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News for 05 December 2015

All the news for Saturday 5 December 2015

Dwyer inspires Kookaburras into Hero Hockey World League Final

Photo: FIH / Getty Images

Jamie Dwyer marked his 350th international appearance with two assists to help World champions Australia defeat European champions the Netherlands 3-2 to reach the final of the Hero Hockey World League Final 2015 in Raipur, India.

The Kookaburras' opponents in the final will be either Belgium or India, who meet in their semi-final on Saturday. In a high quality match, five times FIH Player of the Year Dwyer provided the perfect pass for Dylan Wotherspoon to open the scoring before forcing a save from Hero Man of the Match goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann only for Daniel Beale to fire home from close range. The Oceania champions could easily have scored more, but the Dutch fought back with excellent finishes from Constantijn Jonker and Mirco Pruijser either side of half time to level the match at 2-2.

The winning goal arrived in the 42nd minute, with Matt Gohdes getting the perfect touch inside the scoring circle to guide the ball just inside the right post, giving Australia a narrow victory over the defending Hockey World League champions.

"It doesn’t feel like I’ve played 350 games, to be honest with you”, said Dwyer after the match. “I just want to go out there and play hockey for my country, and to do it so many times, I’m very proud and honoured to do so. Every time I go out there I just really enjoy wearing the green and gold shirt and representing my country. I guess this year I had something to prove, both to myself and to those people who didn’t think I could do it at 36 years of age. It is good to be out there, not just participating but also having an influence.”

Netherlands goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann said: “In the first quarter we were nowhere, and we had to get into the game. I’m glad that in the second quarter we came back and scored a goal, and in the end we played way much better than the first quarter.”

The 5-6 Classification match also took place on Friday, with Argentina securing a fifth place finish with a 4-2 win over Great Britain.

Argentina needed just 17 minutes to establish a 3-0 lead, with team captain Pedro Ibarra scoring two penalty corners either side of a trademark set piece from Gonzalo Peillat. Simon Mantell pulled a goal back for Great Britain in the fourth quarter before Peillat scored his second of the match and eighth of the tournament with six minutes remaining.

Great Britain’s Phil Roper completed the match scoring three minutes from time, but it was not enough to stop Great Britain finishing the competition in sixth place.

Results – Day 8


Australia 3, Netherlands 2.
Hero Man of the Match: Jaap Stockmann (NED)

5-6 Classification

Great Britain 2, Argentina 4
Hero Man of the Match: Pedro Ibarra (ARG)

#HWL2015 #MarkYourMark

FIH site

Kookas reach World League Final

3-2 win over Dutch puts Kookaburras through to final

Jaap Stockmann stops Trent Mitton in his tracks

The Kookaburras have reached the gold medal grand final of the Hockey World League in Raipur after overcoming defending champions the Netherlands 3-2 in their semi-final.

First half goals from Dylan Wotherspoon and Daniel Beale put the Kookaburras in front but strikes from Constantijn Jonker and Mirco Pruijser either side of half time hauled the Netherlands level early in the third period before Matt Gohdes netted the winner.

Australia’s appearance record holder Jamie Dwyer, who had a hand in the first two goals, struck another milestone in the match, earning his 350th cap in an international career that began 14 years ago.

The Kookaburras will play the winner of tomorrow’s second semi-final, either India or Belgium, in Monday’s final (2:15am AEDT).

Head Coach Graham Reid admitted afterwards, “It wasn’t pretty but we got there in the end. I’m happy with the result but there’s lots for us to learn.

“We started really well but two-nil is probably the worst score in hockey because it’s not quite enough but something in the back of the mind makes you take the pedal off.”

Looking ahead to prospective opponents India and Belgium, Reid added, “We don’t mind who we play in the final because both teams will give us the sort of competition and pressure we’re chasing. If it’s Belgium, they’ll be out for revenge from Antwerp [where the Kookaburras won the final of the World League semi-final tournament]. If it’s India they’ll have the ‘12th man’ of a huge crowd behind them.”

As they had against Germany two days earlier, Australia began the match with a speed and intensity that put them in the driving seat early on.

Dylan Wotherspoon’s calm close range finish from Jamie Dwyer’s pass across the circle in the eighth minute came after the Kookaburras had already passed up several opportunities. Kieran Govers was denied by goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann from an early penalty corner while Aran Zalewski, Trent Mitton and Jeremy Hayward all had sight of goal before Wotherspoon struck.

At the other end, Australian goalkeeper Andrew Charter’s point blank save denied the Dutch an immediate equaliser moments later.

Dwyer also had a hand in Daniel Beale’s goal midway through the second quarter. It was the 36 year-old’s diving deflection that Man of the Match Stockmann blocked, the ball falling into the path of Beale who knocked home his third goal of the tournament.

A stirring four minute period either side of half time brought the Netherlands back into contention as first Constantijn Jonker and then Mirco Pruijser struck. Shortly before the break, Jonker swiveled to fire home an upright reverse shot on the turn and four minutes later Pruijser deflected Jeroen Hertzberger’s miss-hit shot following a pacey Dutch counter attack.

Gohdes’ winning goal in the 42nd minute was another deflection, this time eluding the outstretched left foot of Stockmann to squeeze its way inside the post.

The Netherlands threw everything at the Kookaburras in search of another equaliser but Australia held firm, including denying the Dutch from three consecutive penalty corners.       

Raipur, India


Dylan Wotherspoon 8 (FG)
Daniel Beale 22 (PC)
Matt Gohdes 42 (FG)
Constantijn Jonker 29 (FG)
Mirco Pruijser 33 (FG)              

Fixtures & results

Saturday 5 December
SF1: Kookaburras 3-2 Netherlands       
Classification 5th/6th: Great Britain v Argentina (2:15am AEDT)
Sunday 6 December
SF2: India v Belgium (00:00am AEDT)
Classification 7th/8th: Germany v Canada (2:15am AEDT)
Monday 7 December
Bronze medal: Netherlands v India OR Belgium (00:00am AEDT)
Gold medal: Australia v India OR Belgium (2:15am AEDT)
Kookaburras' squad v Netherlands
Andrew Charter (Canberra, ACT) 103/0
Matthew Dawson (Central Coast, NSW) 31/5
Tim Deavin (Launceston, TAS) 123/6
Jamie Dwyer (Rockhampton, QLD) 350/234
Kieran Govers (Wollongong, NSW) 115/57
Fergus Kavanagh (Geraldton, WA) 215/16
Mark Knowles (Rockhampton, QLD) 274/22
Trent Mitton (Perth, WA) 84/34
Eddie Ockenden (Hobart, TAS) 261/63
Simon Orchard (Maitland, NSW) 186/54
Aran Zalewski (Margaret River, WA) 76/8  
Used Substitute
Daniel Beale (Brisbane, QLD) 71/15
Matt Gohdes (Rockhampton, QLD) 142/47  
Jeremy Hayward (Darwin, NT) 44/16  
Tyler Lovell (Perth, WA) 59/0       
Matthew Swann (Mackay, QLD) 127/6
Glenn Turner (Goulburn, NSW) 123/89
Dylan Wotherspoon (Murwillumbah, NSW) [QAS athlete] 22/6

Hockey Australia media release

Aussies prevail in a battle of aggression

Uthra Ganesan

The match was the same but the result different. Australia avenged its semifinal defeat to defending champion The Netherlands in the inaugural Hockey World League Finals last year with a 3-2 win and sealed a spot in the final here on Friday. Australia had lost 3-4 at the same stage last year.

Decidedly the better team on the day, Australia came out winner in a battle that saw both teams go on the attack from the beginning. The Dutch attempts, however, fizzled out quickly. Scoring a goal each in the first three quarters and defending well against a desperate Dutch in the fourth, the Aussies proved their indifferent form in the league phase was not permanent.
Alert goalkeeper

Knowing well that taking an early lead was half the battle won in a tight contest, the Dutch tried to get the first goal in but were thwarted by an alert Andrew Charter in the goal. The Aussies, slow to start off, stepped on the gas after the first five minutes and were almost immediately rewarded. And the supposedly over-the-hill Jamie Dwyer was in the thick of action.

He first put through Trent Mitton, who hit wide. Dwyer then earned the team’s first penalty corner, which was saved. He then received the corner just inside the circle, controlled the ball and then shot at the goal, deflected in by Dylan Wotherspoon. He was again instrumental in accurately deflecting the ball to an unmarked Daniel Beale in an indirect attempt at penalty corner conversion in the 22nd minute.

The Dutch pulled one back through Constantijn Jonker's rebound hit after Australian goalkeeper Tyler Lovell thwarted Floris van der Linden but even though the European champion tried its best, Australia made it look ordinary.

Except for a meagre difference in possession percentage, it was Australia all the way in every department. From shots on target to effecting turnovers to creating scoring chances, the Netherlands was a shadow of itself.

Even in the final moments and trailing by a single goal, there was no urgency as Australia casually kept passing the ball.

The scoreline may indicate that it was a close contest but on the ground, there was only one winner.

The result (semifinal):

Australia 3 (Dylan Wotherspoon, Daniel Beale, Matthew Gohdes) bt The Netherlands 2 (Constantijn Jonker, Mirco Pruijser).

The Hindu

Australia beat Dutch, in final

Players in action during the semifinal between Australia and the Netherlands in Raipur in Friday. PTI

Raipur: World champions Australia got the better of defending champions The Netherlands 3-2 in a high-voltage semifinal to progress into the title clash of the ongoing Hockey World League (HWL) Final at the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium here today.

It was a match between the world's two top teams and it turned out to be an exciting affair as Australia scored through Dylan Wotherspoon (8th minute), Daniel Beale (22nd minute) and Matt Gohdes (42nd), while Constantijn Jonker (29th) and Mirco Pruijser (33rd) were the goal scorers for The Netherlands, who slumped to their first defeat in the tournament.

Australia started strongly and had a better share of the possession and shots at the goal in the first 25 minutes of the game. Australia secured as many as four penalty corners in the opening two quarters but utilised just one.

Australia tasted success in the eighth minute when Wotherspoon scored after some brilliant stick work by Dwyer. Netherlands replied back strongly in the next minute but Roel Bovendeert's effort was kept away by an alert Australian custodian Andrew Charter.

Australia opened up a 2-0 lead in the 22nd minute to take a firm control of the match. The Dutch, however, responded brilliantly and pumped in two goals in the 29th and the 33rd minute draw level.

Australia, however, were not to be denied as they scored what turned out to be the match-winner in the 42rd minute.

It was Jamie Dwyer’s 350th international outing for Australia. “It doesn’t feel like I’ve played 350 games,” said Dwyer. “I just want to go out there and play for my country, and to do it so many times, I’m very proud and honoured so. I guess this year I had something to prove, both to myself and to those people who didn’t think I could do it at 36. It is good to be out there, not just participating but also having an influence.”

The Tribune

Great Britain finish sixth after Argentina defeat

GB men line up for penalty corner

Great Britain were forced to settle for sixth place at the FIH World League Final after a 4-2 defeat to Argentina. Four penalty corner goals, two apiece for Pedro Ibarra and Gonzalo Peillat were enough for Los Leones despite replies from Simon Mantell and Phil Roper.

Argentina forced James Bailey into action early on, the goalkeeper extending a left leg to clear before watching as Lucas Rossi blazed a backhand shot over the bar. At the other end Simon Mantell picked out Sam Ward but his deflection flashed wide. Argentina won a penalty corner in the fifth minute and with everyone expecting Peillat to take the shot, Ibarra instead stepped up and beat Bailey with a low drag flick to make it 1-0.

Great Britain had their first clear sight of goal after some lovely approach work from Harry Martin set up Chris Grassick but his shot was blocked by the defender and Alan Forsyth’s follow-up flew over the top. Ward forced a good save from Juan Vivaldi with a neat turn and shot as Great Britain pressed for an equaliser. Just before the break, Argentina forced a penalty corner on referral and this time they doubled their lead. Peillat found the net for his seventh goal of the tournament. The No2 had another penalty corner chance with a minute left in the quarter but this time Bailey got down well to make the save.

Argentina won a series of penalty corners in the opening exchanges of the second quarter and from the third of these, the ball was slipped to Ibarra who fired home his second of the match to make it 3-0. Great Britain created a number of half chances but could not find the goal to get back into the contest and went in at the break 3-0 down.

Bobby Crutchley’s side started the second half brightly and David Condon stung the gloves of Vivaldi with a snap shot inside three minutes. GB enjoyed plenty of possession in the third quarter with Argentina content to sit back and protect what they had but the possession and territory came to nothing and Great Britain went into the final quarter, still trailing.

Great Britain forced a penalty corner at the start of the final quarter. Roper’s effort was charged down by the runner, however. Condon showed superb skills to fashion a chance on his own but his effort went wide. With ten minutes remaining Mantell pulled one back from a fierce, low penalty corner strike, his fourth of the competition, giving Great Britain a glimmer of hope.

That glimmer was extinguished with six minutes left. Peillat scored his second from a penalty corner to make it 4-1. With three minutes to go, some lovely skill along the baseline from Roper set up a chance and although Forsyth couldn’t turn the ball in, Roper was on hand to slot it home to make it 4-2. It proved just to be a consolation goal for Bobby Crutchley’s side who were beaten into sixth place by Los Leones.

Bobby Crutchley, Great Britain Head Coach:

“We gave away some cheap penalty corners and didn’t defend them very well, which with the corner threats they have is always going to make life difficult. We played better in the second half but by then it was too little, too late and the damage was done.

We started well in the tournament but the group as a whole hadn’t experienced this environment before and so they seemed to find it hard to get the consistency needed for this level. We’ve learnt a lot and have plenty to take away from the competition but on the whole it’s a frustrating end for us.

“We made the decision to leave certain people at home, so we were missing a lot of experience, but I’m glad we did that. Unless you put players in a tournament environment you will never know how they’ll do. The calendar is very busy and punishing so you can’t play the same players all the time. We have lots to learn but we have lots of positives to take, too.”

Great Britain 1 (0)
Simon Mantell 50 (PC)
Phil Roper 57 (FG)

Argentina 4 (3)
Pedro Ibarra 5, 17 (PC, PC)
Gonzalo Peillat 14, 54 (PC, PC)

Great Britain Hockey media release

Will India count today

K. Arumugam

“Its time India is among the medals” is what Indian Coach Roelant Oltmans said after his team exceeded the expectations and showcased a spectacular show in the quarters on Thursday.

Nothing can be aptly said than the above words. Teams here show sluggishness after initial phase. Two European outfits, who shone in the pool stage, did not measure up to the next task.

Netherlands was not their usual self despite bringing their best side. They were a shade below their known aggressiveness especially inside the circle. There was hardly anything to prove their reigning champion status. Great Britain, another side to top the pool, too caved in in the classification match. Argentina which has just a weapon in Gonzalo Peillat made them to struggle, and finished fifth.

Only European outfit left in the fray for top spot now is Belgium and the only Asian in the HWL line up, India, will take on them today.

Unlike India, which has its coach for over two years, Belgium had imported its coach just a month away. Shane McLeonad is Man Friday for the Belgium, which has shown downhill trend under dutch coach has the onerous task of make over.

Belgium is a neo power in field hockey world. It has come about after a decade long rebuilding process.

Barring a freak late 90s’ 4-7 defeat with India’s Harchanran Singh in the coaching mantle, they hardly posed a threat to Indians.

Joaquim Carvalho’s India in 2007 thrashed them in the Chennai Series.

undefined But then they were not having the likes of Tom Boons.

Belgium has defeated India on almost in all FIH tournaments.

Not just the defeats but the manner in which it did is what caused worry in the Indian circles.

Indians were unable to contain their sharp shooters with result it was 4-goal margin defeat all the time.

India narrowed the margin in the last World Cup opener but they came back strongly in the HWL Semifinals at their home. 0-4 drubbing for India.

Now the giants meet the rising India, but at their home. The big crowd that helped India to psyche out young Great Britain stand up to them and measure upto them, provided they repeat the aggressive form they adopted against the British the other day.

The lesson for India’s heart warming GB victory was coach’s willingness to field the youngsters in the first quarters.

Be it Chinglensana Singh, Amir Khan, Talwinder Singh or Kothajit Singh, they all raised their game and measured up to the confidence the coach reposed on them.

Thursday Success was a result of team game.

None can single out single player for GB rout in the quarters; and it is what is required. Its not individual talents, however spectator worthy it is, which is going to give India a win today.

Team effort will deliver.

India for once seemed to have given up short passes and too much of back passing but started to split the rival defence with long scoops and hits. The kind of feats that Devinder Walmiki sent to Kothajit which ultimately Talwinder Singh capitalized.

India often crowd out to defend, but today it should spread out to tire their tormentors. Unforced errors from India has drastically come down as the tournament grew. This is a good sign.

Mental make up, willingness to go for outright goals is showing up.

The key for today’s match is positive approach, use of full bench strength and attitude. Can India count today

I think India will count today.


Plans in place, India will look to execute

Uthra Ganesan

On Friday, for the first time since arriving here for the Hockey World League Finals, the Indian team did not get down on the turf. It was not a rest day, coach Roelant Oltmans insisted, just a day off from the pitch.

“They have a lot to do off field as well to prepare; it’s different,” he said.

When the hosts take on Belgium in the semifinals on Saturday, the coach will hope the preparations translate into successful execution on the turf. Having made the last four stage regularly in competitions in the past one year, it is time for the team to step up. It certainly will not be impossible, but India will have to be on guard against a dangerous Belgium and its own inconsistency.

“If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this (as against Great Britain) again, frankly speaking, I am not sure about it. But of course in the next two days we will work towards that. It’s nice to be in the semifinals but it’s time to win a medal in a major tournament, and this is a major tournament and that’s what we are aiming for,” Oltmans said.

Belgium, still getting used to new coach Shane McLeod, has been scrappy here. It thumped Canada 7-2 in a league match and managed to edge Argentina 2-1 in the quarterfinals by not conceding penalty corners to neutralise Gonzalo Peillat.

But the famed structure and sharp attacking skills that have made them one of the most improved and consistent sides in the last few years have been missing.

Even against Argentina, the Red Lions were not able to dominate much and their victory was as much due to Argentina’s lack of an alternate plan. That said, midfielder Alexander Hendrickx has ensured Sebastien Dockier, Tom Boon and Thomas Briels receive a steady supply of balls upfront.

McLeod insisted he was keen to get his players the experience of playing in India.

“A secret wish of mine was having the guys experience playing India in India. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and India… when they have a game to play, they certainly play. I think they are going to be a really tough opponent,” the New Zealander said.

The Indians have faltered at this stage more often than they would have liked, and Sardar Singh admitted there were areas of concern.

More than anything else, India needs to ensure that the GB win does not make the players lower their guard and sticks to the game-plan regardless of the situation.

Against GB, the team continued to follow a structure and pass the ball despite errors. It needs to continue doing that instead of returning to old habits of holding the ball and showing off possession skills.

That will be the plan. Execution will mean a world-level medal after 33 years.

The Hindu

India face tough Belgian challenge

Sam Chakraborty

RAIPUR: Roelant Oltmans' mercurial men in blue hardly put a foot wrong in their inspired show against Great Britain in the last-eight on Thursday as they emerged 2-1 winners. The Sardar Singh-led side looks ready for the Belgian challenge in the semifinals at Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel International hockey Stadium on Saturday.

Opting for a rest instead of sweating it out before their last-four encounter, India's biggest bane in the tournament thus far has been their inconsistency and lack of focus. While against Argentina and Netherlands, the hosts were guilty of elementary mistakes, their performance versus Germany and Great Britain earned them plaudits for their sumptuous skill, passing and pace.

One of the major factors for India's inconsistent run in the tournament has been their lack of proper passing and communication in the field and the Belgians are masters in exploiting the weaknesses of the opposition. In their four matches, the hosts have conceded eight goals and scored only four.

While India has had four different scorers in the form of Akashdeep Singh, Chinglensana Singh, V Raghunath and Talwinder Singh, Belgium's scoring charts have been led by Tom Boon, Thomas Briels, Sebastien Dockier and Florent van Aubel with each scoring two in the run-up to the semis.

A team in transition under new coach Shane McLeod, Belgium started their campaign with a 0-1 loss against World No. 1 Australia before dismissing Canada 7-2 with a stupendous performance in their second game. Having drawn 3-3 with Great Britain in their last group A encounter, Belgium hardly gave Argentina a whiff of a chance as they dominated Carlos Reteguis' Los Leones to come up trumps in the quarters.

For a side that has scored 12 goals in their four respective matches, Boon & Co will be tough to handle for the vulnerable Indian backline who has often looked to crumble under pressure from open play. With Belgium skipper John John-Doemen manning the midfield with precision; it will be a tough task for Oltmans' India to break down a stubborn Belgian side riding high on consistency.

However, the Indians are known to strike hard when the nods have been heavily stacked against them, and Great Britain for one will vouch for that. With both the sides looking to end the year on a high before extravaganza in Rio, sparks are sure to fly as a spirited India look to register their third triumph of the tournament.

Meanwhile, Germany will take on Canada in the last match of the day for a classification play-off.

TODAY'S MATCHES: Semifinal 2: India vs Belgium. Classification match: Germany vs Canada

The Times of India

Belgium between India and final

Hosts will need to be at their best in the semis to get past the dangerous opponent

Raipur: India will look to come up with a steady performance when they take on a dangerous Belgium in the semifinals of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final here on Saturday.

After a poor start to the tournament -- a 0-3 loss to Argentina -- India produced a fine show to hold Olympic champions Germany 1-1. In the next match against the title-holders, the Netherlands, India dished out a mediocre performance and lost 1-3.

In the quarterfinals against Great Britain, however, the unpredictable hosts eked out a stunning 2-1 victory to march into the last-four.

This up and down showing is giving sleepless nights to coach Roelant Oltmans. The Dutchman was candid enough to say that he couldn’t guarantee a consistent performance from his wards in the next match.

"If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this (against Great Britain) again, then frankly I am not sure about it. But in the next two days, we will work towards that," said Oltmans.

Barring a few glitches, the Indians were near perfect against Great Britain on Thursday. The hosts sparkled in all departments to produce their best performance of the tournament so far.

India’s misfiring forward-line finally showed some promise with Talwinder Singh scoring a fine field goal and Ramandeep Singh hitting the post on one occasion. Young Mohammad Amir Khan, too, was impressive. It’s, however, the performance of the midfield, led by skipper Sardar Singh, that’s been the most inspiring in this tournament.

Defence has always been India's weak link; it has often wilted under pressure on numerous occasions. But against Great Britain, the backline managed to hold its own under relentless pressure in the fourth and final quarter.

"It's nice to be in the semifinal but it's time to win a medal in a major tournament and this is a major tournament," said the coach.

Going by the world rankings, there is hardly anything to separate sixth-placed India and Belgium, who are a rung below the hosts.

"I thought they (India) played well. I think in the other games - the grading games - they were a bit inconsistent. But I thought they played well (against Great Britain) and they are going to be a really tough opponent," said Belgium coach Shane McLeod.

The Belgium coach said that coming into the tournament, it was his wish to play India in their backyard. "A secret wish of mine was having the guys experience playing India in India. It's a fantastic opportunity for the guys and there will be big crowd in. We are looking forward to it," McLeod said.


Australia bt Netherland 2-1

Argentina bt Briatin 4-2

Today’s match (SF)
India v Belgium

The Tribune

India eye steady performance against Belgium in HWL semifinal

RAIPUR: Inconsistency has been India's bane for a long time and the biggest task for Sardar Singh and Co. would be to come up with a steady performance when they take on a dangerous Belgium in the semifinal of the Hockey World League (HWL) Final, here tomorrow.

After a poor start to the tournament -- a 0-3 loss to Argentina -- India produced a fine show to hold Olympic champions Germany 1-1 before dishing out another mediocre performance to lose 1-3 against title-holders Netherlands.

But an unpredictable India then saved their best for the tough quarterfinal clash against world no.4 Great Britain and eked out a close 2-1 win to progress to the last four stage.

The up and down showing is worrying India's chief coach Roelant Oltmans and the Dutchman was candid enough to say that he can't guarantee a consistent performance from his wards in the next match.

"If you ask me whether we will be able to give a performance like this (against Great Britain) again, then frankly speaking I am not sure about it. But of course in the next two days we will work towards that," Oltmans said about India's inconsistent performance.

Barring a few glitches, the Indians were near perfect against Great Britain yesterday. The hosts sparkled in all departments of the game to produce their best performance of the tournament so far.

India's misfiring forwardline finally showed some promise with Talwinder Singh scoring a fine field goal and Ramandeep Singh hitting the post on one occasion against Great Britain yesterday. Young Mohammad Amir Khan too impressed with his performance.

But what has been inspiring for India in this tournament is the performance of its midfield led by talismanic skipper Sardar Singh.

The performance of the midfield, the link between forwardline and defence, is key to any team's success in international hockey and the likes of Sardar, Kothajit Singh and Manpreet Singh have stood upto the occasion, atleast here.

Defence has always been India's weak link and has wilted under pressure on numerous occasions. But against Great Britain yesterday, the backline managed to stand tall to thwart relentless pressure in the fourth and final quarter.

The Times of India

Stats Speak: India versus Belgium in international hockey

By B.G.Joshi (India) in Raipur

India has entered in semifinal for the first time in Hockey World League. India had played 22 semifinals of FIH’s tourneys (Olympics-11, World Cup-3, Champions Trophy-8). Highlights of India vs. Belgium  are:

*India has faced Belgium in hockey matches since Amsterdam Olympics (1928).

* Till date matches played 65, India wins 44, Belgium wins 11, drawn 10.

* In last 10 matches India wins 3, Belgium wins 6, drawn 1.

*Last played in Antwerp HWL (July 2015), Belgium won 4-0, during penalty corners execution, Indian Goalkeeper Sreejesh blocked the first shots, but Indian defence failed to clear the ball , Florent van Aubel   collect the ball and pushed into the goal on three occasions and made his maiden hat trick vs. mighty Indians. Tanguy Cosyns was the other scorer.

 *On two occasions Indian lost to Belgians in last minute, first in Johannesburg Champions Challenge (2011), India lost 3-4, India leads 3-1 till last quarter of the final. Tomfooling of Indian defence and goalkeeper captain Bharat Chetri allows the Belgians to score the goals. Fourth goal came in 41 seconds before the hooter by Tom Boon of Belgium.

Second occasion was in Hague World Cup (2014), 22 seconds were on clock, Red Lions make a counter attack, 4 Indians defenders not cleared the ball and Jon-Jon Dohman (today he is captain) scored the winner when 15 seconds left on the clock. Belgium won 3-2.


Amir Khan — making the right moves

Uthra Ganesan

Coming into national reckoning just a week before a major international competition as a replacement for one of your best friends is never easy. But Mohd. Amir Khan knows an opportunity when he sees one.

At the ongoing Hockey World League Finals here, the youngster from Allahabad has grabbed it with both hands. Named as replacement for statemate and friend Lalit Upadhyay after the latter got injured, Amir has impressed everyone with his runs, dodges and feints to wrong-foot the opposition defenders. He may not have scored yet but the lanky forward knows there are more ways to contribute to a team’s performances.

On Friday, while several of the India players preferred to either sleep off the strain of the tournament so far or relax with the occasional cheat-eat and their favourite cups of coffee, Amir and Mujtaba were busy with their afternoon prayers. Walking in to find coach Roelant Oltmans waiting for lunch, he tried to explain his absence. “That’s absolutely fine, as long as you are in time for whatever is the team’s schedule,” the Dutchman waved him off.

Starting at the age of 10 at the Majidia Islamia College grounds in Allahabad, hockey has always been a way of life for Amir. “In my area, a lot of people pay hockey. In fact, the grounds have more kids with sticks than those with bats. A lot of my relatives also played, though not at big levels. My cousin Ayaz Ahmed used to play for Customs and it was normal for me to play the game,” he explains. A product of the Lucknow SAI hostel, two of his younger brothers are now following in his footsteps.

The frail-looking youngster is the latest in a long line of illustrious predecessors from Uttar Pradesh that began from Dhyan Chand and continued through Ashok Kumar, Mohd. Shahid and RP Singh, players who mixed attitude, skill and style to produce what was considered the traditional Indian hockey. His looks, though are deceptive.

Nimble on his feet and quick to stop and turn against defenders, Amir Khan’s dodges upfront have been impressive so far in the tournament. Regardless of the opposition, the youngster held on to his style of aggression. Most experts of the game consider him among the most talented strikers in the next generation.

“Style aur dash hona hi chahiye, dikhna bhi chahiye jab zarurat ho (style and dash must be there and must also be visible when the situation demands). Planning is important but so is individuality. Even the coach accepts that there are times when plans do not work, an individual has to use his mind and skill and decide on his own.

“Yes, there are times when it doesn't work, like it happened a couple of times against Britain also, but that will get better with experience,” he says with conviction.

New stage, old mates

Even though this is his first major senior tournament, Amir isn't exactly unfamiliar with his team mates. Having played with the likes of VR Raghunath, Danish Mujtaba, Talwinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh and Birendra Lakra for India at the junior level, the 21-year old – he will turn 22 later this month – is among known faces here. Mujtaba, in fact, belongs to the same area and the two grew up playing together from childhood even though the senior pro is five year older. Unsurprisingly, there is a higher comfort level.

For someone only starting out, Amir is grounded with a lot of quiet self-belief. “Pressure is always there but if you remember your good times and performances, it helps a lot. Pressure doesn't mean you succumb to it – you have to face and beat it, you need to look inside you. Everyone knows what he is capable of, what he can do and what his talent is.

“Pressure is always there. Specially, when you haven't played any big tournament and suddenly you are in such a big event but the good thing is I believe I haven't let it overpower me. I think I have been able to handle it a little better and so maybe I am going in the right direction. Now I need to work on my consistency,” he says.

“Before a match, I only focus on the match and try to avoid the negativity. I pray a lot but if something does happen that affects me --  which doesn't happen too often, to be honest – I just speak to my parents and solve it with their advice. I do not like to talk much to everyone,” he adds.

Is he now targetting a Rio spot? “Preferences don't matter, performances do. I am not thinking of it now, I am thinking of the next two games. Everything depends on my performance. I would love to be at Rio and have both Danish and Lalit with me but coaches only see what you do on field,”he signs off, heading for lunch.

The Hindu

Crista Cullen is back!

Crista Cullen celebrates scoring in the Olympic Bronze medal match against NZ in London

The images of a delighted Crista Cullen celebrating yet another goal on the way to an Olympic Bronze medal at London 2012 are amongst the most iconic associated with the competition. The former Leicester defender wowed the crowds with some dominant performances and finished as joint top scorer in the tournament and now, after almost three years out of action, she is back, ready to take her place in the World League squad.

It’s been a long time coming but now, with the World League Finals in Argentina on the horizon, Cullen is raring to go again:

“Having gone through a period of training I’m now looking forward to playing again. Playing in Argentina is always amazing because the crowds and the people are so passionate it’ll be great to get back there and be competitive again.”

The news of her return to the central training squad broke back in July and caused plenty of buzz in hockey circles, including many asking what had prompted her return to the colours:

“I retired after London because I wanted to finish on a high. I had my reasons to go back to my family in Africa which was a huge pull for me.” she says. “I wasn’t sure I would still have the drive for a four year campaign again having done Athens, Beijing and London previously. Then I went home and had some time out, was normal and had a job and was very happy. Having watched from afar and been given the opportunity to come back I couldn’t turn it down. It’s a once in a lifetime chance and I’m hugely privileged to be in the position to try and get into the Olympic squad. I’m still fit so I thought I’d give it a go. Worst case scenario for me personally is I don’t quite do enough to get in, but I make the group more competitive in the process.”

Crista Cullen moves forwards with the ball

The physical fitness that characterised her in the past is still there. There is no doubt Cullen is still a phenomenal athlete, but after three years out, how were her hockey skills?

“There are a few things that I need to work on. Trying not to get frustrated was the key given how long I had been away from the game but sometimes you have to laugh at yourself. You know what to do but of course having been able to do something previously and then struggling to execute a skill isn’t ideal. I’m getting there and I’m heading in the right direction. I wasn’t as bad as I thought so hopefully I’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to getting out to Argentina and competing again.”

Of course one skill she still has firmly in the locker is her ability from penalty corners. In 2012 she netted five times at the Olympics and was one of the most feared exponents of the drag flick in the women’s game. With corners playing an ever more important part in the modern game, Cullen is confident she can come up with the goods from set pieces for Great Britain:

“Something like drag flicking you don’t forget how to do so it’s about honing it to get it as good as I can again. We need to win corners in order to have the opportunity and it’s then our job to convert them. I’ll be taking my share of the responsibility and I’m confident I can have a positive impact on things.”

It’s been a long wait, but tonight, against the hosts, Crista Cullen is back. Argentina’s goalkeepers have been warned.

You can watch all the action from Great Britain's opening pool match of the World League Finals live on BT Sport from midnight tonight UK time.

Great Britain Hockey media release

Crista Cullen leaves behind saving elephants to chase Rio Olympics' hockey dream

World Hockey League Finals in Argentina will indicate whether Great Britain star who retired in 2012 can regain skills of London Olympics
By Rod Gilmour

Hard graft: Crista Cullen knows the physical demands of the modern game Photo: AFP

In the three years that she had spent away from hockey, there was little in Crista Cullen’s colourful life in Kenya to suggest that she would be making one of the more remarkable returns to international sport this weekend.

Working at a security firm, voluntary work at a wildlife conservation project, setting up a cross-fit business and gaining her pilot’s license were entwined with the odd game of social hockey on a Friday evening in Nairobi, a world away from the starring role she played in GB women’s bronze medal at London 2012.

“I had put that part of my life to one side,” said Cullen, who will compete at the World League Finals in Argentina over the next week. “It’s not normal to be given an opportunity back in international sport after a three-year period of not playing. I never really considered it a possibility.”

Cullen’s comeback trail started in May via a telephone call from Danny Kerry, the GB women’s coach. “I was watching from afar but never thought I would be competing for a place at Rio,” she admitted. “When Danny called me, it took me a long time to deliberate.”

Cullen returned to Kenya in retirement where she took on variety of roles

Leaving and returning to international hockey has thus been far from straight forward for Cullen. When the then 27-year-old decided to quit hockey after the last Olympics, she deleted three emails before finally sending her resignation letter to England Hockey.

She thrust herself back into Kenyan life, where she had lived until she was 12, working with her family at the Galana Wildlife Conservancy, a 20,000-acre sanctuary where her grandfather had been a ranger and her brother – the first white player to play for Kenya’s rugby sevens’ side – had worked as a safari guide.

“There is a buffer area alongside the national park whereby animals could follow the migratory patterns they have followed for generations,” she said. “We try to cut off the human encroachment element. It wasn’t easy protecting the acres we had to work with.

“We patrol the area with scouts but with the increase of road systems, it’s exposing the secrets: the beautiful elephants with big tusks and the demand is still there [to hunt them]. We had daily battles to protect the animals.”

Assisting this passion from afar back in Nairobi, Cullen's cross-fit business behind the US Embassy also took off, a scenario which has paid dividends under the current Kerry regime. “Having played for 11 years I knew where I needed to be,” Cullen said. “Luckily it’s a strength of my game and I had to make a statement early on for my position.”

She has done so without being funded by England Hockey, her three-month assessment trial period ending in January. Currently living in Henley, she has been forced to take up a marketing role with Duke’s Sports Travel “to make ends meat”.

Cullen celebrates in 2012

“I was thrown into the deep end and had two weeks of fitness testing,” said Cullen, who made 171 appearances before retirement. “To be honest, it was the best thing that could have happened. I just got on with it.”

If she can regain her prowess at penalty corner flicks – she was considered one of the finest exponents at her height – then Britain, having won the European Championships in the summer as an England unit, look set to become one of the best all-round sides in the game. Competition for Rio places will be fierce.

“If you’re not scoring consistently at penalty corners, you’re not in medal contention,” she said. “That’s hockey reality. In the London campaign we got ourselves into celebrating winning penalty corners as we believed in the execution. It was a well-grooved machine.”

The Telegraph

Green Machine Nominated For National Award

Hockey Ireland is delighted to announce that the Irish men's hockey team have been nominated for the National Award at the prestigious 2015 Canon Hayes National Sports Awards.

Press Release:

Some of the top names in Irish sport will gather in Ballykisteen Hotel and Golf Resort, Tipperary, on Saturday, December 5th for the 2015 Canon Hayes National Sports Awards. These awards which are recognised as being one of the most prestigious in the country are in their 20th year and Canon Hayes Centre Chairman, Martin Quinn, says that this year's event is a great celebration of sport on a local and national basis.

The Awards were inaugurated in 1996 and over the years they have grown in importance and significance and are now rightfully regarded as being the most prestigious of their kind in the country. This is attributable to the fact that they encompass all sporting disciplines and that they adequately reflect the top sporting achievements in any given year. In effect therefore they are a ‘true barometer of the sporting year’ said Martin Quinn.

The nominees for the National Award include four teams; Irish Senior Men's Hockey Team, Dundalk FC, Irish Showjumping Team and the Irish Elite Boxing Team. The County Award includes sportspeople who have also excelled at a national/international level; former Irish Rugby International and Clonmel coach Denis Leamy, Irish Amateur Soccer players Chris Higgins, Paul Breen and Jim Carr and Irish and International Showjumper Greg Broderick.

Competing for Local honours are Triathlete Denise White Compton, Tipperary Minor dual star Tommy Lowry and Cyclist Dermot Radford. The Outstanding Achievement Award is being lined up for the giant-killing feat of Clonmel Commercials, who pulled off a sensational victory over Nemo Rangers in the Munster Senior Club Championship on Sunday last to claim a first ever provincial title for Clonmel and Tipperary.

Other awards on the night will include the Volunteer in Sport Award and the Mick Doyle Golden Memory Award, which will be presented to 1992 Olympic Gold Medallist, Michael Carruth. There is a special Lifetime Achievement Award to race walker Jack Dowling, who at 12 years of age escaped from the brutal industrial school system in Ireland, walking away from Greenmount in Cork City. Little did Jack know then that walking great distances would become a big part of his life. (His story was recently featured on the Documentary on One series on RTE Radio 1 - My Uncle Jack).

Many former and recently retired sportspeople will be in attendance at the Awards including Ronnie Delany, Eamonn Coghlan, Brendan Cummins and Olive Loughnane.

The Awards will be presented by Mr. Alan Kelly, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Irish Hockey Association media release

“Clear message” sent at Women’s National Team year-end camp

Shaheed Devji

With the completion of its year-end camp this week in Vancouver, a busy year has come to an end for Canada’s women’s field hockey team.

Designed as a way to assess where the Women’s National Program stands at the end of a busy year, which saw the women compete successfully in a number high stakes, the camp brought the full Women’s National Team back together for one last time before the end of the year.

Having been training and competing in pockets across the country and world for the last few months, the year-end camp included fitness and strength testing, on-field training and team meetings.

“The girls have actually finished the year fitter than they started and they already started the year fitter than they’ve ever been,” says Women’s National Program director and head coach Ian Rutledge. “Every time we’re back together, the girls are recording great scores.”

Improving the fundamentals is undoubtedly encouraging for the Women’s program, but with the full squad back together for the first since the end of the Pan American Games in Toronto in July, Rutledge has taken away more than just scores.

“I think the girls are sending a clear message,” he says. “They’re determined, they’re dedicated, and inspired to ensure that we make the most of what has been a great year. I think they’re sending a message that they’re focused on Tokyo.”

With the Rio 2016 Olympic Games out of reach for Canada’s women, the focus has now shifted to the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

But the games nearly five years away and it would be easy for athletes to lose motivation, especially after a year that carried so much emotion every step of the way. But for Canadian Women’s National Team, evidenced by what transpired over the last few days in Vancouver, a lack of motivation is not an issue.

“We’ve had personal bests at this camp, the level of hockey in the scrimmages was the best I’ve ever seen at a carding camp,” says veteran forward Thea Culley. “We’ve got the right mentality that’s going to continue to propel us forward.”

And while 2015 was successful – the women captured a medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games for the first time since 1999 and also cracked the top twenty in the field hockey world rankings – the focus is clearly on what lies ahead.

“This next four year cycle is going to be huge for us,” says captain Kate Gillis. “Taking the momentum from this year and just building and building and building. Where we hope to be in 2020 is the Olympics.”

Field Hockey Canada media release

Praise for Fiji hockey

Pravin Narain

FIJI is doing well in hockey says visiting Hockey Australia Country team manager Michael Nelson.

Australia sent a men's and a women's team to participate in the Fiji Invitational 2015 at National Hockey Centre in Suva starting today.

The team has been making the trip to Fiji for the past eight years.

Nelson said the facilities were in top condition despite few touch ups that were needed.

"This is a very important development stage and so for Fiji," he said.

"We have a very strong relationship with Fiji.

"We are also doing something for Fiji as well. Fiji provides a very good tournament and Fiji hockey is getting stronger compared to previous years.

"The facilities are very good here though it needs a little bit of work."

The Australia Country will take on Fiji Presidents in the men's category while their women will take on Fiji Warriors.

Nelson said they had always been provided a stiff competition from the teams in the competition.

"These players have come all over the country in Australia," he said.

"New Zealand would be very strong and Fiji always performs well in front of their home fans. The people should come and support Fiji's national players.

"This in an international tournament for them and they need the support."

The tournament starts with a tradition welcome ceremony at 12 noon with the games proper commencing at 1.30pm.

Fixtures - 1.30pm NZ Presidents vs Fiji Warriors (M), 3.30pm Fiji Presidents vs Australia Country (M), NZ Presidents vs Fiji Presidents (W), Australia Country vs Fiji Warriors (W)

The Fiji Times

Razak Cup: Malacca youth in smashing form

By Jugjet Singh

MALACCA relied on youth power to smash their way into the Razak Cup semi-finals, and coach S. Velappan believes Johor can be tamed in the semi-finals Saturday.

The other semi-finals will be between defending champions Perak and 19-time champions Kuala Lumpur.

"We have eight Malaysia Games players in this squad and they played their hearts out to reach the semi-finals against all-odds.

"I believe my players will not disappoint against Johor as we aim to better our fourth position achieved last year," said Velappan.

Playing in Group A, Malacca were the surprise package as they hammered Penang 6-3, beat highly touted Terengganu 5-4 and only lost 2-1 to champions Perak.

"The matches against Perak and Terengganu showed my players fighting spirit and that is what we need to play in the final of the Razak Cup," said Velappan.

Johor are no pushovers as they held KL 4-4, beat silver medallists Pahang 4-3 and they beat a gritty Negri Sembilan 3-2.

"It will be a match between youth, as Johor also have many young players who are fast on the attack. This year's Division One Razak Cup matches have been close affairs, and I believe both the semi-finals will also be won by narrow margins," predicted Velappan.

In Division Two, Polce are assured of a spot in the final, as they play whipping side Sarawak in their last fixtures today. Police lead the standings on 13 points after four wins and a draw. Second placed Selangor, on 12 points, play Perlis today and a win will see them meet Police in the final on Sunday.

Police player Baljit Singh Sarjab is the top-scorer in Division Two with 10 penalty corner goals.

RESULTS: Division One: Fifth-Eighth: Terengganu x Negri x, Penang 4 Pahang 5.

Division Two: Kedah 7 Sarawak 1, Perlis 1 Armed Forces 3, Kelantan 1 Selangor 7.

SATURDAY: Division One Semi-finals: Perak v Kuala Lumpur (Pitch II, 5.45pm), Johor v Malacca (Pitch II, 8.30pm).

Division Two: Kedah v Kelantan (Pitch I, 7.30am), Perlis v Selangor (Pitch II, 7.30am), Police v Sarawak (9.30am).

Note: All matches at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Jugjet's World of Field Hockey

Surprise package Malacca fancy their chances in Razak Cup

by S. Ramaguru

KUALA LUMPUR: Former champions Malacca had wanted to use the Razak Cup hockey tournament as a platform to expose their players for next year’s Sukma.

So, they included eight youngsters in their squad and did not set any specific target. But to their surprise, they are now in the semi-finals with a shot at the Division One title.

They play Johor, a three-time champion, in the last four on Saturday.

“The semis is a bonus for us. I am sure this experience will help the players greatly,” said Malacca chief coach S. Vellapan.

The eight Sukma players are Luqman Nurhakim Saiful, Mohd Huzairy Mohd Zin, Mohamed Asyraf Zuhry, Mohamed Hafiz Awang, Mohamed Firdaus Omar, Mohamad Zurhelmy Mahat, Mohamad Faid Farhadh and Mohamad Ridzwan Azmi.

Vellapan said Johor also have a young team and the clash will be a close affair.

“There is very little separating the two teams. Both have a lot of young players and a few older ones to guide them. The way I see it the team who can make better use of their chances will win,” added Vellapan.

Malacca are, however, praying hard that their top goal-getter Amirrullah Zainol will recover in time from injury to feature against Johor.

Amirrullah is the tournament’s joint leading scorer with Terengganu’s Faizal Saari. Both have seven goals each.

“Amirrullah suffered a hamstring pull and is a doubtful starter. We need him as he’s our livewire,” said Vellapan.

Malacca have won the title twice. They first emerged champions in 2005 when they edged Johor 2-1 in the final. In 2009, they clinched the crown by beating the Project 2013 team 2-1.

As for Johor, they were winners in 1988, 2006 and 2007.

The Star of Malaysia

Perak not taking KL for granted in Razak Cup semis

by S. Ramaguru

Perak forward Azril Misron attempts to score against Terengganu in the Razak Cup quarter-final match in Bukit Jalil National Hockey Stadium on Thursday. - IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/ The STAR

KUALA LUMPUR: Perak are eager to win their third straight title but are wary of the threat posed by 19-time champions Kuala Lumpur in the Razak Cup hockey tournament semi-finals on Saturday.

Seven-time champions Perak have been impressive thus far, beating Malacca 2-1, Terengganu 4-2 and Penang 7-3 to top Group A.

In contrast, KL laboured to a 4-4 draw with Johor and struggled to edge Pahang 4-3 and Negri Sembilan 3-2 to finish second in Group B.

But Perak coach K. Yogesweran has cautioned his team against taking KL for granted.

“KL have dropped points in their group matches, but they are still a force to be reckoned with,” said Yogesweran.

Perak’s forte lies in defence where they have veteran defender Azlan Misron and international goalkeeper Roslan Jamaluddin.

In attack, Azril Misron, Mohamed Fitri Ismail and Mohamed Haziq Shamsul will be tasked with getting the goals. All three have three goals each.

KL coach K. Dharmaraj will miss the clash due to family commitments. K. Gobinathan will take charge in his absence.

“I have full confidence in Gobinathan. Perak are the favourites and we will take the fight to them. We have nothing to lose but to go all out from the start,” said Dhamaraj.

Like Perak, KL also boast of star power. In Mohamed Shahril Saabah, they have a top goal poacher with five goals to his credit.

The Star of Malaysia

Boosting hockey in Pakistan

A FIH delegation visited Pakistan last week to help revive the game in the country. Pakistan, once a powerhouse in Hockey, missed qualifying for the last World Cup in 2014 as well as for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

During their trip, FIH President Leandro Negre and FIH CEO Kelly Fairweather, accompanied by the CEO of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF), Tayyab Ikram, met with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab Governor Malik Muhammad Rafique Rajwana, IOC member Syed Shahid Ali and the leadership of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) as well as the National Olympic Committee. The focus of all talks was on understanding the current challenges Pakistan hockey is facing and on improving the standard of the sport from grassroots to professional level.

Punjab is the biggest province of Pakistan and has an important role to play when it comes to supporting hockey at national level. The discussions with the political decision-makers were very productive and the Punjab government promised that they would provide every possible support for the progress of hockey.

Moreover, the visit enabled FIH and the AHF to identify the areas where external support is needed, to define priorities and agree with the PHF on the next steps. FIH and the AHF will now assist the PHF in implementing a development plan which aims at improving the skills of Pakistani coaches and umpires, in addition to arranging a series of matches for both senior and junior teams with other countries.

FIH President Leandro Negre said joint efforts would be kicked off by organising bilateral series between Pakistan and Asian countries:

“Once the Asian countries will start playing bilateral series, it will help Pakistan raise the standard of the game and gradually international hockey will also resume here. Moreover, FIH will also work to promote the game at school and college level in Pakistan.” He added: “There is a dire need to motivate the country’s youth to play hockey; and grassroots level is the best place to concentrate such efforts. I am sure that the PHF will start working to broaden the base of the game.”

FIH and the AHF are confident that the PHF and its competent leadership is on the right track in working on a sustainable future for Pakistan hockey.

FIH site

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