News for 01 January 2012

All the news for Sunday 1 January 2012


2011 Champions trophy analysis


 

By Shiv Jagday

There is no question that the game of hockey has changed and improved tremendously in the past two decades - especially in the following areas:

  • Circulating the ball in the back
  • Total team possession- passing and receiving on the run
  • Intelligent off-the-ball running, to create quality goal scoring opportunities
  • Execution of set plays

At the same time, there is a concern that the game has not improved as much as it should have, in some key areas such as:

  • Defending as a team, when all the members of the defending team are not available in their own half
  • Defensive strategies and tactics - Stance, Shadowing, Delaying, Channeling, etc.
  • Tackling - Awareness of one's positional play, while employing the right tackle at the optimum time
  • Defensive Anticipation - Reading the play and the opponent's mind, and anticipating plays before they happen
  • Possession skills of the defenders under pressure, and clearance in the D

Before we analyze the results of the 2011 Champions Trophy, let's look at a few statistics that emerged out of the tournament.

I. Goals Scored per Match - 5.17

  • Good for the spectators and the forwards, but does not speak well for the defense

II. Most Goals Conceded - South Korea (26)

  • This is a reflection of their indoor style tackling, with their heels glued to the ground

III. Total Goals Scored - 124

  • This is the highest goals scored since the 2007 Champions Trophy. Have the forwards improved or the defenders have gone weaker in this interim?

IV. Total Field Goals Scored - 89

  • Spain scored the highest number of field goals (15), due to the outstanding work of their forwards, who have excellent 1-on-1 skills.
  • It was good to see the two best offensive and goal-thirsty teams - Australia and Spain - play in the final.

WHAT DOES NOT WORK WELL:

Indoor style tackling in an outdoor hockey game does not work well. This stance forces the defenders to glue their heals on the turf, while diminishing their mobility. Instead, if they tackle while being on their toes, this allows them to react and cover in a dynamic game situation. More importantly, it propels the defensive situation into a quick offensive counter, leaving virtually very little time for the opponents to cover.

An example of the above was demonstrated in the Australia vs. Netherlands semi-final match in the Champions Trophy.

During the second half of the semi-final, the Dutch left winger received a ball near the opponent's left side 23 m line. He was challenged by the Australian defender Matthew Swann (2011 FIH Young Male Player of the Year). Matthew applied the poke-and-lunge tackle, while faking to commit, but not doing so. This enticed the Dutch forward to attempt to dodge Matthew, which was what Matthew wanted any way.

This resulted in Matthew stealing the ball, who then passed it first time to his right-half, while still on his toes. The right-half made a 40 m aerial pass to the right side, just before the 23 meters line. This tricked Taeke Taekema, the Dutch deep defender and penalty corner specialist to take the bait - miss-trapping the aerial ball.

Jamie Dwyer pounced on the loose ball like a fox, with ample time and space to exploit and enter the Dutch D. He made no mistake in scoring his team's 4th goal, thus taking the game even further out of the Dutch reach.

This goal also increased Jamie's tally of field goals to 7, giving him the honor of scoring the highest number of field goals in the Champions Trophy. At an awards ceremony during the Champions Trophy tournament, Jamie was also announced as the FIH Male Player of the Year. A well deserved honor, indeed.

WHAT WORKS WELL:

New Zealand vs. South Korea in 2011 Champions Trophy

What works well are goals that don't involve so much of brute force, as much as they involve grace, class, creativity and fine touches.

Take the example of the first field goal scored by New Zealand in their pool match against South Korea in the 2011 Champions Trophy. Please refer to the sequence of photographs above.

The play maker for this goal was Steen Edwards # 31 of New Zealand , who received a pass on the run from his left half and brought it to his right side with a soft one touch, leaving his Korean marker (captain Cha Bok) bewildered. Steen ran with the ball at an optimum speed, scanned his passing options, and made a well connected pass to his teammate Shea Mcaleese # 25.

While Steen was surveying the field for options, Shea took a double lead off the ball, near the opponents D, in order to receive the pass from Steen on his open stick. Shea touched it softly, to bring it at an optimum spot, and score from a quick short back swing and follow through, while keeping his upper body low. The goal was scored at such a lightning speed, yet so gently and softly that the Koreans did not know what hit them.

These are the type of goals which leave ever lasting memories. We need more goals like these to excite the fans.

WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED UPON:

International hockey is one of the most video recorded sports in the world. Every top national team has video analysts, whose job is to provide detailed information on every aspect of the opponent's game to the coaching staff. Following are some questions for introspection and reflection:

  • What type of information do the video analysts presently provide their coaching staff?
  • What actionable items are the coaching staff looking for from the video analysts?
  • Are the coaching staff seeing things the way they should be seen, or the way they would like to see?
  • In a dynamic game situation, how are the coaching staff correcting and optimizing their team's performance?

Analyzing the various inputs streamed by the video analysts to optimize their team's performance, is something that can be improved upon.

For a case study, let's analyze the Champions Trophy pool match between Australia and Pakistan, where Australia hammered 6 goals against Pakistan, 5 of which were field goals. A progressive analysis of the way the Australians scored their 6 goals is given below, with minimal change of tactics from the Pakistani side in preventing simple, recurring errors:

Goal # 1 (Field Goal)

Jamie Dwyer received a pass from his left-in and entered the D from the left side of the field, just near the goal line, and scored a goal from a narrow angle. According to the commentators, he meant to cross the ball, but the ball inadvertently got deflected from the pads of the experienced goalkeeper Salman Akbar into the goal. It was an easy, albeit lucky goal.

Analysis: Salman was caught standing upright, from where it is hard to react quickly. Instead, Salman should have been on his toes, with his upper body low, thus optimally suited to make a save. A simple stance correction on the goalkeeper's part could have prevented this goal.

Goal # 2 (Field Goal)

Right full-back Mohammed Imran, the captain of the Pakistan team, intercepted the ball near the left side of the D top and started running with it, employing penetrating dodges, while being chased by the Australian forwards. He executed a push pass to his forward in between the 23 meters and the center line. Matthew Swann # 20 of Australia intercepted the ball and passed it first time to his teammate floating in the D, resulting in a field goal.

Analysis: At the elite Champions Trophy level, players should know when, where and how to run with the ball in their deep defensive zone, which is a high-risk red zone. Imran should have run slowly at a 45 degree negative angle towards his left, where he has ample space. Instead, Imran is making life harder for himself by running towards the Australians. His left-half should also have gone wide to the left sideline, thus creating more width and space to receive an outlet pass from the D.

Goal # 3 (Penalty Corner)

Very well converted by Luke Doerner of Australia.

Goal # 4 (Field Goal)

Jason Wilson of Australia crosses the ball from the left side of the field, near the side and baseline. Finding himself unmarked, Jamie Dwyer, who was in the striking circle (near the baseline and left side post), converted the cross into a goal. This gives rise to two questions - How can a player of Jamie's caliber - 5-times FIH Player of the Year - be left alone and unmarked in the D (see photograph below)? Secondly, how can a goalkeeper of Salman Akbar's caliber allow a goal to be scored from such a narrow angle?

Analysis: Bring clarity in defensive marking responsibilities. Players should know who marks whom, when and where, so that no opposing team striker is left dangerously alone in the circle. Additionally, decide on when to use man-to-man defense, when to use zonal defense, and when to use a combination of the two. This requires long hours of quality training with simulated game situations.

Goal # 5 (Field Goal)

Mohammed Imran, the captain of the Pakistani team, is again seen running with the ball on the top left side of the D, eventually resulting in a turnover, which leads to a goal for the opponents.

Analysis: As the photographs above show, Imran did have enough space to clear the ball. Instead of advancing towards the Australian forward, Imran should have run slowly at a angle towards the left side, and simultaneously, the left-half should have also gone wide to receive a pass, creating space for a clearance pass from the D. Goals 2 and 5, came about due to the same mistake committed by the Pakistani defense. While all players do make mistakes, what separates good from great players is the ability to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them.

Goal # 6 (Field Goal)

Pakistani defender Rizwan Muhammad tackles the ball on the top right side of the D, and starts running with the ball while trying to dodge the Australian forwards. The pressure put forth by the Australian forwards resulted in a turnover, and eventually a field goal.

Analysis: Learn to avoid a head-on clash with big and strong built players like the Dutch, Germans and Australians. Pick and choose your battles wisely.

Pakistan's Lone Goal

Mohammed Imran scored a well placed penalty corner goal, thus reducing the final score to 6-1. If Imran was the reason for Pakistan conceding 2 goals, he should also be given credit for the goal he scored, even though the net gain of his labors (-2 +1) did not work in Pakistan's favor.

CONCLUSION

When one is competing in a prestigious tournament like the Champions Trophy, the playing standard and decision making ability have to be of the highest caliber. There is zero margin for error. Teams like Australia, Netherlands and Germany will simply pounce on any rookie mistakes that their opponents make. One cannot afford to make school boy mistakes at this level.

Australia has won the last 4 Champions Trophy titles (2008, 09, 10, 11). Australia has won the 2010 World Cup. Australia has won the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Can the mighty Australians be conquered in the 2012 London Olympics?

London is a lucky city for Charlesworth as a player - he was the captain of the Australian team that won its first ever World Cup in 1986. Will London prove lucky to Charlesworth the coach? How about the home team Great Britain, which won the silver medal the one time the World Cup was held in London (1986). Only time will tell which team will win the London 2012 Olympic hockey gold.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Sincere thanks to Live FIH.tv for covering the Champions trophy - the action photographs in this article are courtesy of this site. If you have any questions about this article, please contact Shiv at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Indian women hockey captain Ashunta used brother's shoe to practice

RANCHI: Indian women's hockey team captain Ashunta Lakra hardly imagined she would one day literally step into the shoes of her brother Bimal Lakra when she took his old pair of shoes to practice on the Astroturf ground.

"I took my brother Bimal's old pair as practising without a pair of good shoes can lead to injuries on Astroturf grounds," Ashunta said in an interview.

"Those days it was difficult even to pay hostel fee regularly, let alone buying a pair of good shoes which cost about Rs 1000," she said.

Giving credit to her international hockey playing brothers, Bimal and Birendra, for inspiring her to take the game, she made her debut with a bang when she became a part of the Indian under-18 girls team that lifted the Asia Cup in 2000.

Eleven years later, Ashunta has literally stepped into the shoes of her famous brothers going one step further to become the captain of the women's national side.

Now the midfielder's focus is on the six-nation tournament in Delhi as it is the last chance for her team to qualify for Olympics.

"We are ready and geared up to give our best in the tournament scheduled in February. Only the team finishing at the top can visit London for the 2012 games," she said.

Ashunta's march towards hockey glory was not smooth. "Like other tribal boys and girls in the rural areas (of Jharkhand), I used to play with bent bamboo stick in 'Khashi' (goat as prize for the winning team) tournaments.

"Then I joined the Bariatu Hockey Hostel in Ranchi. I had to take an old stick from one of my brothers during those difficult years," Ashunta, who is doing her BA at the Gosner College in Ranchi, said.

"There is no short cut to success. One has to work hard if one wants to accomplish success in any sphere of life," she said, but suggested that "No budding hockey player should endure such difficulties, and should be given sports kit at the beginning itself".

She hails from Simdega's Nangade village which borders Theshu Toli from where Sylvanus Dungdung went on to win Moscow Olympics gold medal as a member of the Indian hockey team in 1980.

"He (Dungdung) has been an inspirational figure for several hockey players from Jharkhand. We will be happy if his name is considered for Bharat Ratna," she added.

Why does she want Dungdung to be recognised with the highest award?

"All of us started our career without any logistics, and played with bamboo sticks in local tournaments making our efforts all the more commendable. Besides, hockey can attract the present generation," she argues.

Dungdung joins to say, "During our days, we friends used to fetch wood from the forest, bent it and dried it to play Khashi tournaments.

"When we used to return home tired and hungry, our parents asked us to serve ourselves with bamboo stick and ball for dinner. Still we loved the sport which fetched us laurels later on," he added.

The Times of India