic Committee is expected to join the committee as well.

Stepping down

Islahuddin said that he and his team came with a long-term five-year plan to revive hockey, but failed to produce results in the short term. “We came with a long-term plan for the rebuilding of the national team, which I had already said would take us at least three to four years,” he said while announcing his resignation. “Our long-term plan was affected by this failure to qualify for the Olympics, which was a major tournament in our plans.”

The former Olympian insisted the selectors picked the best possible combination based on their merits and experience but unfortunately the team failed to deliver. “If you ask me the selection committee did its job well. We picked out the best boys from those available. The manager and coaches too were satisfied,” he said. “However, I am resigning because I am part of the team that let the nation down.’’

Islahuddin also asked the fans to be patient with the new management and players that will be part of the inevitable overhaul of this failure. “The new blood should be given a chance but I will always be available for any kind of help,” he said.

Meanwhile, head coach Shahnaz Sheikh refused to comment on his future, saying that he will make an announcement after the final match of the ongoing FIH HWL Semi-finals.

The Express Tribune

Pakistan mourn Olympic exit

KARACHI: Former greats and fans on Saturday mourned the failure of Pakistan's hockey team to qualify for next year's Olympic Games, describing it the blackest day in the sport once dominated by the country.

Pakistan lost to outsiders Ireland 1-0 in a classification match at the World Hockey League in Antwerp, Belgium, a tournament which serves as a qualifying round for next year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Pakistan, a three time Olympic gold medallist and four time world champion in the sport, needed to finish among the top five to harbour any hopes of a place in the Olympics, but will instead play Sunday for seventh or eighth place in the tournament.

Former great Sami Ullah described the mishap as "the blackest day" in Pakistan hockey, regarded as Pakistan's national sport despite its obsession with cricket.

"We have ruled Pakistan hockey but this is the darkest moment in our national sport and we can't mourn it less," Sami, known as "flying horse" for his speed as a winger, told AFP.

Sami said the signs were ominous since Pakistan failed to qualify for the World Cup last year and blamed Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF).

Pakistan's last international title came in 1994 when they won the World Cup in Sydney.

They finished in last place at the 2010 World Cup held in India, and came eighth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- their worst ever finish.

Another field hockey stalwart Shahbaz Ahmed also took a swipe at the country's hockey officials.

"We must get rid of these officials who have been destroying the sport for the last several years," Ahmed said.

"Alas, we used to cherish field hockey as our pride in international sports which is gone now but we must rebuild rather than mourn," he added.

Waseem Feroze, Ahmed's partner on the left wing when Pakistan won the 1994 World Cup, urged the government to put in place a new hockey federation.

"The hockey officials are incompetent and brought disaster on our national sport," he said.

Two selectors -- Khalid Basheer and Ayaz Mahmood -- resigned from their posts in the wake of hockey team's failure.

"(Prime Minister) Sharif is the patron of our hockey so he must take notice and take measures to revive the game which we have ruled in the past," said Basheer.

Fans on the street were also angry.

"This is a disaster for Pakistan hockey," said Ishtiaq Khan, a shopkeeper in Karachi. "We used to follow hockey with pride but the game is dead now."

Following the criticism, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, sought an explantation from the hockey federation and sports department for the poor performance.

The Times of India

Pakistan hockey coach blames poor infrastructure for debacle

ANTWERP: The Pakistan men's hockey team's chief coach Shahnaz Sheikh on Saturday said he would not solely accept the blame for his side's poor performance at the Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final, blaming lack of facilities for their failure to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

World No.10 Pakistan lost 0-1 against world No.14 Ireland on Friday and will now face world No.18 France in the 7/8th place match. "I have never witnessed such poor finishing. I requested time and again to the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to take Olympic qualifiers seriously and provide players better facilities, but no heed was paid in this regard," Shahnaz, was quoted as saying by nation.com.pk.

"All the other participating teams reached Belgium at least two weeks prior to the start of the event and played practice matches against each other. On the other hand, we managed to reach only two days prior to the start of the event and got just two practice matches in available time," Shahnaz, considered one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport, added.

Shahnaz, who scored 45 goals in 68 matches between 1969 and 1978, said his wards failed to respond under pressure. "I emphasised mainly on penalty corner conversion and spent hours in training on improving penalty corners, defense and coordination among players, but the players completely failed to respond," he said.

The coach also stated the need for the Pakistan government and corporate sectors to come forward and help develop hockey infrastructure in the country adding their glory days in the sport were a thing of the past.

"We have to come over from past glory days dreams. Yes, it is true we had won four World Cups and three Olympics, but that is past now. All the other teams and countries had given top priority and invested heavily on hockey and especially on players," Shahnaz, who won two World Cups in 1971 and 1978 as a player, said.

"Without incentives, contracts and dailies, the players had done tremendously well, but for how long one could expect them to keep on showing desired results. The government and corporate sector must come forward and lend a helping hand to hockey," Shahnaz, who won three back-to-back Asian Games gold medals starting in 1970, added.

"I had tried my level best with available resources. We performed superbly in 2014's Asian Games and Champions Trophy, but no one bothers to say a few words of appreciation," Shahnaz, who has a silver medal and a bronze medal from the 1972 and 1976 Olympics respectively, further said.

"The players were disheartened because the Prime Minister was time and again requested to spare time and meet with players so that they might get motivation, but all our requests fell on deaf ears.

Pakistan also failed to make it to the World Cup in 2014 for the first time and now they would miss the Olympics. Shahnaz felt pathetic playing conditions led to some key players getting injured.

"It is true that for the very first time after missing world cup last year, Pakistan hockey team would miss Olympics after participating in each Olympic since 1948. But it is also true we had to face a lot of difficulties, pathetic condition of Naseer Bunda hockey stadium in Islamabad resulted in three or four main players getting injured," he said.

When asked about his future as head coach and whether he would quit, Shahnaz said: "One or two bad results don't mean all the good work done by me and my support staff is over. I would remain in hockey but am fully prepared to relinquish the post. I demand our Prime Minister to order complete post-mortem and culprits must be taken to task.

"Without providing facilities and lifting the living standard of the players, there is no hope Pakistan hockey will come up from ashes. Pakistan hockey needs complete revamp and hefty finances. We were left high and dry. "I requested the federation again and again to arrange international exposure tours for the team. But no serious efforts were made.

"I will announce my future after the last game of the event, but I will not make any decision in haste," concluded Shahnaz.

The Times of India

Pakistan PM forms committee to probe hockey team's poor show

KARACHI: Expressing concern at Pakistan's failure to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today formed a five-member probe committee to find out reasons for national hockey team's lacklustre show in the World Hockey League Semifinals in Belgium.

The committee is being headed by the secretary, Sports in the Inter-Provincial Coordination minister Ejaz Chaudhary.

"It will submit a summary within a week for an immediate solution and then carry on a more detailed probe into hockey affairs," a reliable source in the ministry said.

The Prime Minister who is chief patron of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) apparently took notice after former Olympians demanded the sacking of PHF officials and team management after Pakistan failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in the World Hockey League.

Pakistan squandered its last chance to book a spot in the Olympics after going down to Ireland on Friday.

It is the first time in Pakistan's history that the national hockey team will not feature in the Olympics.

Sharif apparently told ministry officials on Saturday in Islamabad that the team's performance in 2016 Rio Olympics qualifiers was embarrassing.

He sought explanation from PHF officials and the sports ministry and questioned how the team had performed so poorly. The humiliated green shirts are due to return home on Tuesday and there are expectations that some of the players might announce their retirements but so far there has been no comment or reaction from the PHF officials who are presently in Brussels.

The PHF President Akhtar Rasool and Secretary Rana Mujahid both former Olympians have been crying hoarse since last year for the government to channel funds into hockey or it would dye a slow death in Pakistan.

The Times of India

Prime Minister demands answers over Pakistan's hockey embarrassment

Irfan Haider

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is also patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), has expressed concern over the embarrassing performance of the national team in World Hockey League and its failure to qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics.

A day after Pakistan's shock defeat to Ireland, Sharif sought explanation from the PHF and the Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination about the dismal state of the national sport and how a three-time Olympic gold medalist had plunged so low.

The premier also asked the ministry to firm up recommendations for the uplift of the sport with an aim to regain its past glory.

Pakistan failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in their illustrious hockey history after losing to Ireland 1-0 in the 5-8 position classification match of the Hockey World League in Antwerp, Belgium on Friday.

It was another low for Greenshirts who for the first time in the game's history had failed to qualify for the World Cup last year.

Pakistan needed to finish at least in the 5th spot at the Hockey World League to have any hopes of getting a ticket to next year's Rio Olympics. But they were once again guilty of not capitalising on opportunities in front of goal.

“This is a dark day for Pakistan,” said Rashid Mehmood, as he left the pitch following Pakistan's defeat.


Samiullah calls for govt action against PHF

Kashif Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Ex-Olympian Samiullah Khan, who once ruled the game of hockey and was named ‘Flying Horse’ by the critics for his agility and scoring, said on Friday that the entire nation is in mourning over Pakistan hockey team’s shameful disqualification from the Rio Olympics 2016 and the government must take drastic steps to revive the game in the country.

Speaking to Dawn, the veteran player said:“We are upset, this is not a joke. Today we have lost the last opportunity of even qualifying for the Olympics, let alone win any medals. The present hockey management should voluntarily tender their resignations after this humiliation.” “Enough is enough,” he said. “The government should take strict action against the hockey management which first deprived the nation of featuring in the World Cup and now we have missed the Olympic berth.”

“I’m very sad today, we are four time winners of the World Cup, we won several gold and silver medals in the Olympic, but now we are unable to even participate in these prestigious tournaments,” he bemoaned.

Samiullah, who has been raising his voice over the decline of the game for more than a decade now, said a strict audit of the PHF accounts and its affairs should be carried out immediately to bring the truth out in the open.


POA chief laments hockey’s Olympic failure

LAHORE: Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) chief retired Lt Gen Arif Hasan lamented the failure of the national hockey team to qualify for next year’s Olympics, adding that the country has little chance of participating in the Games barring a few wildcard entries.

“It’s a sad day for us as no one from Pakistan will be able to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,” he said.

“It’s nothing that wasn’t expected,” Arif added on the hockey team after it lost to Ireland in the fifth to eighth place classification match at the Hockey World League Semi-finals in Belgium on Friday. “I wonder why the government is now taking steps to probe the failure.

“Pakistan hockey had been suffering from one debacle after other. First they finished 12th in the 2010 World Cup before missing out on the next edition and now the Olympics. The situation was foreseeable but nothing was done when effective measures could’ve avoided this catastrophe.”

He said that unless the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) doesn’t stop involving politics in sport, the country’s sport will suffer and slammed the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) officials who have been in their posts for the last eight years.

Arif said that another sporting disaster was in the offing with Pakistan not in a position to field a strong contingent at the South Asian Games to be held in India in December.

“Pakistan had been a force to reckon in the regional event but this time we won’t be in a position to fight for the top three positions,” he said.


Kh Junaid says probe body to investigate on merit

Azhar Khan

LAHORE - Former Olympian Khawaja Junaid has said that the purpose of PM’s 5-member committee is to find out facts behind hockey team’s dismal show during the Olympic qualifiers.

Talking to the reporters here at the National Hockey Stadium, Junaid said: “Obviously, the performance of the national team in Olympic qualifiers was disgraceful and such step taken by Prime Minister Mian M Nawaz Sharif was necessary to save the sinking ship of Pakistan hockey.

“Now our target is to find out why the team performance was very pathetic, what were the hurdles due to which Pakistan team didn’t qualify for the Olympics and why team failed in executing its real potential,” he revealed.
When asked the committee would take decision on merit and succeed in doing neutral investigation, Junaid replied: “All the decisions will be taken on merit.

If we are trusted by the prime minister and the entire nation, we will certainly try our best to take decisions in the larger interest and betterment of Pakistan hockey.”

To a query regarding hockey federation revamp, the ex-Olympian said: “We need change for the sake of reformation not for the sake of just change.

Those who are working well and sincerely, they will continue their work.

We have to find out where the real problem lies and have to sort it out.”

Lamenting on having very short pool of players, Junaid said: “We have just 20 players pool and we have been utilizing and relying just on them.

There is a dire need to unearth fresh and promising talent which may fill the void, as it is the only way to get better results.”

To another query regarding financial constraints behind team’s dismal show, Junaid replied: “Although the PHF and players had been facing financial problems and had to face tough times, yet once the players are in battle field, no such issues matter, only one thing is in our mind to just fight for the dignity of the country and help the team in earning crucial victories.

So when the players are in the field, they have to deliver at any cost.”

The Nation

German season reaches playoff crescendo

The German league reaches it crescendo this weekend with the final EHL places for the 2015/16 season also set to be decided in Hamburg with the semi-finals on Saturday.

Crefelder HTC were the fairytale story of the season, coming from way back in the pack to finally break into the top four on the closing weekend of the season.

They are probably pegged as the heavy underdogs against Rot-Weiss Köln in the first semi-final at 4.30pm, something their coach acknowledges.

"We feel comfortable in our role," said CHTC coach Matthias Mahn. "The fact that we made ​​it to the semi-finals has already great for the team and the club. We will have to defend well and not neglect our attacking play.”

Crefelder did win their last meeting with Rot-Weiss 2-1 in May, something which the latter’s coach Fredi Merz says will focus the mind.

"We were certainly not at our maximum that day. This time around, this is good for the mental side of things as we know we need to work.

"Before such a semi-final, preparation is certainly a bit more intense and the team is well set with a game plan and full preparation.” He is concerned, however, about a knee injury sustained by Christopher Zeller in recent times.

UHC Hamburg meet reigning champions Harvestehuder in the second semi-final at 6.45pm in a big derby.

Two teams packed with awesome competitors, HTHC coach Christoph Bechmann said of the game: “One thing is clear: motivation will not be a problem!”

UHC have won both league encounters between the teams so far this season but will miss the quality of Jonas Fürste from their squad.

The tournament is a special one for his brother Moritz who gets to play in the showcase for the first time in three years.

** All the matches are being streamed online at: http://sportdeutschland.tv/hockey/dm-endrunde-damen-herren

Euro Hockey League media release

De Freitas leads Mags past Ventures

Nigel Simon

National player Shaniah De Freitas scored a second-half hat-trick as title-chasing Shandy Carib Magnolias clobbered Ventures 6-0 to stay in the hunt for the T&T Hockey Board Women’s Championship Division title at the National Hockey Centre, Tacarigua on Thursday night.

Starting the match in the fourth spot and five points behind leaders Paragon, Magnolias needed a win to keep their hopes of lifting a first crown in five-plus years alive.

The women in blue and yellow uniforms took some time to settle as both teams ended the first 15-minutes quarter at 0-0, but two minutes into the second period, national forward Brianna Govia finally broke down the Ventures back line to put her team ahead 1-0 while she added another eight minutes later for a deserved 2-0 half-time lead.

The third period was again dominated by Magnolias with De Freitas opening her account in the 40th, while she made it 4-0 a minute into the final quarter.

With seven minutes left in the match, speedy T&T international Brittney Hing added her name to the scoresheet for Magnolias to extend the advantage to 5-0 while De Freitas then completed her treble in the 57th to complete a comprehensive 6-0 triumph. The victory pushed their points tally to 20 from 11 matches, the same as Harvard Checkers and Georgetown Cricket Club of Guyana. The latter has already completed its 12-match schedule.

However, Magnolias has a better goal-difference of plus-19 to Checkers’ plus six and Georgetown’s plus-two and occupies second spot, two points behind Paragon which has only played ten matches.

Today, the league crown will be decided with Paragon taking on Courts Malvern from 5 pm, with a win being enough.

In an earlier clash, Notre Dame faces Magnolias (3.30 pm) while Ventures meets Harvard Checkers (6.30 pm), and in the lone’s Men’s Championship Divisionn fixture, Paradise and Fatima do battle from 8 pm.

The Trinidad Guardian

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