News for 11 March 2010

All the news for Thursday 11 March 2010


European hegemony to the fore

Commendable has been the competence shown by the semifinalists

S. Thyagarajan


— Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

CLASSY AND CRAFTY:The old warhorse Teun de Nooijier (second from right) has been the fulcrum around which the Netherlands' fortunes have revolved while Germany's cause has been well-served by players like Matthias Witthaus (right).


New Delhi: Phase one of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup was eventful and perhaps in the way visualised.

What the league stage of the 12th edition mirrored was the alignment of the contemporary power equation, which underlines the supremacy of Europe. This is testified by three European teams in the semifinals.

Australia, the only entity that challenges their hegemony, is reckoned as the team destined to rewrite history after a long hiatus from 1986.

What the next segment, starting on Thursday, will bring to the surface on Sunday is best left to conjecture. The argument that all the four deserve their place is irrefutable.

Commendable has been the technical, tactical and temperamental competence that has characterised the performance of the teams in the last four. The coaches often express their disapproval largely because of the fear of complacency and the urge to do better dominates.

It is not easy to earn compliments from taskmasters like Ric Charlesworth, Markus Weisse or Jason Lee simply by netting a goal or two. For them it is a continuous endeavour towards perfection.

Controlled aggression

Controlled aggression is the essence. Integrated into this is consistency, not easily achieved, but striven for from the first minute. True, there have been setbacks with Korea causing a lot of damage to the stature of Germany by holding the defending champion to a draw and then beating former winner, the Netherlands.

It is a pity that Korea, a semifinalist in the last event, fell out this time. This was notwithstanding the heroic performance against the Dutchmen. The reverse against New Zealand had done it in.

Nothing stopped Germany, not even a draw with the Netherlands, from moving ahead to the top of the table. The team raised the bar match after match by fine-tuning its trapping, distribution and injecting an element of elegance to the finish.

Florian Fuchs, Christoph Menke and Matthias Witthaus contributed to providing the flicks and deflections a yard in front of bemused goalkeepers.

The Dutch, despite their victory sequence, almost tripped at the final hurdle. True, some of the goals they scored were a sight to behold but they continued to fumble in the second half. The ageing Teun di Nooijer is still the vital component in the attack. He pleases the senses whenever he breaks into a magnificent and mellifluous run.

The awesome Aussies, giving full play to their adeptness, athleticism and aggression, recovered admirably after their opening fiasco against the more organised Englishmen.

India and South Africa faced the full fury of the Aussie power, symbolised by the system and style in the penalty corner executions by the rangy Luke Doerner, joint top-scorer with Dutchman Taeke Taekema with six goals at the moment.

England's reputation as the European champion enhanced quite a bit after the win over Australia. Guided in masterly fashion in the mid-field by Ben Hawes and Glenn Kirkham, sharp shooters like Ashley Jackson, Jonty Clarke and James Tindell often destroyed the confidence of the rival defenders. Richard Mantell being rendered hors de combat for the rest of the competition is a big loss.

Korea, which suffered a great deal for its loss against New Zealand, was a very difficult team to beat. Skipper Hyun Nam and Jong Ho fought like true gladiators. No adversity obstructed them from giving vent to their spirit and strength.

The same cannot be said of Spain — lacking in focus, consistency and beset with injury problems. Pol Amat had to take a great deal of burden on himself with the stars Pau Quemada and Ed not always in full flow.

Anachronism

The sub-continental superpowers, India and Pakistan, are now an anachronism. Pakistan, winner of the cup four times, is fighting for the last two places, while India figures in the 7-8 range. Some may claim it as an improvement for India as it had finished 11th in the last edition and had never figured in this equation since the 1994 event in Sydney.

The concept of video referrals has been a talking point. The handling of this sensitive mechanism has been somewhat amateurish and exposed some chinks.

The delay in determining the requests and poor communication between the video umpire and the two on the field are highlighting the fact that something down the line has gone horribly wrong. Nothing exposed this more than depriving India of a goal against South Africa while the referral by the latter was being examined.

The system is good but lacks professionalism. The technical staff needs to study the causes and minimise the errors. The excitement is set to touch a new peak as the competition heads for the summit on Saturday.

Thursday's matches: 11-12: Pakistan vs. Canada (3.35 p.m.). Semifinals: Germany vs. England (6.05 p.m.) and Australia vs. Netherlands (8.35 p.m.) .

The Hindu



Four play before climax

B Shrikant


Pace and aggression versus power and caution. Strategy against perseverance — what will triumph?

That’s the question being asked as teams with contrasting styles meet in the FIH Hockey World Cup semifinals at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Thursday.

Australia are the speed merchants of world hockey; they try to outpace and outplay their opponents with attacking hockey. In the first semifinal, they face The Netherlands, a team that mixes power with caution.

The other semifinal pits defending champions Germany, seeking a hat-trick of titles, against England. Germany’s forte is their workman-like approach and solid planning. They have players who stick to a plan come hail or high waters.

England, on the other hand, have been a revelation — the world’s sixth best team has played the best hockey so far and reached the last-four stage for the first time since 1986. They have overcome a number of setbacks, losing players like Matt Daly, Simon Mantell and Richard Mantell to injuries. Their grit and determination have impressed one and all.

The teams are closely matched and it is difficult for even someone like Aussie coach Ric Charlesworth to predict the outcome.  “Both matches are very tough and, I think, they are 50:50 affairs as all four teams are strong and competitive,” said the Australian chief coach after his team's practice session on Wednesday.

Charlesworth said his boys would have to be careful as Holland play a cautious game, but, in the same breath, he said Australia had an age advantage. “They have more experienced players. Half of our team is new and that’s a challenge but our team is developing,” said Charlesworth.

The coach will be looking up to his skipper Jamie Dwyer, midfielder Luke Doerner, Robert Hammond and defender Mark Knowles to make the most of the opportunities. Goalkeeper Nathan Burgers' role too will be crucial.

Though speed and aggression are Australia’s forte, they will have to mix dollops of caution as the Dutch have strong forwards like Teun de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and Jeroen Hertzberger. Drag-flicker Taeke Taekema is a constant threat. “We know what Taekema can do. He is one of the best drag-flickers,” said Charlesworth.

England will have to rework their strategy a bit to tackle Germany and coach Jason Lee said his boys were up to the task. “We have as good a chance as anyone. We have rebuilt this squad in the last few years and can’t afford to slip up again,” said Lee.

On the absence of Richard Mantell, Lee said his team was experienced enough to play without him. “We have been playing without Richard in the defence for the past two years. His long hits from the back helped us build our attacks. But now the strategy will have to change a bit. We may have to start our attacks from the midfield,” he said.

Germany, on the other hand, are tricky customers. The only undefeated side in this tournament, they have played solid hockey and have the goods to overcome England. In Florian Fuchs and Oliver Korn, they have good attackers, while Moritz Furste and Jan-Marco Montag have done well in short corners. Martin Haner and Maximillian Muller have marshalled their defence admirably.

Though the teams are evenly matched, going by form book, the 2010 edition may again see Germany battling it out against Australia in the final.

Hindustan Times



Big boys play tonight in the hockey World Cup

C Rajshekhar Rao


New Delhi: Four consecutive wins on the trot, 23 goals in the preliminary league, a record margin (12-0) of victory against South Africa. The signs are all there for Australia to finally lift the World Cup for a second time, and they would be fancying having a shot at the title especially because their semifinal opposition, The Netherlands, have not looked as impressive as other teams in contention.

The Dutch were wobbly in their last league match against Korea and just about managed to ward off the one goal that could take the Koreans to the knock-out stage. That England lost their last match and Germany have been held to two draws, adds credence to the Aussie might, but the Champions Trophy winners have to actually deliver as well at the business end of the championship.

If they do so, it will not be a case of being third time lucky after losing to Germany in the previous two finals, but of a hunger not shown by anyone thus far in the tournament, partly because of their 2-3 loss to England in their opener. “If we play well, it will be very difficult for any team to beat us from here on,” cautioned Aussie skipper Jamie Dwyer, the FIH player of the year in 2009. “We have done well against the Dutch in recent times and don’t mind playing them.”

The Aussies have enough firepower in the form of penalty-corner specialist Luke Doerner (six goals in the tournament), Dwyer and Glenn Turner (five each), and enough balance between field goals and short corner conversions.

However, the Netherlands would like to gain more penalty-corners if they hope to see famed drag-flicker Taeke Taekema (six goals) make a difference to the outcome in any way and captain Teun de Nooijer might have to produce a trick or two in the midfield.

“Australia are the favourites in this tournament. They have been playing very well, but now that we have reached the knock-out stage, you never know what might happen,” said de Nooijer.

The battle is likely to be more even in the other semifinal, in which England might just miss injured defender-cum-pivot Richard Mantell, who is pretty handy with penalty-conversions too. England have made their first last-four grade since losing to Australia in the1986 final and have a chance to prove that their European Championship title was no fluke.

“We have shown that we are capable of beating any side in the world. We have had a fine tournament and one should not look too much into our loss against Spain in the last league match as we knew we would be in the semifinals,” said England captain Barry Middleton, who would be depending on upcoming Ashley Jackson with penalty-corners. For Germany, who are here with just three players who were part of the title-winning side at home in 2006, it is a chance for revenge after losing 3-5 to England in the continental meet.

DNA



Semis battle gets underway

Prabhjot Singh


When top four teams of the world are scheduled to play each other in a country whose national sport had been hockey, one would have expected a jam-packed stadium. The organisers of the 12th World Cup here, are, however, not certain about the turnout for the semifinals that feature defending champions Germany, runners-up Australia, the European champions England and the Australia-Pacific champions Australia.

The reason: absence of the home team from the games scheduled for Thursday. Though Indian team has done precisely little to warm cockles of hearts of ardent followers of the game here, their win the opening game against Pakistan rekindled hopes of revival of lost glory in the sport.

And hockey fans do not want to leave the team in the midstream. On Friday, when India returns to the action for the last time to play for the seventh and eighth position against Argentina, another packed stadium is expected. Tomorrow, it will be Canada taking on Pakistan in the wooden spoon match.

It is the second time that Pakistan will be playing for the 11th and 12th position. Last time it was in Willesden, London, where Pakistan beat India to avoid carrying home the wooden spoon. The hockey fraternity, however, will be waiting with gasping breath for the Germany-England encounter.

In the 2009 European Championship, Germany and England played each other twice, first a 4-4 draw in the pool game and then in the final, England pulled up a surprise 5-3 win over the World Cup champions. The win in European championship was the first warning England had given to the world hockey about its serious preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games it is going to host in London.

Otherwise England had beaten Germany in the World Cup only once, in 1986, in London where they beat them 3-2 in the semifinals. England finished with silver medal as a host. Otherwise of total five encounters between the two countries, Germany has won thrice and the one game ended in a draw.

Both Germany and England have progressed well. Though England started the pool matches with a flourish by recording a shock 3-2 win over Australia, it ended its league engagements on a little bitter note losing the last game to Spain.

Germany has been improving with every outing. Their best match had been against the Netherlands that ended in a 2-2 draw. Incidentally, Germany has been the only unbeaten team in the tournament so far. After playing a 2-2 draw against Korea, Germany has been convincing in its wins.

Australia, who have finished with silver medal in the last two editions of the World Cup are aspiring to return home with a gold medal from a country that taught them hockey. Australians owe their success in hockey to Pearce brothers. And if the present chief coach of Australia, Richard Charles worth, accepted Indian assignment, it was an emotional gesture of gratitude.

It is a different story that Richard was a victim to the apathy of the Indian officialdom and red-tapism. Still he wants his team to return home with a gold medal. They take on the Netherlands, the orange shirts, in the second last semifinal. Both Australia and the Netherlands have four wins each in eight World Cup games they previously played against each other.

Since 2004, the Netherlands has never beaten Australia while losing eight consecutive games to them, including Olympic Games, World Cup and the Champions Trophy. Last win for the Netherlands came at Athens Olympic Games when they beat Aussies 2-1.

In 11 World Cups, Australia has participated, they will be playing their ninth semi-final while for the Netherlands, and it will be their eighth. After losing to England, Australia has been giving an excellent account of itself. Luke Doerner shares the top goal scorer spot with six goals to his credit. Australia have also set a new record of the biggest win in the World Cup by trouncing SA 12-0.

The Tribune



Germany have the edge

The Dutch can upset calculations


JAYDEEP BASU


New Delhi: After 10 days of intense competition that featured 30 matches at the league stage in the Hero Honda World Cup hockey, defending champions Germany and Australia appear favourites to clash in the title round for the third successive time.

Yet, in the semi-finals on Thursday, both Germany and Australia would have to remain careful when they take on England and the Netherlands, respectively, at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium.

While England looked supremely confident in the league phase, the Dutch have an array of stars capable of upsetting all calculations at any point of a match.

Going by the form book, Germany are definitely the best team and have improved with every outing. Aiming for a third straight title, the Germans landed in Delhi with a relatively younger side that had only three players — Matthias Witthaus, Moritz Furste and Jan-Marco Montag — from the previous World Cup but were quick to adapt themselves to the conditions here.

Backed by the awesome record of reaching the semi-finals every time since the second World Cup, Germans are an immensely skilful and confident team as it was evident in the league match against the Netherlands.

So much so that Germany coach, Markus Weise appeared not too bothered about their semi-final opponents and said: “I never had any preference about our semi-final rivals. My boys are good enough to play any team.”

But then, England have been growing by leaps and bounds in the last one year.

Their resurgence started in the European Championships where they beat Germany in the final and in the current meet, they scored four straight wins including the one against mighty Australia.

However, England are slightly depleted because of injuries, mainly to their defender Richard Mantell, who looked in great form before being sidelined during the match against Pakistan.

The last time England made the final was in 1986 when they lost to Australia, led by Ric Charlesworth.

The legendary Aussie is also here in Delhi, this time as coach, determined to wipe out bitter memories of the two World Cups when Australia had to bow to Germany in the final.

Known as Kookaburras, the Australians have always remained the under-achievers despite their huge reputation as a top quality side.

In all these years, Australia could win the World Cup and the Olympic gold only once each despite coming close on many occasions.

The Aussie charge has been led by their drag-flicker Luke Doerner, the top scorer in the tournament along with Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands.

Skipper Jamie Dwyer, the FIH Player of the Year and Glenn Turner have also contributed to the Aussie might, who won four matches in a row in the pool matches after the shock defeat against England in the first outing.

Charlesworth, however, remained cautious. “I am not looking too far ahead. The Dutch are not easy to beat but I am glad the boys are shaping very well,” said the coach. Dutch coach, Michel can den Heuvel, on the other hand, is bracing up for a tough task on Thursday.

The Netherlands made the semi-finals the hard way as they managed to pip the South Koreans on better goal difference on the last day of the league matches.

But with highly skilful players like Teun de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and Taeke Taekema in their ranks, they have enough ammunition to send the Australians packing.

Thursday’s matches

For 11th/12th positions: Pakistan vs Canada (3.35 pm)

Semi-finals: Germany vs England (6.05 pm); Australia vs the Netherlands (8.35 pm).

The Telegraph, India



Rivals on edge for semi-finals

Injury-stricken England hope to build on their amazing resurgence in field hockey when they take on defending champions Germany in the World Cup semi-final today.

Hot favourites Australia take on a shaky Netherlands in the other semi-final the same night, looking to reach their third successive Cup final after a power-packed display in preliminary matches.

England proved their spectacular European Cup win last year ahead of the sport’s powerhouses Germany, the Netherlands and Spain was not a flash in the pan as they finished second in group B behind Australia.

Jason Lee’s men won four of their five matches, including a stunning 3-2 win over Australia, despite losing striker Matt Daly before the tournament and penalty corner specialist Richard Mantell later due to injuries.

“It’s a revival we have worked hard for,” said Lee as England prepared for their first World Cup semi-final since 1986.

“But this is the real thing and we can’t afford to slip-up.”

Their rivals Germany, seeking an unprecedented hat-trick of titles to add to the Beijing Olympic gold medal, will hope to avenge the 5-3 defeat at England’s hands in the European final.

The Germans, with just three players who helped win the last World Cup at home in Monchengladbach, are the only unbeaten team in the current tournament with three wins and two draws.

“There have been a few hits and misses, but it is creditable for this young team to make the semi-finals,” said German coach Markus Weise.

Australia, coached by the legendary Ric Charlesworth, overcame the shock defeat to England in their first match to win their next four, including a World Cup record score of 12-0 against South Africa.

The Kookaburras charge has been led by penalty corner ace Luke Doerner, whose six goals so far puts him on top of the leading scorers’ list alongside Dutchman Taeke Taekema.

Jamie Dwyer, the International Hockey Federation’s player of the year for 2009, and fellow-striker Glenn Turner have shown their mettle up front with five goals apiece.

Australia came into the tournament by winning the elite six-nation Champions Trophy at home in Melbourne in December by beating Germany in the final 5-3 after trailing 1-3 at half-time.

“I am not looking too far ahead,” said Charlesworth, who played in Australia’s only World Cup winning squad in 1986. “The Dutch are never easy to beat, but I am glad the boys are shaping up well.”

Australia, who have scored more goals - 23 - in the league than any other team, defeated the Dutch 4-1 the last time the two sides met in a World Cup semi-final in Malaysia in 2002.

The Netherlands, who won the last of their three World Cup titles in 1998, almost missed the semi-finals after losing their last league match to South Korea 2-1 on Tuesday.

If the Asian champions had netted one more goal, they would have levelled the Dutch on goal difference and advanced to the knock-out rounds by virtue of winning their league encounter.

But Taekema’s penalty corner expertise and the guile of brilliant midfielder Teun de Nooijer give the Dutch hope against one of the most formidable sides in the game.

Gulf Times



England v Germany preview

Watch England take on reigning champions Germany in the Hockey World Cup 2010 semi-final online exclusively on Telegraph.co.uk (Thurs March 11, 12.35 GMT).

By Patrick Rowley in New Delhi


Marching on: the England players celebrate reaching the Hockey World Cup 2010 semi-finals after their win over India Photo: AP

If England forget their lethargic form in the dead match against Spain on Monday, and play their quality best, they can beat Germany in the first of Thursday's Hockey World Cup 2010 semi-finals.

If successful, England are likely to have to play the favourites Australia, who play Holland, the least convincing semi-finalists.

This will be England's first world level semi-final since they lost the 1986 World Cup final to Australia at Willesden.

Germany, on the other hand, have had plenty of experience of major semi-finals. They are, after all, the World and Olympic champions attempting to be the first country to win the World Cup three consecutive times.

But Markus Weise, the very successful German coach, is bedding in a new developing German side. But England have the more experience. They may have lost the services of the Mantell brothers and Matt Daly but Jason Lee in preparing the team, had covered for any eventuality.

England can still field world class players, like Ashley Jackson, Barry Middleton and goalkeeper James Fair, who has been quite outstanding.

England have won only one of their last eight matches against the Germans but did beat the holders 5-3 in the last big match, the European final last August, and they did lead 4-2 in the European pool match.

Lee said: "We have as good a chance of winning the Cup as anybody now. The key for us is our newer players making the right decisions in attack so we are not vulnerable to counter attacks".

Lee revealed that several players were unwell when England played Spain but everyone was better now, except himself. "I have had a cold, blood poisoning, everything".

Germany may be without first choice goalkeeper Max Weinhold, who will have a fitness test. He missed Germany's last two games through injury.

England and Germany both play well constructed hockey, are capable of making the right decisions under pressure, and attack with flair. It is very much a case of "who takes their chances, wins".

Ric Charlesworth, the coach of Australia, talking about his team's prospects against the Dutch, said that semi-finals are dour affairs. "I expect wars of attrition".

He must be confident of an Australian victory for his team have had a distinct edge in recent matches with the Dutch who rely too heavily on two players, Taeke Taekama and Teun de Nooiyer.

- You can watch the match, and all England's games at the World Cup, live here on Telegraph.co.uk

The Telegraph



Germany hold edge over Lions

Manuja Veerappa


New Delhi, March 10: Coming to New Delhi for the Hockey World Cup was a challenge mentally for most teams, especially the Europeans who were gripped by fears over security.

Once here, they showed why there are champion material as their performances overshadowed the early worries. Although on Saturday, only one of the top four teams — Australia, Netherlands, Germany and England — will be crowned champions, each have shown amazing resolve to get this far.

As defending champions Germany prepare to enter their third straight final, they have one major hurdle to cross in the England Lions to whom they lost the European Championship last year, and Max Mueller’s men will be thirsty for revenge.

The two European powerhouses are expected to go all out for a place in the final, though past history and the form book suggests the champions hold the edge.

Germany go into their 11th consecutive semifinal with the confidence of being a team known to bring out their best when it matters the most. This apart they have a defence that the England strikers will find hard to break through. The same cannot be said about the English side who have been trying to fill in the huge gaps in the midfield and defence with injuries to the Mantell brothers Simon and Richard.

The well-organised and well-trained Germans’, who have only three players from last edition’s winning team, will be a hard nut to crack for the Englishmen, who last entered the World Cup semifinals in 1986.

The Germans have many potent goal scorers on their side, from teenager Florian Fuchs to the likes of Jan Marco-Montag, Martin Haner and Matthias Witthaus who have all proved their worth through the league stages. Either way it’s a Catch-22 situation for England because whether it is field goals or penalty corners, the Germans have a danger man waiting for the opposition.

For England, much will depend on the 2009 FIH young player of the year Ashley Jackson, who has scored in every pool match.

The teams emerged with contrasting fortunes in their last league outing, Germany beating New Zealand 5-2 and England losing 1-2 to Spain.

But England skipper Barry Middleton said not much ought to be read into the performance against Spain.

“I guess we took it a little easy, having assured ourselves of a semifinal berth. The loss against Spain will have no impact on our semifinals performance. We can beat any side in the world any day,” he said.

German coach Markus Weise on the other hand said it did not matter whom they played. The first semifinal between these two European giants will show if Germany avenge the European championship defeat or if England will have the last laugh.

Pak fight to avoid wooden spoon

Meanwhile, down and out Pakistan will fight South Africa to avoid the wooden spoon in the 11th-12th placing match, the first game on Thursday’s card.

The Asian Age



England ready for German assault

Defending champions Germany would start as favourites against England when they face each other in the World Cup semis.

The Germans lost their last international match against England in the European Championships in August last year but with current form, they looked to have a slight edge. They are the only unbeaten side among the four teams in the semifinals.

Though without their main penalty corner taker Christoph Zeller in the side, the Germans have been more consistent than England in the pool stages after starting their title defence with a 2-2 draw against plucky South Korea.

Germany, gunning for a hat-trick of World Cup titles after their triumphs in 2002 and 2006, drubbed Canada 6-0 in their second match before being stretched by South Africa in their 4-3 victory.

The last two matches, however, must have infused a lot of confidence in the Maximillian Muller-led side. They showed their never-say-die attitude by fighting back from one-goal down in their 2-2 draw against the Netherlands and almost won the match before Dutch captain Teun de Nooijer stole a late goal.

The 5-2 convincing victory over New Zealand would also have boosted Germany going into the semifinals. They had also beaten England 2-1 in their only earlier World Cup clash -- in the 2006 edition.

England, who have never won a World Cup gold medal, have been dealt a huge setback after Richard Mantell returned home with an ankle injury in their third pool match against Pakistan.

The team management though refused to accept the impact of Mantell's absence but after their match against Pakistan, they have been struggling. They could just barely beat India 3-2 and then lost 0-2 to Spain in their last pool match.

Mantell is the penalty corner specialist for England and he is also one of the best distributors of the ball in the world.

In his absence, the job of Ashley Jackson, the 2009 FIH Young Player of the Year and the second penalty corner taker in the team has increased.

Fortunately for England, the 22-year-old has been doing well in the tournament so far and has scored five goals, three field goals and two from the penalty corners.

Reaching the semifinals of World Cup for the first time in 24 years after their silver medal show in the 1986 edition at home would be huge boost for a side which has been improving tremendously in the last one and half years. They would not want to let go the chance to finish at the podium.

England captain Barry Middleton was a confident man and said that his side's final pool match will not affect the morale of his men.

"We were a bit switched off and relaxed (in the match against Spain) after being assured of the semifinals. But it will have no effect on our game in the semifinals. We can beat any side in the world anyday," he said.

ESPNStar.com



Germany out for revenge in semis

GOOD ONE! Germany's Christoph Menke, right, celebrates with team mate Florian Fuchs after scoring the first goal during their match against New Zealand at the men's Hockey World Cup in New Delhi on Tuesday . Germany meet England and Australia play the Netherlands in today’s semi-finals.Picture: REUTERS

REVENGE will be on World and Olympic champion Germany’s minds when they face up to England in the World Cup Hockey semi-finals in New Delhi today.

Germany is out to avenge a loss to England in the title encounter of last year’s European Cup, while Australia faces three-time winner the Netherlands in the other semi-final today.

Germany, aiming for a third straight field hockey World Cup title, is facing an England side which is into its first field World Cup semi- final since losing to Australia at that stage in 1986. Matthias Witthaus, Moritz Furste and Jan-Marco Montag are the only players from the 2006 champion team left in Germany’s squad that went on to win the Olympic title at Beijing in 2008.

But once again, Germany has proved that it can produce a young team capable of carrying on the legacy of past World Cup victories.

“I never had any preference about our semi- final opponent,” said German coach Markaus Weise, whose pre-Cup expectation was of reaching the final.

England’s resurgence started at the European Cup, where it beat Netherlands en route to the final, after also overcoming Germany 5-3. Despite being hit by a series of injuries just ahead of the tournament, England scored four straight wins in the ongoing World Cup to secure entry into the semi-finals.

England’s impressive showing here began with a stunning 3-2 victory over Australia, which was considered among the title favourites here after winning the Champions Trophy in a resounding manner three months ago. During the World Cup, England has lost its main defender Richard Mantell through injury. Germany’s strongest challenger in recent years has been Australia, which clinched its first Olympic Games gold medal at Athens in 2004.

After twice failing to beat Germany in the finals of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, the Australian team this time is working under Ric Charlesworth, who was captain of the team that won the 1986 World Cup and is now among the world’s leading coaches.

Australia recovered from the loss to England to top Pool B, igniting hopes of repeating the form that its performance from the Champion Trophy – the Kookaburras produced a stunning rally from a two-goal deficit at half-time to beat Germany 5-3 in the December final.

Leading the Australian charge are striker Jamie Dwyer, the 2009 world player of the year, who scored the winning goal for Australia in the 2004 Olympic Games final against the Netherlands. The support for Dwyer comes from Grant Schubbert and penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner.

“There’s hard work to be done. It will be important to hold on to the ball in the semi- final against Australia,” Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel said.

Despite a late loss to South Korea, the Dutch edged the Asian champions on superior goal difference to secure a place in the semi-finals. With seasoned players Teun de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema in the ranks, the Netherlands are hoping to reproduce the glorious form that helped earn the country three major titles in a, row – the1996 Olympics, 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Olympics.

Daily Dispatch



Germany in hunt for hat-trick of World Cup titles

NEW DELHI: World and Olympic champion Germany is aiming to make the World Cup final by avenging a loss to England in the title encounter of last year's European Cup, while Australia faces three-time winner the Netherlands in the other semifinal.

Germany, aiming for a third straight field hockey World Cup title, faces England, which is into its first field World Cup semifinal since losing to Australia at that stage in 1986.

Matthias Witthaus, Moritz Furste and Jan-Marco Montag are the only players from the 2006 champion team left in Germany's squad that went on to win the Olympic title at Beijing in 2008.

But once again, Germany has proved that it can produce a young team capable of carrying on the legacy of past World Cup victories.

"I never had any preference about our semifinal opponent," said German coach Markaus Weise, whose pre-Cup expectation was of reaching the final.

England's resurgence started at the European Cup, where it beat Netherlands en route to the final, where it beat Germany 5-3.

Despite being hit by a series of injuries just ahead of the tournament, England scored four straight wins in the ongoing World Cup to secure entry into the semifinals.

England's impressive show here began with a stunning 3-2 victory over Australia, which was considered among the title favorites here after winning the Champions Trophy in a resounding manner three months ago.

During the World Cup, England has lost its main defender Richard Mantell through injury.

Germany's strongest challenger in recent years has been Australia, which clinched its first Olympic Games gold medal at Athens in 2004.

After twice failing to beat Germany in the finals of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, the Australian team this time is working under Ric Charlesworth, who was captain of the team that won the 1986 World Cup and is now among the world's leading coaches.

Australia recovered from the loss to England to top Pool B, igniting hopes of repeating the form that its performance from the Champion Trophy _ the Kookaburras produced a stunning rally from a two-goal deficit at halftime to beat Germany 5-3 in the December final.

Leading the Australian charge are striker Jamie Dwyer, the 2009 world player of the year, who scored the winning goal for Australia in the 2004 Olympic Games final against Netherlands. The support for Dwyer comes from Grant Schubbert and penalty corner specialist Luke Doerner.

"There's hard work to be done. It will be important to hold on to the ball in the semifinal against Australia," Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel said.

Despite a late loss to South Korea, the Dutch edged the Asian champions on superior goal difference to secure a place in the semifinals.

With seasoned players Teun de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema in the ranks, the Netherlands are hoping to reproduce the glorious form that helped earn the country three major titles in a row -- 1996 Olympics, 1998 World Cup and the 2000 Olympics.

The Times of India



Germany, England: A thrilling semi-final

Errol D'Cruz


NEW DELHI: Germany vs England. The pulse races, no matter what sport and Thursday at the Dhyan Chand National stadium in the Hero Honda FIH World Cup hockey semifinals is likely to be no different.

The teams last clashed in a World Cup semifinal in Willesden, England, 24 years ago, producing one of the competition's best ever matches. England won 3-2 after extra-time for their first-ever win over Germany.

The Englishmen of 2010 square up to the old foe with the tag of European champions achieved with a 5-3 over the Germans in the final at Amstelveen (the Netherlands) but any sense of one-upmanship could well be tempered by the problems plaguing the team in the run-up to the World Cup and during the event too.

Striker Matt Daly was ruled out with an injury before the team left for India, striker Simon Mantell returned home after aggravating one during training before the competition got under way and the run of bad luck continued when key defender Richard Mantell twisted his ankle against Pakistan and had to fly home.

For all that, England have been a revelation in this tournament. They began with a bang, beating hot favourites and former champions Australia 3-2 in the opener, most importantly doing so when not playing too well.

A let-up in the intensity against Spain resulting in a 0-2 loss may not exactly be a pointer to prospects in the semifinals but the English know that Germany will be an ordeal.

World Cup champions twice running, doubling up as the Olympic champions, Germany have moulded themselves into a solid unit - Christopher Zeller in the ranks or not. Indeed, the German philosophy of galvanizing themselves as a team has been paramount.

The Times of India



Meticulous planning and improved funding behind England's hockey resurgence

Cathy Harris, Delhi


The preliminaries are over. England get down to the real business today against Germany, their old rivals, in the semi-finals of the World Cup. The winners will play either Australia, the pre-tournament favourites, or the Netherlands — who also meet today — in the final on Saturday.

In London in 1986, England were pitted against West Germany at the same stage of the competition before losing to Australia in the final. More than two decades later, they are daring to dream of more success and stand on the brink of realising their ambitions.

Their triumph last summer, when the core of this squad beat Germany in the European Championship final, was a huge leap forward. Convinced that they belong among the world’s elite, their resurgence can be attributed to years of meticulous planning overseen by David Faulkner, the England Hockey performance director, who played in the 1986 final and won Olympic gold with Great Britain in 1988.

The signs were evident four years ago, with a fifth-placed finish — their best for 16 years — at the World Cup. That was followed by another fifth place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for a Great Britain side of whom all but two were England players.

Jason Lee, 39, the England and Great Britain head coach and a two-times Olympian, is not the sort to grab any glory, but he deserves great credit for the team’s achievements.

Appointed in 2003, he is England’s longest-serving coach. After a dreadful Athens Olympics campaign — they finished ninth — Lee retained only five players and started rebuilding. “I brought in a lot of new players and over the years have gradually introduced others to the core group,” he said.

“We’ve made major ground in tactical awareness, but a big factor in our success is that consistency of funding has promoted consistency of play. I’ve been lucky to make a lot of mistakes and be around to find the answers.”

An increase in annual funding was granted in 2006, after London won the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, and helped England and Great Britain to lay the foundations. The £3 million for the top 64 men and women athletes has remained constant.

The financial security enabled competitive international programmes to be planned and coaching structures to be put in place, athletes being prepared to commit to the programme and national coaches feeling safe in their jobs. Three national performance centres are also up and running.

England’s improved results and displays earned leading players lucrative contracts in the Dutch and German leagues and led to them returning with enhanced reputations. Barry Middleton, the England captain, and Ashley Jackson are team-mates at HGC, in The Hague, and are widely regarded as two of the world’s best players.

James Fair, the England goalkeeper, said: “All the funding has helped us to train better, become physically fitter and improve our techniques. Our performances have become so much more consistent and there is a real hunger in the squad to succeed.”

First they must overcome Germany, who can never be underestimated despite being the youngest team. Matthias Witthaus, 27, the veteran in a side with an average age of 23 and an Olympic gold medal-winner in 2008, said: “I play to win. I’ll settle for nothing less than the top spot.”

Meanwhile, the Pakistan parliament is to grill officials and players this month on the team’s debacle in Delhi. The four-times world champions face the ignominy of a play-off for eleventh/twelfth place against Canada today.

The Times



Jackson hopes soccer-mad England wakes up to hockey

NEW DELHI: The rising star of English hockey, Ashley Jackson hopes the team's semi-final appearance in the World Cup will do a world of good to popularise the sport back home where football is an obsession.

Jackson, who played a stellar role in England's European Championship win, says the historic triumph last August went virtually unnoticed.

It was England's first major title since the 1908 and 1920 Olympic gold medals as Great Britain.

"Back home, nobody knew that we were European Champions and that too, after we had beaten the top teams of the world. It is difficult when you do not get recognition after performing so well. But we understand that hockey can no way match the popularity of football," Jackson said.

"We hope that after making to the World Cup semi-final, which is a big event, our performance will not go unnoticed. Our performance here should get the game more publicity," he added.

The 22-year-old, who scored eight goals to become the player of the tournament in the European Championship, has struck four times here in five matches. Two of the goals came in the crucial match against India. But Jackson says he is far from his best.

"The best thing is that there is no pressure on me to perform because we have got a fantastic squad. We have played together for a long time and the unity in the team has kept us going."

"We entered the tournament as rank outsiders, and that helped us, because there were less expectations. We know what we can do as a team and we feel satisfied that we have been able to repeat our success."

Jackson, the first British player to win the FIH young player of the year award in 2009, says the team has developed into a fighting unit.

"We are developing as a team with every tournament. It is important for us to keep doing that because we are building this team for the the 2012 Olympics at home. We are in the right track because we are getting some good results," says the attacking midfielder and penalty corner specialist, who plays for East Grinstead Hockey Club.

Jackson played age group cricket for his county Kent before he picked up the hockey stick and turned out for Dutch club H.O.C. Gazellen-Combinatie (HGC). He immediately made his mark as the leading goal scorer in the 2008 Dutch premier league.

"The Dutch league is very competitive as world's top hockey players take part there. The payment is good. My (England) captain Barry Middleton also plays for the club. So overall I enjoyed my stint."

For the moment though, Jackson is looking to finish the World Cup on a high.

The Times of India



Australia, Holland in battle of equals

Harpreet Kaur Lamba


New Delhi, March 10: Experts often apeak about the importance of holding one’s nerve in pressure situations, for that is the difference between a good performer and a champion. Australia and Holland will be well aware of this as they battle it out in the semifinals of the 12th Hockey World Cup here on Thursday.

From the outset, the two teams were billed to meet in the final of the mega-spectacle, but a slip-up — the Dutch losing 1-2 to Korea in the last league game on Tuesday to finish second in Pool A — have brought them face-to-face earlier than expected.

A common thread binding the two semi-finalists has been their inability to break the final barrier. Australia and Holland have been shown remarkable levels of consistency in the past but have faltered when it mattered the most.

The Kookaburras suffered heartbreaks in the World Cup finals in 2002 and 2006, losing to eventual winners Germany. In 2006 at Monchengladbach, Australia were leading 3-1, until a late surge from the Germans (4-3) upstaged them.

The Dutch haven’t been any different. The Oranje had some decent performances at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, but none that could fetch them top honours. They came close at the 2004 Athens Games, eventually ending up as silver medallists.

“It is never easy to stay at the top for so long. Individually may be, but as a team it requires a lot. We have seen some mixed results in the last 10 years, and have been there among the top three teams. But this time we are determined to win,” said Holland skipper Teun de Nooijer, who is playing in his fifth World Cup here.

The two teams have had a contrasting run in the World Cup so far. The Dutch began in style winning their first three games, before defending champions Germany held them to a 2-2 draw. Then, it was a struggle to make it to the last-four as Holland scraped through on a goal difference after the loss to Korea.

Australia suffered an initial hiccup in the form of England, who stunned them 2-3 in their opening game of the tournament. But Jamie Dwyer and his boys showed superb form — beating India, South Africa, Spain and Pakistan in their next four games — to top Pool B with 12 points.

Leading the Australian charge is striker Jamie Dwyer, the 2009 World Player of the Year, along with Grant Schubert and penalty-corner specialist Luke Doerner. Mark Knowles is a livewire in the defence, while young striker Kieran Govers adds to the strength.

The Australians though still haven’t been upto the mark. The team have created nearly double the scoring chances of any other side in the tournament, but haven’t been able to make it count on the scoreboard.

“If we can take a third or close to that of the chances we make, or the goal shots we make, we’re going to be very hard to beat,” said defender Knowles.

Added striker Des Abbott: “It’s always another level going into the semifinals and we found that out at Beijing in the Olympics when we played Spain and it went up a whole new level.

“This is the start now, the first bit is done which we’re all very, very happy about, but now it’s the business end of it all and this is what we’ve trained for over the past year.”

Holland, on the other hand, will have to quickly regroup and put the loss to Korea behind. “There’s hard work to be done. It will be important to hold on to the ball in the semifinal against Australia,” Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel said.

With experienced players de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and penalty-corner specialist Taeke Taekema in the ranks, the Netherlands would be a hard nut to crack. Goalkeeper Guus Vogels has been rock solid under the bar and can prove to be the difference.

The Dutch are masters at converting penalty corner opportunities, and will look to make the most of Taekema’s expertise.

The Asian Age



Defence will be the key in Australia-Dutch duel

V Narayan Swamy


NEW DELHI: Caution will be the Netherlands' watchword against Australia in the second semifinal of the Hero Honda hockey World Cup on Thursday. And, the way the Kookaburras will handle this caginess will form the essence of what promises to be a stirring duel.

Over the years, the common trait in the Dutch team has been the tendency to leave the defence a touch too loose in the early matches and tighten it as they progress in the tournament.

It has not been any different in the World Cup but two tough matches against Germany and Korea may have exposed enough chinks for Aussie coach Ric Charlesworth to exploit.

However, Charlesworth is not ready to underestimate his opponents. "Half our team is new when compared with the Dutch who have experienced players. But then, knowing their attitude in big matches, they may play a cautious game. We have to handle that. And, as always, hockey played half court will be one of attrition," he said.

But the Aussie great is not unduly worried. "Holland play a physical game. But we too play at full speed and last the complete duration of the match. We have skillful players who can work their way in."

Central to Charlesworth's plans will be Jamie Dwyer, Glenn Turner, Grant Schubert, Desmond Abbott who have combined sheer pace and control with sharp shooting that have fetched Aussies the results. Also, the team is going into the semifinal without any injury - a huge confidence-booster in itself - although Charlesworth quipped that attempts were made to injure a couple of them during training on Wednesday but the players survived.

Ideally, the Aussies' main worry should be the Dutch dragflicker Taeke Taekema but then Charlesworth picked Teun de Nooijer as the man to watch out for upfront. Obviously, there were two reasons for this.

One, the veteran coach believed he had the resources to contain Taekema and his own dragflickers who could do the job for him. The second was the vagaries of the pitch which have denied the teams their share of corner flicks. "The best of matches are played on the best of pitches. With 50 per cent of your penalty corner chances go awry then it becomes difficult," he said.

If that indeed is the norm, field goals will be of top priority. Netherlands, who finished seventh in the last World Cup, have a strong combination of forwards - de Nooijer, Ronald Brouwer and Jeroen Hertzberger - and midfielders in Rob Reckers, Floris Evers and Robbert Kempermann.

For Aussies, a seamless interchange with the midfield with players like Kieran Govers and Eddie Ockenden doing the hard yards well, will be the feature yet again.

But where does the key lie? In the defence, of course. Both teams know where the dangers lie and will have planned cutting off any raid at the 23-metre line as well as earmarked the unenviable job of marking those who can inflict grievous blows in the blink of an eye. More importantly, both teams know they would love to take the advantage in the early minutes.

The Times of India



Kookaburras set to face Dutch in semi-finals of hockey World Cup

Australia are set to play the Netherlands in the semi-finals of the hockey World Cup after the Dutch edged through at the expense of South Korea on goal difference.

The Kookaburras, who secured their semi-final passage earlier in the week, will be hoping for a repeat of their 6-2 bronze medal play-off win over the Dutch at the Beijing Olympics.

Asian champions South Korea needed to beat the Dutch by two clear goals to advance but could only manage a 2-1 victory and finished third in the group.

The two sides finished equal on 10 points, one behind group A leaders Germany, but the Dutch had the better defensive record over league play.

In the other semi-final, defending champions Germany will clash with England.

Ronald Brouwer gave the Dutch an early lead in just the 25th second of the match before Nam Hyun-Woo equalised with his team's first penalty corner three minutes before the interval.

The Koreans took the lead 10 minutes after the resumption through a superb flick by captain Seo Jong-Ho and pushed hard for the third goal that would have taken them through but it was the Dutch who finished the stronger.

Meanwhile, Germany, seeking a hat-trick of World Cup titles to add to their Beijing Olympic gold medal, outclassed New Zealand 5-2.

The Germans led 2-0 at half-time through goals by Christophe Menke in the 15th minute and Florian Fuchs in the 28th.

Philip Witte made it 3-0 soon after the interval, but New Zealand hit back with two goals in four minutes from Shea McAleese and Nicholas Wilson.

The powerful Germans sealed their supremacy when Moritz Furste and Matthias Witthaus scored twice in as many minutes, both goals coming from rebounds off penalty corners.

Fox Sports



First time ever World Cup crosses 5-goal barrier

K. Arumugam


This may not the 10 sec barrier in 100m sprint, but still a barrier. No World Cup hockey has so far crossed the 5 goals per match barrier. This has happened now, though we will hear the last word on this only after three days.

Hero Honda World Cup might go to the record books as the best ever – certainly in terms of number of goals scored.

May be the crowd factor or the constant focus on hockey producing more goals, whatever the cause, the result is here.

This Delhi World Cup has so far produced 160 goals in 30 matches.

That works out 5.33 goals per match, which is the maximum for any World Cup.

4.97 goals per match was the highest so far, that came at Utrecht (The Netherlands)

This is first time goals per match crossed the five goals barrier.

This World Cup also produced highest margin of victory, 12, when Australia pounded South Africa in Pool B. South Korea’s nine goal blitzkrieg against Canada, Korea’s best ever, too contributed to the improved tally, but over all goals were not in short supply.

The first World Cup saw least goals scored, just 67 goals in 30 matches. There on goals per edition kept on increasing, though in the 80s again there was a slump.

Ever since television became a deciding factor in sports profile – this started with the 1984 Olympics – hockey rule makers have been constantly striving to see more goals on the turfs. This was further necessitated as European coaches in the 80s went for total hockey, where defending is the doctrine.

Teams scored a goal using penalty corners and then kept on defending. This made their teams collects win but at the cost of the charisma and glamour of the game.

Ever since off side rule taken out, the game has become open, scoring easier, and it even created new vistas of scoring like free hit deflection.

Whatever the way it is obtained, the important is goals, paying public wants more goals, and it has been achieved to large extent in Delhi.

Stick2Hockey.com



Pau Quemada scored the World Cup’s 2000th goal

K. Arumugam


Spain’s striker Pau Quemada may not be aware of the milestone goal he scored. When he bounced on a rebound to score his second goal against India, it was World Cup’s 2000th goal.

Till the beginning of Delhi mela, all the 11 World Cups held so far produced 1913 goals. It was therefore eagerly awaited to know who will have the honour of scoring the 87th goal here in Delhi, and to see who will go to the history book as the scorer of the 2000th goal.

It was 27-year old Pau Quemada.

The talented striker was playing his 76th international match on last Wednesday, when he posted the all important goal, absolutely unaware of the milestone he was making.

Spain’s team striker Pau Quemada is not new to India, having played in the Premier Hockey League as a part of Sher-e-Jallandhar team. He was here that time with his Spanish girlfriend Alwa, a Work and Social Psychologist by profession.

World Cup is Pau's third visit to India, being part of Test Series earlier and then was in Chandigarh for the PHL. During PHL he was excitied about the crowd watching domestic hockey in large numbers, and perhaps now he would have got another measure of the crowd that turned up for India-Spain match, in which he made the landmark achievemnt

Stick2Hockey.com



Total hockey at its best

M.S. Unnikrishnan


A kaleidoscope of moves, methods, modes, goals, systems, speed, one-touch hockey, quick interchange of positions and much more provided an enchanting spectacle in the 10-day long group matches of the 12th Hero Honda FIH World Cup Hockey Championship at the National Stadium here.

Each of the 30 group matches were furiously, closely and intently fought, with no quarters asked and none given. A few upsets underlined the fact there were no real, solid favourites as any of the 12 teams could win or lose, depending on their form and luck on a given day.

That 159 goals were scored in the 30 group matches proved that aggression was the byword of the contests as each goal was replied with an equally vehement counter. The disciplined Korea, the hallmark of whose game was speed, thrust, stamina and their uncanny ability to score from quick counter forays, have elevated the image of Asian hockey to a higher plane as they fought relentlessly in each of their matches to drive their rivals up the wall.

Fancied opponents like defending champions Germany, whom they held in their opening match 2-2, and former champions Holland, whom they shocked 2-1 in their last Group A match to threaten to sneak into the semis at the cost the Dutch, but for a minus one-goal difference, showed that the days would not be far behind when Korea would fight as equals with the European teams.

That Holland eventually pipped Korea to the semifinal post also showed that the European team, for whom hockey is a virtual religion back home, had done their home work well and chalked out their game plan with a nicety to score important, big wins in the early stages of the league phase, which stood them good stead. Ditto was the case with Australia, who were in Group B along with hosts India and Pakistan, and who recovered from a shock defeat at the hands of England in their opening match to top the group and sail into the semifinal with their typical brand of aggressive, energy-sapping hockey.

England, after a fine exposition of total hockey in which they gave equal importance to attack and defence to notch up four consecutive wins, lost to Spain in their last league match. But the four wins in a row they stitched together, got them 12 valuable points which paved their path to the semifinal without much fuss. However, Australia’s 12-0 goal-rush against South Africa put them on the top of the group, on the strength of the sheer volume of the goals they scored - 21.

Though hosts India’s high point was their 4-1 triumph over Pakistan in their opening match, they did not do that badly either in other matches, as they played as a fighting unit in each of the five matches and the closely fought 3-3 draw against South Africa, which they could have clinched had not a video referral robbed off them of a goal, was an indication that Spanish coach Jose Brasa has worked hard on them, and the Indian team are on the road to recovery.

And India need not fuss or fret over the missed penalty corners as tops teams like Germany, Australia, England and Holland also muffed many a short corner, despite having the best drag-flickers in their ranks.

That the domination of the European teams on the synthetic hockey turfs is here to stay as others have to work a lot more hard to match their speed, flair, recovery and total hockey on the demanding surface, is a bare fact exposed in this championship. And they score goals when they need them most, and not as a matter of routine, though they do that too. But the European and Australian teams bring out their best when they face adversity.

Sadly, that has not been the case with India and Pakistan, once the super powers of world hockey, who dominated with their skill and flair. Skill and flair, like dribbling and speedy runs down the corridor, are all fine, but the Asian teams invariably bungle once inside or top of the circle to squander finely structured moves.

Though the new referral system for goals, penalty corners and infringements is time-consuming and often irritating, it gives a level-playing field as the error of the on-field umpire can be corrected by the video umpire. And last but not the least, the lack of mementos of this World Cup. Fans and the media have nothing to show that a World Cup was staged in New Delhi.

The media persons of course can flaunt their hard-earned media cards, but otherwise, Hockey India, FIH and others concerned with the organisation of the 12th World Cup missed a chance to market merchandise like pins, badges, vests, shirts, caps as the signature products of this World Cup, as a lasting memory for those who were there at the National Stadium.

The Tribune



Hockey needs celebrities

Prabhjot Singh


“Those who come out to watch sports do not necessarily come to enjoy niceties of the game but to admire their idols or heroes, the celebrities. It is not necessary that spectators should understand the rules of the game. Instead, they are more interested in how the celebrities conduct themselves,” says Aaron Sher, chairman of Communication Committee of the International Hockey Federation.

Even many in the International Federation or those in the stands may not understand why the umpires had blown the whistle. It is at times difficult to comprehend the infringement committed.

There is a generation gap. People of older generation may go to watch only those games where they can enjoy niceties or finer points of the game, including skills. But the new generation is more techno-savvy and loves to be with catchy gadgets like iPods, blackberrys and follow their celebrities on twitter.

For them going to a game is fun so that next day they can talk about saying they watched David Beckham in action or were at a promo where Tiger Woods had been the special guest.

Unfortunately, hockey does not have that many celebrities who can pull younger generation to watch the events like World Cup Hockey. Aaron Sher shared some of his views with a select band of journalists here today saying that sports management was becoming highly professional with increased dependence on twitters, iPods and blackberrys. He, however, admitted that a lot needs to be done to improve media facilities at venues of FIH events. Flow of information had to be uninterrupted.

Some problems witnessed during the ongoing World Cup were primarily out of security concerns. He said that in the US and other countries, the concept of putting huge screens at sports complexes was running out of fashion. Instead the emphasis was more on providing instant information on handsets or the mobile sets of people where the receiver gets to see the video or action replay than looking at a huge screen put up at some place in the stadium. What Aaron Sher said may be relevant in the advanced or Western countries but developing nations like India, Pakistan and South Africa have still a long way to go where the turnout of spectators is primarily out of love for the sport and in case of cricket; it may be more because of their celebrities.

There cannot be any explanation for huge difference in turnouts on days when India is playing even if it is a classification game. Low turnout on other days when top teams are playing is intriguing.

The Times of India



Indian support for good samaratian Spaniards

When Spain take on South Korea on Friday for 5th-6th position, there will be some Indian hearts beating for the Spaniards. A group of nine children from Andhra Pradesh will be rooting for Spanish players, some of who have nurtured their hockey dreams.

The children, members of the hockey academy run by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), have come from Anantapur to watch the World Cup. The academy is promoted by Spanish internationals Santi Freixa and Andreu Enrich, who have set up an NGO called "Stick for India".

The kids were at the National Stadium on Wednesday to watch the Spanish team practice and met some players, who were sporting logos supporing Stick for Hockey. "There are some players in Germany and Australia too who are supporting our academy. They are sporting logos on their sticks," said P. Johnson, the teacher accompanying the children.

The RDT is also planning to lay a synthetic turf at Anantapur for which it's trying to get support from the Sports Authority of India. SAI however hasn't shown much interst, so the RDT is thinking of approaching the government.

Hindustan Times



Man to man marking against India, says Argentine coach


Argentina coach Pablo Lombi has some special plans for hosts India when the two teams face each other in a play-off for the seventh-eight positions at the Hockey World Cup here on Friday.

"We have to cut down on the spaces against India and then get down to man to man marking. I think if we can execute our plans properly then it would be tough for India," Lombi said after Argentina defeated Canada 4-2 and finished fourth in Pool A.

Asked if the crowd would be a factor, Lombi said: "I don't think so. But it would be exciting to play against them. They are improving as a team and we can give them a tough fight."

Lombi said his boys were desperate to finish seventh as it would give a massive boost to the game back home.

"We are 14th in world rankings and if we finish seventh here, it would be a great achievement for the boys. But I know it is a tough task for them as well, because we are up against a good team like India," he said.

"The World Cup has been a big eye opener for us. No we have to start playing more international matches in a year and then only we can move ahead," he said.

Hindustan Times



Once again, European hockey is making waves

Dhanraj Pillai


Europe is the superpower of world hockey today. They have proved themselves in the ongoing World Cup, with three of the four semifinalists — Germany, England and The Netherlands — coming from the continent. Australia is the fourth side.

Germany face England in the first semifinal, which will be one of the toughest World Cup matches the Indian fans would have watched. Two-time champions Germany are looking for a hat-trick of titles, while England have proved themselves worthy of a semifinal slot. A strategic and well-planned game is in the offing and margin will be close.

England play a fast game, a mix of European and Asian hockey, and will attempt to avoid conceding penalty-corners. The English players to watch out for are Ashley Jackson and goalkeeper James Fair. Striker Jackson has very good skills and can change the game anytime. Fair has saved a lot of games and has been a consistent performer under the bar.

Germany’s forte is its strategy and game plan, which the players implement to the ‘T’. The player to watch out for will be Matthias Witthaus, who is skillful, gets goals in the dying minutes and can earn penalty-corners. Florian Fuchs, the youngest in the squad, and Muller, the fullback, are the other two players to watch.

Australia take on The Netherlands in the second semifinal, which should be an extremely fast and physical game.  Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Turner are their main players. They have the ability to pierce through the rival defence at will. The Dutchmen will have to keep them in check with close man-to-man marking.

The Netherlands are lucky to be in the semifinals after going down to South Korea in the final league game, sneaking through on goal difference. The way the Koreans played, I had a feeling that they would qualify, and I am very disappointed that no Asian nation is among the four teams fighting for a place in the final.

Australia play the Asian style of hockey and seem to enjoy it. I hope they go the distance, if only to prove that Asian style too can help win major international competitions.

The Aussies stick to a plan, don't rely on the opponent's game to decide tactics and always show urgency. The attacking burst in the first 15 minutes is so intense that goals have to happen.

The Netherlands will face fast-paced hockey from the Aussies, supplemented with skills and long passes. No doubt, the Dutch too have experienced players, but they will have to play out of their skins.

Taeke Taekema, the highest scorer in this tournament, and captain Teun de Nooijer are the inspirational figures in the team. European hockey nations like Germany and The Netherlands have something in common. The national coaches decide the strategy for everyone. From my experience in the German league, the game plan is the same for the national team down to club sides and junior squads.

The Dutch also adopt the same approach. So, it is easy to understand why European hockey is flourishing.

Hindustan Times



Asia falls flat at World Cup

NEW DELHI: Former Olympians and coaches on Wednesday lamented the poor showing by Asian teams at the hockey World Cup, saying Europe and Australia were now the masters of the game.

None of the three Asian teams in the 12-nation tournament - South Korea, India and Pakistan - qualified for Thursday's semi-finals, the first time since 1998 the continent will not be represented.

Defending champions Germany, seeking a hat-trick of titles to add to their Beijing Olympic gold medal, face England, and Australia clash with the Netherlands for a place in the final.

"It is quite deplorable how Asian standards have fallen," former India great Balbir Singh, 85, a three-time Olympic gold medallist, said.

"It is going to be a huge challenge to counter the Europeans and Australians and I don't see that happening in the near future."

India, a World Cup winner in 1975, won the last of their eight Olympic gold medals in 1980 and failed to qualify for the Beijing Games for the first time.

Pakistan have won an unprecedented four World Cup titles, but have not won a major competition since their last Cup win in 1994 in Sydney.

Pakistan fared the worst among Asian teams in the current tournament, forced into a play-off for the 11th-12th places against lowly Canada after ending the league with four defeats and one win.

India, who qualified for the World Cup only by virtue of being the hosts, will fight for the 7-8 positions with Argentina on Friday, an improvement from their 11th place finish in the last World Cup in 2006.

Asian champions South Korea narrowly failed to qualify for the semi-finals after beating the Netherlands 2-1 in their last league match on Tuesday.

If the Koreans had netted one more goal, they would have levelled the Dutch on goal difference and advanced to the knock-out rounds by virtue of winning their league encounter.

Korean coach Shin Seok-Kyo blamed his team's lack of preparations for failing to finish among the top four, but admitted Asian standards had fallen.

"We prepared in cold weather before coming to India, but that is not an excuse," said Shin, a former international. "It is difficult to believe no Asian team is in the semi-finals.

"We all need to improve, and improve fast."

Balbir acknowledged that the speedy Koreans were best suited among all Asian teams to match the power of the Europeans and Australians.

"They are as fit as anyone and play excellent hockey," he said. "Players from India and Pakistan lack fitness, ball control and speed which Europeans have mastered."

India's lone World Cup-winning captain Ajit Pal Singh blamed poor defensive tactics and a weak game plan for the early exit of the subcontinent's teams.

"Both India and Pakistan were let down by a defence that leaked badly and there appeared to be no tactics in sight," he said. "The foreign teams attacked with lightening speed and left our defence stranded."

Akhtar Rasool, who captained Pakistan during their victorious World Cup campaign in 1982, said proper planning was needed to put Asian hockey back on track.

"It's a huge task to start from scratch, but that is what we need to do," he said. "We must restore the qualities of ball control that we were once famous for and also improve fitness and speed."

The Times of India



India played better and won, says Pak coach

Biswajyoti Brahma


NEW DELHI: Pakistan's hockey team on Wednesday rubbished claims that some players underperformed deliberately in the match against India in the ongoing World Cup.

Reacting to media reports circulating in both India and Pakistan, where at least two unnamed members of the team have been accused of fixing the match, coach Shahid Ali Khan said the allegations were "mere speculation."

"There's no truth in it. Nobody underperformed. We lost simply because India played better than us," he told TOI, referring to the match on February 28 which India won 4-1.

India's national coach Harendra Singh also dismissed any wrongdoing: "These unfortunate and ridiculous allegations certainly undermine our win. We never felt any of their players were underperforming."

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) said they were not aware of any player deliberately underperforming. "We are not aware of any such thing. As such we have our own mechanism in place to deal with such situations," an FIH official said.

In Pakistan, the country's National Assembly's Standing Committee on Sport (NASCS) said it would "grill" the Pakistan hockey officials and the players for the debacle in the mega event.

"We will summon PHF officials and players later this month to grill them," NASCS chairman Jamshed Dasti was quoted as saying in the Pakistani media.

Meanwhile, Pakistan skipper Zeeshan Ashraf has offered to resign from his post.

The Times of India



Pakistan to regain past glory in hockey: Pak High Commissioner

Shahid Malik, Pakistan High Commissioner to India said here on Wednesday that through conviction and commitment, Pakistan would regain past glory in hockey.Speaking at a reception hosted by him in honour of members of Pakistan Hockey team at Pakistan High Commission, Shahid Malik said there was no need to be disheartened and by analysing the situation and learning from mistakes Pakistan team would overcome problems.

The team has great potential, he said and hoped that will bounce back in coming world tournaments.

Asif  Bajwa, while thanking the High commissioner for hosting this reception said the senior officers of the Commission extended full support to them during their stay here.

He said the teams’ performance was good in last Asian games.  But in Hockey World Cup, the team did not play as we were expecting. He hoped that it would bounce back in the next tournaments.

Later, Pakistan High Commissioner presented a souvenir to Suresh Kalmari, President of Indian Olympic Association who also attended the reception.

Asif Bajwa also presented souvenir to Pakistan high commissioner and his senior officers on the occasion.

Associated Press of Pakistan



Olympians demand removal of Bawja after World Cup debacle

Top former Olympians Wednesday demanded ridding Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) of its Secretary Asif Bajwa, who is also holding positions of Manager cum Chief Coach of Pakistan team following disappointing performance in the World Cup in New Delhi.“This is a big debacle for Pakistan hockey as they lost to India after 35 years in World Cup and suffered first defeat against South Africa in 63 years”, Islahuddin, former Pakistan Captain, Manager and Chief Coach of Hockey team said.

Other former Olympians including Shahnaz Shaikh, Ayaz Mahmood, Mansoor Ahmed, Muhammad Saqlain and Naveed Alam and others held Asif Bajwa mainly responsible for the disastrous performance of the team going to battle for lowest 11th and 12th spot with Canada.

Appearing in a private TV Channel Sports Show, ex-Olympians Islah, Ayaz, Mansoor and Naveed were of the view that like in 1986 when Pakistan team finished 11th in London both coach legendary Anwar Khan and Brig (Rtd) Ashraf were banned after the debacle.

“If team management took the credit for fine performances in Asia Cup, World Cup qualifiers and Champions Trophy qualifiers they should take the whole blame for World Cup flop and face the music,” Islahuddin remarked.

However, the Olympians refrained from lashing at PHF Chief Zia and instead complimented him for bringing finances into the sporty.

“Bajwa worked under me during my tenure as chief coach of Pakistan junior hockey team. He had defensive approach and we developed differences on the same because I believed in attacking hockey philosophy”, 1984 Los Angles gold medalist Ayaz Mahmood said.

Commenting on Shahid Ali Khan’s performance, he said former Pakistan goalkeeper is not a qualified coach and he had a stint with Malaysian team as goal-keeping coach.

Like Asif Bajwa, Shahid is also fully responsible for worst-ever performances, he asserted.

Islahuddin under whom Pakistan team finished highly disappointing in Asia Cup in Chennai in 2007, maintained that both Bajwa and Shahid made tall claims before leaving for India but flopped totally.”How one can defend such a highly disappointing performances of the team and they should be shown the door,” Ayaz maintained.

He said in retaining the same management for Asian Games in China later in October this year would be a “criminal act”.

Almost all the Olympians called for comprehensive investigation into PHF affairs and team’s disastrous showing in India.

It  was a shameful performance by the team and responsibility lay with the team management,” Islahuddin said.

PHF Chief, ex-Olympian Qasim Zia said he was highly disappointed with the team performance and he will be meeting the team officials and players on their return from India to know causes of debacle.

He said Asif Bajwa was an elected Secretary of PHF and cannot be instantly removed before getting report from him.

All the Olympians feared that Pakistan team management may make senior players scapegoat to avoid public backlash.

Naveed Alam described the last year’s elections of PHF as “fraud”. He said Asif Bajwa is bent upon destroying hockey with his close associates.

Naveed Alam, a Pakistan team coach during Beijing Olympics 2008, and is involve in a legal battle with present PHF regime for alleged financial bungling, said removal of Asif Bajwa is necessary to save the game.

He appealed to Qasim Zia to take immediate remedial steps to save his damaging personal reputation as well as of hockey by supporting the officials tested for their alleged incompetency. 

Chief Selector and Pakistan’s former spearhead Hasan Sardar, blamed the senior players instead of management for the poor showing in India.

Associated Press of Pakistan



Pakistan need foreign coach to revive hockey, says Sohail Abbas

NEW DELHI: Star drag-flicker Sohail Abbas feels that Pakistan need a foreign coach to revive their past glory by blending Asian style with European structure.

Sohail, who failed to live up to his reputation as a dreaded penalty corner specialist in this World Cup, said hockey has changed a lot in recent times and the teams cannot afford weakness in any area.

"A team will have to be good in everything - defending, attacking, distributing or penalty corner conversion. The players now have multiple roles. I say the forwards are the first line of defence. We are known for our skills. But not only the skills, the structure (of how to play) is also important," Sohail said.

"We (India and Pakistan) need to play in Asian style but in European structure. You have to be fit and able to play at the same intensity for 70 minutes. That is the way the Europeans and the Australians are and we have to do that if we want to catch up with them. So, I think Pakistan needs a foreign coach," he added.

Sohail was recalled to Pakistan World Cup squad after a long lay-off along with a couple of senior players to strengthen the side.

"It was disappointing if you score just two goals in five matches. I tried my best but the goals did not come. But I want to continue playing for my country, may be in the next World Cup. I am happy with what I have achieved in my career from 1998 to 2010. I am not retiring," he said.

Sohail conceded that the senior players failed to perform their best and his side lacked consistency.

"It is true we are inconsistent but the team is in a building process. The team is a mixture of some senior and younger players. It will take time to build a strong team. We want to do well and we can do well in the Asian Games," said the 34-year-old.

Sohail also said Pakistan need to play more matches against top sides in the world if they want to catch up with other teams.

"We did not play many games before the World Cup. We need to play often with top six ranked sides in the world often as you learn only by playing international matches. Cricket is played all the year round but it is not the case in hockey. We need to play more international matches," he said.

The Times of India



Let Brasa finish his term: Tahir

Biswajyoti Brahma


NEW DELHI: Hurt at the way his side fared in the ongoing Hero Honda World Cup, former Pakistan striker Tahir Zaman blames the frequent change in coaches as a major reason behind sliding fortunes of both Pakistan as well as India.

Zaman, in the Capital to attend a coaches' course by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), also said that the Indians have improved as a team and asked the Indian authorities to allow Spaniard Jose Brasa to at least finish his term.

"The problem with Pakistan and India is that we change coaches frequently. Four to five coaches between two Olympics is nothing new here. The case is just opposite with hockey powerhouses who stick with their coaches for years," Zaman, who has coached Pakistan in the past, told TOI.

"As far as the Pakistan is concerned, I am hurt at their recent performances but at the same time I think the Indians have definitely improved - at least on the fitness aspect. You can also see their confidence. Their show in this World Cup is definitely better than what it was in the recent past. Here they are a fighting unit."

Zaman, who is favour of having local coaches for the national team, however said Brasa must be allowed to complete his term till the Asian Games. "I believe in local coaches since they understand these boys better and I am saying this from my experience from the past when I worked with foreign coaches."

The Times of India



India need to institutionalise hockey: FIH coaching director

NEW DELHI: Hockey may be the country's national sport but for India to revive its past glory, the game must be institutionalised to create "proper environment" for improvement, feels International Hockey Federation's Director of Coaching Tayyab Ikram.

Ikram said the FIH considers India as a very important destination for the game but the nation can't rise to the top again until and unless there is a structured set up in place.

"Hockey is not an institution in India. All the players, coaches, umpires and administrators should be under one system. Until and unless there is an institution, the game cannot be well equipped," Ikram said on the sidelines of the FIH World Cup.

"In India the game needs a proper environment and time. Look at other top countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, they have a proper system in place, where the top caliber coaches are working in top environments," he said.

"We have discussed India many a times and are still discussing India but we couldn't find a solution. We have to make hockey an institution in India," he added.

The FIH Master Coach, who is in the capital to conduct a coaches' seminar on the sidelines of the World Cup, said it was mandatory for India to revive its domestic structure in order to create a big pool of players.

"A strong domestic structure is the need of the hour. A country should have at least a pool of 300 to 400 top players and select them in the team in preference to the demand of top level tournaments.

"If you have only 30-40 players at hands, then there are slim chances of the game's development in a country," Ikram said.

He heads the FIH's coaching department that recommended Jose Brasa to India and Ikram feels the Spaniard has made good improvement with the team during his seven-month association but needs more time.

"If you look at the result they (India) have improved but performance wise Brasa certainly needs more time. The development of any team is related to time factor. We, the FIH respect all our high performance coaches," said Ikram, who originally hails from Lahore, Pakistan.

"India have showed very good control in the World Cup. They have made some very good fast breaks," he added.

Talking about Pakistan, Ikram feels the country was on the right track irrespective of their dismal performance in the ongoing mega-event.

"Pakistan is working on a long-term project. The new set up is working very hard to develop the game at the grass-root level. They are going to have much more foreign expertise in near future," he said.

Asked whether the 1-4 defeat in the first match against arch-rivals India had anything to do with Pakistan's unimpressive performance in the tournament, he said, "The result of the first game can have elementary effect because a positive start is always important for any team."

"But at this level when the world's 12 best teams are playing, these sort of things should not be a factor," Ikram added.

The Times of India



"The change of rules did us in"

Indian hockey skipper Rajpal Singh tells espnstar.com that he is happy with the team’s show in the World Cup.

By Rajarshi Gupta


Despite the controversies surrounding the pay dispute and the captaincy, the Indian hockey team managed to improve on their number 12 world ranking.

A win against Pakistan and a draw against South Africa despite three losses meant the hosts finished fourth in their group, setting up a clash against Argentina for the final 7-8.

Skipper Rajpal Singh seemed visibly pleased with the way the team played and lauded his boys for putting on a ‘brave show'.

"The team has improved and we played well. Hopefully, we can win on Friday and finish, ranked seventh in the world. On hindsight, that wouldn't be too bad."

The striker, who was named captain by coach Jose Brasa in place of Sandeep Singh, rued some missed chances and the new rules after India failed to secure a semi-final spot.

"We would have fared better had the old rules not changed. That worked against us and the team ended up being on the receiving end," Rajpal said referring to the video referral that had his goal against the Proteas overruled, robbing India of a certain win.

Rajpal refused to believe that the Indians played rough hockey despite some of his players coming under the scanner against Pakistan, England and South Africa.

"I don't think we played rough at all. We played tough and fair hockey. Shivendra Singh was suspended for no fault of his. I have absolutely no complaints against the team."

It is anybody's guess what might happen against Argentina in a day's time but for now, hockey fans in the country should be satisfied with what the team has achieved in a short while. Brasa, after all, had his theories worked out: "We improved by four or five places in the last seven months. If we keep going this way, we should be number one by the end of the Commonwealth Games."

ESPNStar.com



Gurbaj, stealing the spotlight

Man of Steel in three World Cup group games, Gurbaj Singh wants to be the Iron Man of Indian hockey team.


By Bhagya L Ayyavoo



Looks like the ‘shy guy’ of Indian hockey cannot remain so for long. With three award-winning performances, Gurbaj Singh is slowly but steadily earning the Mr Dependable image. The new kid in the Indian World Cup squad, was again under spotlight this week after a creditable role against the South Africans that helped India snap their 3-match losing spree with a 3-3 draw.

Despite India’s struggles with the defence, Gurbaj along with Arjun Halappa and Thushar Khandker have been keeping the mid-field strong. And understandably, Gurbaj feels his World Cup debut has had a steady start. “This is my third best defender award and this is my first World Cup. I am confident I will get better than this,” he told www.espnstar.com

The 21-year-old picks India’s match against European champions England as his best show at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. It was Gurbaj’s cross to Gurwinder Singh Chandi that helped the hosts get off the mark against the cruising Three Lions last Saturday which India lost 3-2.

“The more physical encounter against England was my personal best in this tournament. It was a performance that gave me immense satisfaction,” the wing half said.

Having grown up playing hockey the old-fashioned way, the youngster believes his team is catching on to the new style rather quickly. “Earlier, we were playing Indian-style hockey. But, now we’re trying to play the European way. This is new to us. With some more time, we’re sure to get effective with this style as well.”

With India now left to fight for the 7th-8th spot, the 21-year-old is wary of the opponent’s strength. “We are lagging behind in defence, our man-to-man marking should improve. We’re making many silly errors in the defence. But, this World Cup has been better for us. We’re going to fight for the seventh or eighth spot. The match is going to be very tough. We will be playing against one of the stronger teams (Argentina) in the other pool.”

Gurbaj feels giving more time to the present squad will be the way forward, “The young lads in the team will gain in confidence gradually and will soon become a force to reckon with. If this bunch gets more time together, I am sure we will regain our lost glory,” he concluded.

ESPNStar.com



FIH admits it messed up World Cup

Bad management coupled with an overzealous police force spoilt the hockey World Cup.

The international hockey federation has admitted the World Cup could have organized better.

In an interaction with the media on Wednesday morning, a discussion on the future of the game lost its focus after Press personnel once again complained of mismanagement.

The FIH, which is planning the first world club championship in India from next year, admitted it was at fault and the show could have been better handled.

FIH media manager Arjen Meijer said: "Yes, there were a few things that we could have done better, but you will always face problems when you organise a world event," he said.

Meijer indicated the organisation following up to the event was poor. He said, "Even five days before" the media box was not ready. There have already been complaints about the pitch from many sides, including Indian coach Jose Brasa.

Meijer said the security has left a bad taste in the mouth. In spite of going through a four-tier security, the media has virtually been quarantined and left at the mercy of policemen "following orders" to the T.

The FIH manager said: "After the Pune blast, the police was cautious. When one wants good security, such measures were unavoidable."

However, Meijer said India could be hosting several international tournaments. Happy at the response from the crowd and the sponsors, the FIH obviously knows where the business lies.

Hopefully, the FIH and the local organisers will get their act right.

ESPNStar.com



Umpires trying to get used to referrals, says FIH

Sports Reporter


NEW DELHI: The video referral system, introduced for the first time in the ongoing hockey World Cup, has received bouquets as well as brickbats. Amidst the debate about the usefulness of the system, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Wednesday sought to put things in perspective.

The FIH Umpires' Manager for the World Cup, Clive McMurray, said the system would take some time to settle down.

“The umpires' aim is to conduct a game that is skilful and flowing. They encourage fast and open action…The referral is in the initial phase. The umpires are trying to get used to it,” he said at the first ever FIH media seminar here.

“The referral system is to eliminate the gross errors, to correct those decisions where the umpires have got it horribly wrong and it materially affects the result of the game,” the South African added.

McMurray tried to project a cleaner picture of the umpires. “The umpires are here to serve the game and make it more attractive and entertaining,” he said.

Among other things, the FIH said it would try to popularise the sport and generate more revenue through it. The international federation agreed that there was a need to “move to the next level” as far as preparing the official scoresheets was concerned.

The Hindu



Referral system not perfect, admits FIH

NEW DELHI: After much criticism from all quarters, the International Hockey Federation, on Wednesday, accepted that the newly-introduced referral system has some grey areas which need to be ironed out before making it a permanent part of the game.

In a media summit organised on the sidelines of the hockey World Cup, FIH Umpires' Manager Clive McMurray said the referral system would be analysed after the ongoing mega event.

"The referral system has come up with some issues but it is very much in trial stage. The system has some grey areas and we (FIH) completely understand that," McMurray said at a city hotel.

"Any rule can be problematic while interpreting. That is happening here. The referral system is not to make the game error free but to eliminate gross errors and decision which can change the result of a match," he said.

The South African umpire, however, came in support of his colleagues and said the field officials are doing their job with utmost sincerity.

"The umpires are here to serve the game and not to be bullies. They are here to promote the game of hockey. They are here to make it more attractive and entertaining spectacle. They are here to ensure that the teams play their part in all decisions," McMurray said.

The referral system, introduced for the first time in a World Cup here after making its debut in the Champions Trophy in Australia last year, has been under the scanner right from the start of the tournament.

Not only India coach Jose Brasa and his Australian counterpart Ric Charlesworth were the strong protesters of the system, it also irked South African captain Austin Smith who termed it "bizarre and imperfect".

The Times of India



Turf trauma queers World Cup pitch

NEW DELHI: A senior Sports Authority of India (SAI) official, in his post on a social networking site recently, had criticised the Indian hockey team's below-par showing in the ongoing World Cup. Among other things, he had also talked about how SAI had left no stone unturned in setting up a "state-of-the-art stadium".

He didn't mention about the turf in the middle, though, which is something that needs attention. There's no denying the fact that the Dhyan Chand National Stadium, venue of the World Cup, will rank amongst the best in the world. But when it comes to the hockey pitch, the refrain is common: It's not battle ready to host an important event like the World Cup. The turf has behaved like an under-prepared cricket pitch; the unexpected bounce has been troubling all the teams. There's also talk that the increasing number of injuries to players is because of its uneven nature.

FIH president Leandro Negre too has admitted that the pitch should have been prepared at least six months in advance. "That's the normal time a new turf needs to settle down. But in this case we had no such option as there was hardly any time left to host some practice matches to check its match-worthiness," he had told this paper just before the start of the event.

Indian coach Jose Brasa too has been highlighting the on-pitch problems his team has been facing. "We missed two short-corners because of the uneven bounce. It's difficult to stop the ball, particularly when you are taking the shot from the north end. The pitch plays okay when it's watered but the problems start when it dries up. In fact, we requested the technical officer to water the pitch before the match but he would have none of it," the Spaniard complained after Monday's final league match against South Africa, which ended in a 3-3 draw.

Pakistan coach Shahid Ali Khan too has been quite vocal about the uneven pitch. "It's a bit too wobbly. It's a difficult pitch, but then, it's the same for everyone," he said.

Australian coach Ric Charlesworth was more wary about some particular spots. "There are some spots where the ball suddenly wobbles up. It can injure the players," he said. The players on the field are experiencing the effects first hand. Dutch penalty-corner specialist Taeke Taekema, while not exactly criticising the pitch, felt it would have helped had the turf hosted some practice games before the World Cup. "It's a brand new turf. It needs some time to settle down."

FIH technical manager Roger Webb agreed: "There's no problem with the quality of the pitch or its installation. Poligras is a trustworthy brand recognised by the FIH. But what is important is that any new pitch needs to be tested well. The pitch ought have been ready at least five-six months in advance."

The Times of India



Next world cup in Netherlands?

s2h team

It is the time honoured tradition of the FIH that it always announces the venue of next World Cup in the current One. It seems now only the announcement is not made, though decision has been taken.

If sources in the power corridor are to be believed, the next World Cup venue will be Amsterdam.

This also fits with the thinking of the FIH. India is number one country in terms giving the FIH its revenue, the Netherlands the next. It is obvious therefore the FIH wants to position its assets (tournaments) in India, The Netherlands and Argentina, the top three revenue earners.

It is also gathered Amsterdam will host both men and women's world cup, as it has happened in 1998. Interestingly, both our men and women teams participated that time.

Stick2Hockey.com



India top revenue contributor, World Cup hugely successful: FIH

NEW DELHI: India contributed a major chunk of revenue earned by the International Hockey Federation and the ongoing World Cup is commercially a huge success, the FIH said on Wednesday.

At the FIH media summit, Marketing Manager of the world body Steven Morris revealed that India has been the top revenue contributor, mainly from television, while top hockey countries like Germany, Australia and Pakistan fared very poorly in this aspect.

"Most of FIH revenue come from very few countries. India's contribution in revenue is more than 50 per cent than second-placed the Netherlands. Malaysia, Argentina and USA also contribute," Morris said.

"In countries like Pakistan, Spain, China, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa, Singapore and Middle East, it is difficult to sale hockey on television," he said.

He said looking at the commercial success of the tournament, India would be an integral part of FIH's effort to lift the profile of hockey in the world.

"It is a challenge to administrators how to market hockey in India. Commercially, India is a huge market for hockey and the World Cup a huge success. India will have to be an integral part of any future FIH plans to lift the profile of the game," he said.

"The India-Pakistan match on the first day equalled the TV viewership of the India-Sri Lanka cricket One-Day International matches (last year). We did not expect a hockey match to equal a cricket match in India. The India-Pakistan game is expected to be the most-watched hockey event in history after the data from Pakistan came in," said Morris.

FIH Director General Christophe Troendle said the world body is aiming to treble its revenue in 2010-2016 and India is the main market.

"We are looking to treble the revenue by focusing on three things, increasing FIH events, ours rights and expectations, and raising the profile of FIH and the game. In India, wee are working as joint venture with Hockey India. That is what we want in future," he said.

Troendle said Hockey India was eager to market the game in the country with FIH's joint partnership.

"India is eager to raise the profile of hockey by marketing the game in partnership with FIH," he said.

FIH Communication officer Arjen Meijer said it was natural that top FIH events are held more in countries where the game is sold most.

"It is natural that the top FIH events are held more in those countries where the game is marketable," he said.

FIH Executive member Aaron Sher said the world body was working to reformulate the calendar which would give some top events a fixed time slot like in other sports.

"We did not have any top FIH event between the Beijing Olympics (August 2008) and Champions Trophy in Australia (in December 2009). We need to have more FIH events and at the same time need to give a fixed time slot, like the Wimbledon Championships which is held every August," he said.

Aaron, who is also the FIH Communication and Information Technology Committee chairman, said nothing has been finalised yet regarding the proposed World Hockey Series.

"It is just in the discussion stage and nothing has been finalised. It will be discussed in the Executive Board meeting on March 14-15," he said.

If materialised, the World Hockey Series (stage 3 and 4) will be among the top FIH events besides the World Cup, Champions Trophy and Indoor World Cup.

The FIH second tier events are World Cup and Olympic qualifiers, Champions Challenge I and II and World Hockey Series 1 and 2.

The Times of India



Hold elections or face suspension

FIH president Leandro Negre warns Hockey India

Y.B. Sarangi


— Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

TALKING TOUGH:Leandro Negre has spelt out in no uncertain terms that failure to set its house in order could cost Hockey India dear.


NEW DELHI: In a clear message to different warring factions in Indian hockey, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Wednesday said that it would suspend Hockey India (HI) if elections to the National body were not held by May 31.

FIH President Leandro Negre said it was important that all groups in Indian hockey looked ahead. “The deadline is May 31. After that we will suspend Indian hockey as a member of the FIH,” Negre told The Hindu.

The FIH chief was disgusted with the infighting which had been holding back Indian hockey. “Stop this, be responsible and let us look ahead,” said Negre. He suggested that people who had been into hockey administration at State level for long should bury the hatchet for the larger interest of the game.

“Yes, it is a message to all warring parties to stop quarrelling, come together and hold elections,” said Negre.

Earlier, the FIH had said that an elected HI should be in place before the conduct of the World Cup.

However, the elections, scheduled to be held in the first week of February, had to be put on hold following a Rajasthan High Court order staying the minutes of a meeting where affiliations to State units had been finalised.

Several other court cases were also filed in different parts of the country and the HI was asked to sort out the mess to pave the way for affiliations and elections. If the HI is suspended by the FIH, the players will be the ultimate sufferers as the National teams would not be allowed to participate in any international competition.

Negre was unhappy that some people were trying to pose hurdles in the election process. “We have 30 units who have completed the formalities. Only one unit has some problem and it goes to the court and stops the entire process. The majority suffers because of that,” he said.

The FIH President appealed to all stakeholders in the sport to raise their voices against this. “Everybody — the players, coaches, press — have a role to play,” he said.

Gill's cooperation

Negre appreciated the cooperation of Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill in this regard. “Mr. Gill was very supportive. He wanted that elections are held democratically, in a free and fair manner,” the FIH chief said.

The ongoing World Cup has been surrounded with several controversies. Negre, however, was happy that it went on nicely despite the hiccups.

Negre favoured the video referrals, one of the most talked-about topics in the World Cup, despite its shortcomings.

“The referrals were good for the game. We had some very good decisions because of the referrals. The only problem is when a counterattack takes place. It should be done immediately. We have to meet and find out a solution,” he said.

The Hindu



SA Indoor Teams Announced

SA Women’s Indoor Team Announced


The South African Hockey Association today announced the Senior Women’s Indoor Hockey team that will be participating in the upcoming Indoor Africa Cup to be held in Windhoek, Namibia from 01- 09 May 2010. The teams participation at this tournament is subject to the following: that there are at least 3 teams participating and that all costs are born by the selected team.

Team:

Camilla Jasson - Eastern Gauteng
Elazane Smith - North West
Pietie Coetzee - Southern Gauteng
Marsha Marescia - Southern Gauteng
Loreen Irvine - North West
Lisa-Marie Deetleefs - Southern Gauteng
Cindy Botha - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Celia Evans - North West
Kelly Madsen - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Isaenelo Pholo - Southern Gauteng
Kim Pretorius - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Terri-lee Chelin - KwaZulu Natal Coastal

Non Travelling Reserves:

Tracy Bestall - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Fay Irvine - North West
Sullet Damons - North West
Leandri Janse van Rensburg - Southern Gauteng

SA Men’s Indoor Team Announced


The South African Hockey Association today announced the Senior Men’s Indoor Hockey team that will be participating in the upcoming Indoor Africa Cup to be held in Windhoek, Namibia from 01- 09 May 2010. The teams participation at this tournament is subject to the following: that there are at least 3 teams participating and that all costs are born by the selected team.

Team:

Ryan Gray - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Marc DeJager - Southern Gauteng
Darryn Gallagher - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Simon Johnson - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Lance Louw - Southern Gauteng
Stuart Gower-Jackson - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Dylan Piatti - Western Province
Shawn Davenhill - Southern Gauteng
Michael Botha - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Ryan Beaumont - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Craig Haley - KwaZulu Natal Inland
Miguel De Graca - Southern Gauteng

Non-Travelling Reserves:

Gowan Jones - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Matthew Fairweather - North West
Vaughn Erasmus - Western Province
Dylan Coombes - Southern Gauteng
Bruce Grant - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Dale Isaacs - Western Province
Sihle Ntuli - KwaZulu Natal Coastal
Ryan Roberts - Southern Gauteng

SA Hockey Association media release



KZN Inland Men & Southern Gauteng Ladies Win Senior Indoor IPT

KZN Inland Men & Southern Gauteng Ladies won the SA Indoor Hockey Tournament which took place at the YMCA indoor hall in Pietermaritzburg from the 4th – 6th March.

The ladies final was a tight affair with the Southern Gauteng ladies edging out a gutsy North West 4-3. The scores were tied at 3-3 and looking certain to go to extra time when Sarah Harley scored the winner with 10 seconds left on the clock.

The men’s final was just as tight with KZN Inland beating Southern Gauteng 3-2. It was Craig Haley’s golden goal that separated the two teams after the scores were deadlocked 2-2 at fulltime and. 

Both finals were a fantastic display of indoor hockey where victory could have gone either way.

The South African Indoor Teams to participate in the World Cup Qualifier in Namibia in May will be announced soon by the South African Hockey Association.

Final Placings:

Men:

1. KZN Inland
2. Southern Gauteng
3. KZN Raiders
4. Western Province
5. KZN Inland B
6. North West
7. KZN Mynahs
8. Eastern Gauteng
9. Namibia
10. Matabeleland

Women:

1. Southern Gauteng
2. North West
3. KZN Raiders
4. KZN Inland
5. KZN Mynahs
6. Eastern Gauteng
7. Namibia
8. KZN Inland B

SA Hockey Association media release