News for 29 January 2012

All the news for Sunday 29 January 2012


New Zealand surprise by drawing with Argentina

Argentina FIH Champions Trophy - Day 1



Argentina FIH Champions Trophy – Day 1 – Argentina v New Zealand (Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

New Zealand surprised at the Argentina FIH Champions Trophy by drawing 2-2 with host Argentina. The Netherlands made the perfect start to the defence of their title with a 3-1 victory over China in the opening match in Rosario. Great Britain celebrated a deserved 3-0 win against Japan. Germany beat Korea 4-2.

Late goals by Welten and Agliotti give Netherlands victory
Pool A – Netherlands 3-1 China


After a goalless first half, The Netherlands defeated China thanks to late strikes from Lidewij Welten and Marilyn Agliotti. It was their 7th victory over China in their 12th CT encounter.

It took The Netherlands just over three minutes to win their first penalty corner. Dutch specialist Maartje Paumen took responsibility but her attempt was well saved by China goalkeeper Zhang Lei. Just three minutes later China came up dangerously in the Dutch circle winning their first penalty corner which they missed.

Both teams failed to create good open play goal-scoring opportunities in the first half. The Olympic Champions had more ball possession during the first 35 minutes but couldn't put themselves on the scoreboard. They failed to score from six penalty corners in total. Paumen was denied four times, while efforts from Eva de Goede and Kim Lammers were also blocked. The counter-attacking Chinese managed to break through the Dutch defence a couple of times but failed to really test goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek. The last Champions Trophy encounter between these teams that produced a scoreless 1st half came in 2009, when the Dutch won 1-0 through a penalty corner goal by Marilyn Agliotti.

The second half started off with a great attack by the Dutch. Lidewij Welten (37’) won possession near the circle line and shot immediately. Lammers jumped out of the way which seemed to have irritated Chinese goalie Zhang. It was Welten’s second Champions Trophy career goal which gave her team the lead. The Olympic silver medallists from China struck back through their Champions Trophy all-time top scorer Ma Yibo (46’) who converted China’s fourth penalty corner in the match.

Play got hectic afterwards as China started becoming the better side. They put the Dutch under great pressure, but failed to win any penalty corners. The Netherlands took the lead by another goal from Welten (64') which came out of the blue. The goal gave the European Champions extra confidence, and Marilyn Agliotti (69’) finished another Dutch attack to secure a third successive victory in the opening match of a Champions Trophy competition.

More information about the match NED v CHN can be found by clicking here.

Great Britain celebrate deserved victory over Japan
Pool A – Great Britain 3-0 Japan


Great Britain continued their remarkable record of having never suffered a Champions Trophy defeat when Crista Cullen gets on the score-sheet thanks to a 3-0 win against Japan. The 26 year old scored the opening goal and Great Britain have never lost a Champions Trophy match when her name was mentioned on the score-sheet.  

Great Britain started with great pace in their first match against Japan. They controlled the game, having more ball possession and circle penetrations but failed to score. However, continued pressure from Great Britain resulted in the first penalty corner. Crista Cullen’s drag-flick (21’) found its way into the net, giving the host of the London 2012 Olympic Games the lead. After Alex Danson was tackled near the circle-line Great Britain received their second penalty corner in this match. This time Cullen’s flick went wide.

Shortly after Helen Richardson (33’) doubled the lead scoring her first field goal in her Champions Trophy career.  Great Britain have never lost after leading by two goals in Champions Trophy competition, and that trend was continue in this fixture.  
In the second half, Japan earned their first penalty corner which led to a penalty stroke after the ball hit a British defender’s body. Team-captain Kate Walsh called for a video referral. The British referral was approved by the video umpire and play went on with British ball possession.

Japan were more in the game towards the middle of the second half keeping the British defence busy. Towards the end of the match Great Britain increased pace led by their world class striker Alex Danson. Japan became stronger after Laura Unsworth was sent off with a green card given by umpire Carolina de la Fuente. Danson (65') destroyed all Japanese hopes when she tipped in a high ball into the net making it 3-0. Japan took their video referral to ask about dangerous play which was denied.

Japanese team-captain Yukari Yamamoto and Rika Komazawa played her 200th international match today.

More information about the match GBR v JPN can be found by clicking here.

Powerful Germans defeat Korea
Pool B – Germany 4-2 Korea


The first match in Pool B started with fire as Germany scored the fastest opening goal in this competition so far. Christina Schütze (2’) scored from Germany’s first penetration into the Korean circle to give them a 1-0 lead. Germany's previous fastest goal came in the third minute of the 1997 Champions Trophy final Germany v Australia (1-2) when Britta Becker scored.

Korea struck back immediately thanks to a successful counter-attack by Cheon Eun-Bi (5’). Shortly after the Koreans, who impressed by winning the 4-Nations-Tournament in Cordoba, took the lead. Kim Jong-Hee (12’) was able to shoot into the empty German goal after receiving a pass from Kim Jong-Eun, who beat the advancing German goalkeeper Yvonne Frank. Germany were not impressed and equalized thanks to Anke Brockmann (17’). The 23 year old smashed in a penalty corner in her first Champions Trophy match. Just before halftime Celine Wilde (34’) gave the lead back to Germany scoring a tremendous goal from the top of the circle.

As soon as the second half has started Lisa Hahn (36’), the other German playing her Champions Trophy debut, increased the lead when she finished her circle penetration with a skillful backhand stroke. Katharina Otte had the chance to increase the score as she beat the Korean goalie with a stunning shot but her attempt was denied by the umpire because the shot was adjudged to have come from outside the circle-line. Korea were urgent to score afterwards but German goalkeeper Frank did a good job in defending shots early and her defence supported her well clearing quickly. The Koreans were unlucky when Park Mi-Yhun’s attempt hit the post.

More information about the match GER v KOR can be found by clicking here.

New Zealand surprise by drawing with Argentina
Pool B – Argentina 2-2 New Zealand


New Zealand are the surprise of day one after achieving a tied result against the World Champions. Although Argentina fought back after being 0-2 down, the result is still a success for the Black Sticks.

Argentina started off great on their home soil but failed to score from open play. New Zealand were penetrating the circle through counter-attacks. Although every Argentine ball possession made the crowd cheer the Black Sticks were the team to deserve the first penalty corner in this match. While the current World Champions did not win any penalty corner in the first half, New Zealand who have lost their last two matches against Argentina in Cordoba, surprised by opening the scoring. Stacey Michelsen (28') opened the scoring from open play. The last time Argentina were trailing at half-time in a Champions Trophy match was in 2011 against Korea 1-1 (0-1).

In the second half New Zealand doubled lead after Samantha Harrison (50’) flicked the rebound coming from the Argentine goalkeeper Belen Succi into the net. One minute later Argentine Martina Cavallero (51') scored in her debut match and the crowd freaked out. The Black Sticks called the video umpire but they lost their referral. “Las Leonas”, who have won the World Cup 2010 in the same stadium, kept on penetrating the Black Sticks’ circle and created several opportunities but couldn’t defeat the outstanding defence from New Zealand. Three minutes before the end of the match Delfina Merino (67') finally equalized for Argentina after converting the rebound of a penalty corner. It was the second time Argentina have come back from being two goals down in a Champions Trophy match.

Black Stick Clarissa Eshuis played her 100th cap today.

More information about the match ARG v NZL can be found by clicking here.

FIH site



Great Britain off to a winning start in Champions Trophy.


Crista Cullen takes a penalty corner for Great Britain in their opening match of the 2012 Champions Trophy against Japan. Photo: Great Britain Hockey/ Frank Uijlenbroek

On a hot and sunny afternoon in Rosario, Great Britain women’s hockey team got their Champions Trophy campaign underway with a 3-0 victory over Japan putting them at the top of Pool A.  Earlier on in the afternoon the Netherlands won their first game against China 3-1.

Canterbury’s Abi Walker and Leicester’s Anne Panter watched the first game from the sidelines.

Great Britain started strongly with several circle penetrations and half chances in the first ten minutes, Reading’s Alex Danson causing many of the early headaches for Japan to deal with.

On 21 minutes Leicester’s Crista Cullen made it 1-0 scoring her 18th goal in Great Britain colours with a powerful drag flick from the first penalty corner of the game.  Cullen narrowly missed adding her second a short time after following some great work from Danson on the edge of the circle to win Great Britain their second penalty corner.

Great Britain continued to press in the closing minutes of the first half and with just two minutes to go some great team work from Slough’s Ashleigh Ball and Cullen saw them take possession back.  Following a play of advantage from the umpire in the circle Reading’s Helen Richardson found herself with space and time to smash the ball into the back of the net past the near post to make it 2-0.

Great Britain started the second half very much as they had ended the first with Danson creating a chance in the opening minute.  Japan however weren’t giving up without a fight and they tested the Great Britain defence several times in the first ten minutes pushing hard and earning themselves their first penalty corner of the game.

The corner resulted in a penalty stroke initially being awarded to Japan, but GB successfully challenged and overturned the decision.  The video referral showing that the initial shot had been going wide when Helen Richardson stopped the ball with her arm.

During the second half Japan’s number 4, Sachimi Iwao, made two goal saving tackles against Alex Danson to keep Japan in the game.  Moments later Danson was again involved in the action, earning her team their third penalty corner of the game.  Great Britain failed to convert their chance and continued to be placed under pressure by Japan who certainly enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the second half.

Following Japan’s second penalty corner of the game, which they failed to convert, Leicester’s Chloe Rogers took the ball the length of the pitch and crossed a fantastic ball to Danson who was waiting on the goal line to make it 3-0.  Japan took their video referral to ask about dangerous play which was denied.  The game finished 3-0.

Speaking after the game Great Britain’s head coach, Danny Kerry said, “We were dominant in the first half and given the conditions I’m really pleased with the team’s performance.  We knew it would be a tough game today and the great execution of the first corner was really important for us to gain control early on.”

Great Britain’s Captain Kate Walsh, was pleased with her team’s opening performance saying, “This was a professional start to the tournament and we stuck to the game plan well.” Kerry highlighted some concerns over the scheduling of the Pool matches for the tournament with Pool A games all taking place during the afternoon and Pool B games in the cooler evening temperature.  Walsh, however added, “We have a very physically fit team and have worked hard to overcome the heat.”

GREAT BRITAIN 3 (2)

Crista Cullen 21 (PC)                                                                 
Helen Richardson 33 (F)                                                            
Alex Danson  64 (F)

JAPAN 0 (0)

Great Britain squad v Japan

Name (Club) Position

Started


Beth Storry (Reading) Goalkeeper
Crista Cullen (Leicester) Defender
Emily Maguire (Reading) Defender
Laura Unsworth (Loughborough Students) Defender
Sally Walton (Bowdon Hightown) Defender
Kate Walsh (Reading) Defender
Ashleigh Ball (Slough) Midfielder
Helen Richardson (Reading) Midfielder
Chloe Rogers (Leicester) Midfielder
Alex Danson (Reading) Forward
Nicola White (Slough) Forward

Substitutes Used

Natalie Seymour (EuroCanterbury) Defender
George Twigg (Clifton) Midfielder
Laura Bartlett (Reading) Forward
Hannah Macleod (Leicester) Forward
Sarah Thomas (No Club) Forward

Did Not Play

Abi Walker (EuroCanterbury) Goalkeeper
Anne Panter (Leicester) Defender

Tournament Standings

Pool A

1. Great Britain (3 pts)
2. Netherlands (3 pts)
3. China (0 pts)
4. Japan (0 pts)

Pool B

1. Argentina (1 pts)
2. Germany (3 pts)
3. New Zealand (1 pts)
4. Korea (0 pts)

Great Britain Hockey media release



Black Sticks Women draw with Argentina in opening match of Champions Trophy

In their opening match of the 2012 Champions Trophy the Black Sticks have drawn two all with the host nation Argentina.

Coach Mark Hager said it was great to get a draw and felt that the team had definitely improved from the Four Nations in Cordoba.

The Black Sticks started tentatively but soon settled and started to make some promising runs into the Argentinean circle.

In the 18th minute New Zealand forced what was to be their only penalty corner of match, however it was poorly executed and the resulting counter attack by Argentina nearly saw the home side go one nil up but the shot was pushed wide.

With eight minutes to go in the first half Stacey Michelsen, who had an outstanding game, broke past three defenders and chopped the ball past goalkeeper Belen Succi to put the New Zealanders in the lead.

With this goal the Black Sticks gained confidence for the remaining minutes of the first half and defended well as Argentina pressured the New Zealand goal in search of the equaliser.

In the second half the Black Sticks continued to attack strongly but it was Argentina who had the first opportunity of the half with a penalty corner but the drag flick was wide.

The Black Sticks doubled their lead midway through the second half after Katie Glynn’s initial shot was saved by Succi and the rebound fell to Samantha Harrison who made no mistake in flicking the ball into the net.

This sparked the Argentineans into action and they came back immediately and scored with a well taken field goal.

Argentina really lifted their intensity and continued to pressure the New Zealand defence, forcing two more penalty corners. The first was well saved but the second was an excellent variation which was converted with less than five minutes to play.

The Black Sticks scrambled well on defence with standouts being captain Kayla Sharland and Clarissa Eshuis who notched up her 100th cap for New Zealand today.

With less than a minute to go Argentina were awarded their fourth penalty corner of the match but it was again well defended by the Black Sticks who courageously held on for the draw against the number two ranked side in the world.

The Black Sticks next match is against Korea at 9.30am tomorrow (NZ time).

Hawke’s Bay is the principal partner of the Black Sticks Men and Women.

RESULT:
Fulltime Score: 2-2

Halftime Score: 1-0 (NZ lead)

NZ goal Scorers: Stacey Michelsen, Samantha Harrison
Milestone: Clarissa Eshuis 100 caps

Hockey New Zealand Media release



Black Sticks draw with Argentina

KEVIN TUTTY


The Black Sticks came within four minutes of an upset against host team Argentina in the first round of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament at Rosario, Argentina today.

New Zealand led 2-0 14min into the secondhalf but sustained attacks by the home team enabled them to climb back into the game and tie the game 2-2 four minutes from time.

Argentina had a chance to win from a penalty corner with a minute left but New Zealand repelled the shot and clung on for a critical point.

The home side had its star and the seven-time World Player of the Year, Luciana Aymar, to thank for its revival. Playing in her home city Aymar took control of the game in the final quarter and tormented the New Zealand defence with her sublime skills, several times beating three or four players.

She set up the penalty corner that resulted in Argentina's equaliser and also had a strong hand in forcing the penalty corner that could have given Argentina the win.

New Zealand was pleased to emerge from the game against the world's second ranked team with a point after some unflattering results in their lead up games.

But in the format being used for this tournament New Zealand could finish bottom of its pool and still go through to win the final.

All eight teams at the tournament will get the opportunity to play for the medals after pool play.

New Zealand stunned Argentina when it went a goal ahead 7min from halftime, Stacey Michelsen flicking home a loose ball.

The Black Sticks would have been 2-0 up 12min into the second but for a superb save by the Argentina goalkeeper from a Gemma Flynn shot.

They eventually went ahead when Samanthan Harrison scored from a rebound off the goalkeeper after 19min.

Bouyed by the home crowd Argentina began their fightback. They scored through Martina Cavallero just 2min after New Zealand scored and Silvina D'elia added the second from a penalty corner deflection.

The Black Sticks play South Korea this morning in their second match.

Other results:
Pool A: Netherlands 3 China 1, Great Britain 3 Japan 0.
Pool B: Germany 4 South Korea 2.

Stuff



Black Sticks draw with Argentine hosts

By Michael Burgess


It wasn't the win they were after but New Zealand has opened their Champions Trophy campaign with a creditable 2-2 draw with hosts Argentina in Rosario

Indeed the Black Sticks may reflect on the game as one that got away, after they held a 2-0 lead early in the second half.

They were only four minutes away from an historic Champions Trophy win over Argentina but the hosts managed an equaliser in the 67th minute.

But it was a fair result, as Argentina came home strongly, forcing three penalty corners in the dying stages of the match - including one from which they scored the equalising goal.

It was a hell of a comeback from the South Americans, the first time they have been able to do so from a 2-0 deficit in a Champions Trophy match since 2002.

After inconsistent form in the lead up games, this result will give Mark Hager's team something to build on for the rest of the campaign and the belief that they can compete at this level.

In front of a passionate home crowd, New Zealand silenced the spectators for long periods with some spirited play though the South Americans dominated possession and territory.

The Black Sticks absorbed some early pressure before working their way back into the game, though they found it hard to penetrate the massed circle defence of Argentina.

The match opened up as the first half wore on and the Black Sticks found some fluency going forward.

Their first real chance came after 18 minutes via a penalty corner but they were unable to create a clear shooting opportunity, continuing an unfortunate pattern of recent weeks.

The first goal of the match came just before the half hour and it was a stunner.

Seeing Luciana Aymar's stick skills up close obviously inspired Stacey Michelsen as the midfielder came up with a stunning 40m run, eluding four defenders as she weaved her way into the area. As the Argentine goalkeeper advanced, the 20-year-old slid the ball beautifully over her into the goal.

The crowd fell silent. Two minutes later and the lead could have doubled, Charlotte Harrison just failing to connect with a cross six yards out.

If the spectators were stunned, they were shocked fourteen minutes into the second period when New Zealand doubled their lead.

After an excellent build-up, Katie Glynn's backhand shot was saved by Belen Succi but Sam Harrison was on hand to lift the rebound over the keeper. It was all New Zealand deserved, as two minutes earlier Gemma Flynn's angled shot had produced a wonder save from Succi, somehow knocking it away with her right shin.

Argentina had to respond and they did, though from a weird channel.

They had applied incessant pressure - without managing too many clear cut openings - before Martina Carvallero scored in the 51st minute. There was some doubt over the strike but after a prolonged video referral the goal was eventually allowed.

The hosts then laid siege to the New Zealand, equalising with their second penalty corner, after a clever deflection from Delfina Merino, in the 67th minute.

Pool B rivals Germany won an entertaining match 4-2 over Korea, the highlight being a spectacular half volleyed goal from German Celine Wilde in the first half.

In Pool A, Holland opened with a 3-1 victory over China, the third Champions Trophy tournament in succession that the Dutch have won their opening match.

Great Britain were perhaps the most impressive, clinically disposing of Japan 3-0 and have now not conceded a penalty corner goal from the last 21 penalty corners awarded against them.

New Zealand's next match is against Korea tomorrow at 9:30am (NZST).

New Zealand 2
Argentina 2

The New Zealand Herald



It's back to basics for Black Sticks

SIMON PLUMB


Women's Black Sticks coach Mark Hager is calling for focus on basic skills to get their Olympic campaign back on track.

Ahead of today's tricky Champions Trophy opener against the world's second-ranked side and hosts Argentina, Hager – who has transformed the national women's team from 12th in the world to bronze medallists at last year's tournament – says his squad have fallen behind on their Olympic schedule.

Losing all four matches at the Four Nations, this month's lead-in tournament to the prestigious Champions Trophy, they need to look at why they're struggling for possession and leaking goals, Hager says. And if they don't start now, living up to their medal expectation in London is going to become extremely difficult.

"The Four Nations was disappointing and I know all the players were frustrated that we started off so slowly. We're nowhere near where we need to be," Hager told Sunday News from Rosario, Argentina.

"We know there's a huge challenge ahead and we need to pick it up if we're going to be competitive. There's just way too many turnovers at the moment.

"We're not making good decisions on the ball, and we're miss-trapping or making bad passes. They're things we really need to improve."

This year's Champions Trophy, the last major event before the London Games, has been controversially reformatted by world hockey body the FIH.

Ironically, it's set to benefit the Black Sticks, buying them time in the search for form.

"We play three pool games and then quarterfinals. You can conceivably not win a game in the rounds and still make the quarterfinal," Hager said.

"I'd prefer it to be the old system because it rewards consistency."

There'll be no excuses for the Black Sticks. "We'll just worry about ourselves and get back to basics, that's the key," he said.

Black Sticks' schedule (all NZT):

Today, 12pm v Argentina. Tomorrow, 9.30am v Korea. Wednesday, 9.30am v Germany. Second-phase fixtures TBC.

Stuff



Funny way to run a tourney

By Michael Burgess


The 2012 Champions Trophy will have a different format to previous editions, one that has few fans among the Black Sticks. It resembles something that the Monty Python team might have come up with if asked to design a sporting tournament.

Take eight teams. Play 12 group matches. Then put the same eight teams into quarter-finals.

Only time will tell but Black Sticks coach Mark Hager certainly has reservations about the new format for the tournament, which starts today in Rosario.

His main beef is that the three group games could essentially count for nothing under the structure introduced by the FIH.

"I'm not a big fan," admits Hager, "I thought the previous system worked well, as we saw last year in both the men's and women's [Champions Trophies]. I don't think this format rewards consistency; a lot comes down to one performance on the day."

The eight competing teams are divided into two groups of four. Each country plays the other once but nobody is knocked out come the end of group play - it is almost the ultimate in political correctness.

They move straight into a quarter-final phase with the Pool A winners playing the fourth side in Pool B, second (A) playing third (B), third (A) plays second (B) and fourth (A) plays first (B).

There have been weird scenarios before - the ICC came up with a doozy at the last two cricket World Cups, taking weeks to eliminate just a few teams. The A-League and the NHL have play-off systems which allow more than half of the teams in the league to progress - but having every team progress to the knockout rounds takes the biscuit.

"It's a bit weird," says captain Kayla Sharland, "because you don't need to be consistent. It's a pretty crazy format but we have seen it before; They have used it at the Champions Challenge and sometimes there a team has lost all three pool games but then gone on to win the tournament. I don't think it is ideal."

Obviously there is a theoretical advantage in topping the pool but only in that you get to play a weaker team; there is no second life for the top qualifier or any other advantage.

Still, given their lead-in form, maybe the format is a blessing in disguise for the New Zealand side. Under the previous system, as seen at the Champions Trophy in Amsterdam last year, teams would have to finish in the top two to progress, otherwise they would be cast aside into the unwanted ground of the fifth-eighth play-offs. Now, the Black Sticks will be in a quarter-final regardless of their group form, though the team and coach will be counting on some confidence-boosting results.

Hager says one of the priorities is to try and avoid the formidable Dutch side, currently ranked No1 in the world and likely to top Pool A.

"We back ourselves against any other team in the world and always will but obviously Holland would be a tough side to meet in the quarter-finals."

As well as Holland, Pool A features Great Britain (ranked fourth in the world), China (fifth) and Japan (ninth).

The Blacks Sticks' Pool B is slightly stronger, with Argentina (second), Germany (third), New Zealand (sixth) and South Korea (eighth) and has three of the top four (New Zealand, Argentina and Korea) from the 2011 Champions Trophy.

The draw

Champions Trophy pool matches

* New Zealand vs Argentina Today, 12pm (NZT)
* New Zealand vs Korea Monday, 9.30am (NZT)
* New Zealand vs Germany Wednesday, 9.30am (NZT)

The New Zealand Herald



A team girl for all seasons

By Michael Burgess



Sophie Devine adds composure to the Black Sticks backline, has a good eye and is a strong hitter of the ball. Photo / Getty Images

As the heat goes on over the next week in the Champions Trophy, the Blacks Sticks can count on Sophie Devine standing tall under pressure.

Devine is a dual international and her experience at the highest levels of international cricket give her a unique perspective on nerves.

Standing alone at the crease with the bowler charging in is just about the loneliest place in world sport; compounding that, the slightest misjudgment or error has a greater cost than in any other sporting code.

"Sophie brings a real strength and calmness to our defence," says coach Mark Hager. "She handles herself well in pressure situations and obviously her cricket experience has given her a bit of an edge there. I think she brings a real composure to the team."

"She is a rock for us in defence," adds captain Kayla Sharland. "She communicates really well at the back, which is important for our structures."

Growing up, Devine balanced the two sports across the seasons, with a slight leaning towards cricket where she found notable success from a young age.

She started young; with her brother, she used a concrete roller to create a pitch on the lawn of their Porirua home.

She was selected for the Wellington Blaze as a 14-year-old and made her international debut three years later. A genuine all-rounder - capable of hurling down 115km/h deliveries and a punishing middle order batsman - she racked up 66 caps for the White Ferns before deciding to focus full-time on hockey last year.

"It sounds like she was pretty awesome - as a batter anyway," laughs Sharland.

"We didn't realise how good she was until we put her in the goalkeeping gear one day and she was saving goals left, right and centre; she has got a really good eye."

"It was a very hard decision. I loved cricket and it had given me some great opportunities," says Devine, who compares herself to Doug Bracewell when asked to nominate a Black Cap her game most resembles. "But I needed to focus fully on hockey if I wanted to make it and the chance to go to an Olympics is pretty special."

Her switch has paid off. On the fringes of the squad a year ago, she was picked for the 2011 Champions Trophy in August and then established herself in subsequent series against the US and Australia. Currently in Hager's top 18, she is a leading contender for his London list.

Devine brings a real presence to the backline and has added experience to her enthusiasm, having played over 25 matches in a short space of time. The 22-year-old is strong in possession and solid in the tackle and one of the main drag flick exponents in the side (alongside Clarissa Eshuis and Katie Glynn).

"Obviously she is just developing her role in the team but she has a good eye and has also got a strong hit on her," says Sharland. "There is plenty of power there."

As well as her all round skills and poise under pressure, Devine is apparently also the comedian of the team, alongside Gemma Flynn.

"Sophie is good to have around," says Sharland. "She is a bit of a joker and gets the girls laughing a lot. She also keeps everyone on their toes and is never afraid to bust out a few dance moves."

Devine feels as fit as she ever has after a prolonged conditioning programme during the summer break and a few games in Argentina. Though the side has yet to hit their straps in South America, Devine has no doubts where they want to go.

"We want to become a team that can hurt you from all areas, in all ways," she says. "We have some very quick players but we need to get much better at holding possession. Sometimes in the past, it has been like ping pong when we play and we need to try to control the tempo. Mark [Hager] has tried to instil more pride in possession and we learnt the hard way [last week]."

Their form at the Four Nations Challenge was far from encouraging.

Devine remains positive, pointing to last year's Champions Trophy semifinal versus South Korea where they were far from their best but "gutsed it out" to win one of the most important games in New Zealand hockey history.

"[This week] is going to be full on," says Devine. "Last year's achievement [third] was huge but we want to go one better now."

Devine once joked her biggest moment of sporting fame was sitting next to Daniel Carter at a hockey match (as he watched wife Honor play). She can make her own mark in Rosario this week, as well as London in July.

No pressure, though.

The New Zealand Herald



Hager leaves nothing to chance in quest for glory

By Michael Burgess



Mark Hager. Photo / Natalie Slade

You could say it is the mark of Mark. The fierce will to win of Black Sticks coach Mark Hager has been well-documented, as has the focus on positive, attacking hockey and the willingness to put his faith in youth.

Less well known is Hager's commitment to preparation centred around his analysis of opposing teams.

Together with his assistant coaches, Hager (who usually rises at 5am each day) leaves nothing to chance in his study of the opposition, a huge factor in their success over the past three years.

"Both Mark and [former coach] Kevin Towns are great coaches but there are definite differences," says veteran striker Krystal Forgesson.

"With Kevin, it was very planned and structured but it was mostly about us. There was a huge focus on our game. Mark is very good at keeping up with what other teams are doing and we are always learning about them."

With knowledge comes confidence; confidence creates belief which translates into performance and the team has risen from 12th to sixth in the world since 2009.

It has helped that New Zealand play the major nations more often, creating a sense of familiarity. But the players are also better equipped with knowledge about their opposition and what is likely to transpire on the turf.

"He [Hager] is always on our case about looking on YouTube and websites to follow what other teams are doing," says Forgesson. "There is always more you can do."

"I have noticed that the girls don't seem to have a fear of the big teams any more," says Black Sticks men's captain Dean Couzins. "There is a healthy respect, of course, but also a genuine belief that they are beatable."

This focus on their foes has turned the players into students of the game. Forgesson, Kayla Sharland and Katie Glynn can provide expert analysis.

Looking ahead to this week at the Champions Trophy, Hager has mountains of written and audio-visual material as he tries to plot the downfall of Pool B opponents Argentina, South Korea and Germany.

Their poor build-up results have shaken the confidence in the group and cohesion may not come instantly today against Argentina. But the Black Sticks have a handy knowledge of what is coming their way.

Argentina

"With Argentina, it is quite simple," says Hager. "If your corner defence is not up to scratch, then you will get done. That is what killed us in the first [Four Nations and build-up] match - they had five penalty corners and scored from four of them."

Hager adds that the South Americans have more flair than anyone else and players with fantastic individual skills.

"They have the experience of winning the World Cup on home soil and have great depth, even if they are going through a transition phase with the loss of some of their older players."

South Korea

Korea and New Zealand have been involved in some epic battles in recent times and there is no reason to think that tomorrow's clash will be any different.

"Korea are very quick and skilful and do everything at pace - they even seem to speak quickly out there," says Hager. "They don't have the stars of other teams but are a great unit. They are disciplined and have set structures but are still not short on flair."

After what Hager describes as a "horrific" 5-3 loss in the round robin stages of the 2011 Champions Trophy, the Black Sticks rebounded to beat Korea 3-2 in the bronze medal play-off.

"It was a good win but it was not their best team and their match fitness was not at peak," says Hager. "They are a very different proposition this time."

Germany

The final group opponents are the redoubtable Germans. The Black Sticks have never beaten the Europeans in an official international, though they did have a confidence-boosting win in a practice match last year.

"In terms of the positive statistics that matter in a match, we always seem to out-stat them but they beat us," says Hager.

"It has happened in the last four matches. They are very physical and strong, quite big compared to most of our girls and played a very structured, patterned style."

Hager nominates Natascha Keller as the obvious danger; the striker has played more than 400 games for Germany and scored nearly 200 goals.

"She is the key no doubt, though they are a tough side all over," he says.

The New Zealand Herald



NZ aim to complicate matters

By Michael Burgess



Luciana Aymar (left) has been compared with Maradona. Photo / Getty Images

The taxi driver didn't disappoint. Driving from Rosario's modest airport into the city centre, Fernando took less than five minutes to switch the subject to hockey.

"Everybody here is loco about hockey at the moment," he said as the speedometer hovered around 130km/h. "They are our team. They are a great team but, for me, the best thing about them is their legs."

Besides their admired physiques, the hosts don't come into the tournament in great shape. Like New Zealand, they have endured a mixed build-up.

Their all time leading scorer, Soledad Garcia, was cut from the squad after an apparent personality clash with the coach and they are entering a transitional phase after the retirement of several players.

As Fernando would later say on their winning chances: "Es complicado, senor [It's complicated]."

He could be talking about several things here. Exchanging money is tightly controlled, as the relative value of the peso to the US dollar has plummeted in recent years.

Airport banks will only serve foreigners armed with a boarding pass of that day and they are unable to buy back the local currency upon departure.

Apart from being the birthplace of Che Guevara and the city that inspired Argentina's famous flag, Rosario is also known as the cradle of Las Leonas (the lionesses).

It has produced many great players, none more famous than the iconic Luciana Aymar, sometimes referred to as the Maradona of hockey.

Numerous billboards featuring the team are everywhere, imploring locals to "come and see 11 monuments to our nation's flag".

This city witnessed triumph in the 2004 Champions Trophy and 2010 World Cup, and more than 50 journalists converged on Argentina's press conference yesterday.

"They are a very good, aggressive team," their coach Carlos Retegui told the Herald on Sunday about the Black Sticks. "They are dynamic, fast, strong and very fit. Their style is very attacking and we have to be ready."

On the other side of town, at Estadio Mundilista, the Black Sticks held their final training session. Coach Mark Hager is convinced the team is ready to show its true colours.

"We are now out of excuses," says Hager. "Today against Argentina in front of a packed stadium will be a true test but hopefully that will bring out the best in us."

Can the Black Sticks turn things round? It is a big ask, with Korea and Great Britain in hot form, traditional powerhouses Germany and Holland ready to fire and the host nation backed by a passionate capacity crowd.

Es complicado, senor.

The New Zealand Herald



SA Hockey Women win untidy test match

JONATHAN COOK in Randburg



Superstar striker Pietie Coetzee (left) is congratulated by Bernie Coston in SA's 1-0 win over Ireland yesterday. Photo: DUIF DU TOIT (GALLO)

World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee nailed a penalty corner drag-flick past outstanding  Ireland goalkeeper Emma Gray in the seventh minute for the Investec South African women’s hockey team to clinch the opening Investec Tri-Nations Series match 1-0 at Randburg Astro Saturday.

With both sides making too many unforced errors, it was not a good Test match. And while South Africa made life very hard for themselves, their eight penalty corners to two against  is indicative of who was on top for most of the match. On another day Coetzee, who took her world record tally of goals to 231 in 234 Test matches, would have netted a hat-trick.

The superstar striker hit the post with her first PC drag-flick while the eighth corner saw Gray make a magnificent stick save low to her right. The half-time watering of the pitch did make life difficult for the players as areas of the surface didn’t drain efficiently, while SA also used a number of corner variations to counteract the sluggish pace of the ball.

It must be said, though, that the loss of 2011 SA Player of the Year Tarryn Bright in the sixth minute after Coetzee’s PC drag-flick deflected off the post into the centre midfielder’s face, was a big blow to the team’s fluidity.

Nicole Terblanche at right half was a constant headache for Ireland’s left-side defence and she was one of the few who can look back on this match with satisfaction. Jade Mayne and a number of others did have their moments but overall the performance was inconsistent.

SA defended well at times as Lisa Jacob and Shirley McCay and company made dangerous counter-attacks but the Irish will not look back on this match with much fondness either.

Head coach Giles Bonnet’s team meet Belgium at 2 pm Sunday and will be looking for a much slicker performance in every department.

SA Hockey Association media release

 



Ireland 0-1 South Africa (3 Nations South Africa)

Ireland, sponsored by Electric Ireland, played South Africa today in the first game of the Tri Nations series between South Africa, Belgium and Ireland. The only goal of the game was scored from a penalty corner in the 6th minute through Pietie Coetzee trademark drag flick. The first half did not see much goal mouth action with Ireland's best chance in the dying moments after great cross from Emma Clarke just evaded the diving Connery.

Ireland came out of the traps fast after the break but South African defence could not be penetrated. Ireland conceded some soft penalty corners but each one was well defended (5 in total in 2nd half). Ireland had their 1st corner of the game in the 57 minute but Sargent's strike was well saved. Ireland forced another PC in the 61st minute but a mistrap saw the chance go a begging. Heavy downpour slowed down the pitch considerably in the final 7 minutes making conditions very difficult for both teams.

After the game Irish Coach Gene Muller said "we improved from last nights performance, we were defensively very good and created some quality chances it was a tight and physcially demanding match"

Ireland have a rest day tomorrow whilst South Africa play Belgium at 12noon (Irish Time). Next up for Ireland on Monday at 5pm Irish Time v Belgium

Final score Ireland 0-1 South Africa
PC South Africa 8, Ireland 2

Starting XI: Gray (GK), Symmons, Sargent, McCarthy, O Flynn, Smyth, Clarke, Colvin, Jacob, Speers (Capt), Connery

Reserves: Harvey, Daly, Watkins, Crowley, McCay

Non Playing: Evans, Frazer, Smithwick, Healy

Irish Hockey Association media release



SA Hockey Women need to buck up against Belgium come 2 pm at Randburg today

By Jon Cook


Giles Bonnet, head coach of the Investec South Africa women's hockey team, will be expecting a much-improved performance against Belgium in the second Investec Tri-Nations Series match at 2 pm at Randburg Hockey Stadium today.

The Amsterdam-based Bonnet is a perfectionist and was not pleased at the manner in which SA laboured to a 1-0 win over Ireland at Randburg yesterday.

Pietie Coetzee's goal was one of the few highlights as passes went astray far too often and elementary mistakes forced the South Africans to work much harder than needs be had they been on song.

The injured Tarryn Bright has not recovered fully from the blow to the face that forced her off the field yesterday and her presence in the midfield will be missed.

However, it is not about one or two players but rather a collective improvement that is needed in passing, receiving, running off the ball and accuracy in front of goal.

Belgian head coach Pascal Kina was a consultant to the SA team just over a year ago before he was called up to head the Belgian coaching staff and he knows Bonnet and the SA players very well.

The Belgians are physical, aggressive competitors who won't throw in the towel and South Africa will know they have been in the game come the final whistle.

Sofie Gierts, Stephanie de Groof and captain Charlotte de Vos are no slouches with the stick and the fiery Belgians will be hellbent on opening their Investec Tri-Nations campaign with a win.

SA Hockey Association media release



SA Women's Hockey star out of 2 pm Belgian match at Randburg today

By Jon Cook


Investec South Africa women's hockey team midfielder Tarryn Bright, who was struck a sickening blow to the face after a Pietie Coetzee penalty corner drag flick richotted off the post during the girls in green and gold's 1-0 win over Ireland at Randburg Hockey Stadium Saturday has had stitches but the CT scan was clear, although she won't play against Belgium in the second match of the Investec Tri-Nations Series at Randburg at 2 pm today.

Bright, the 2011 SA Player of the Year, will be sorely missed against a physical Belgian team that beat South Africa in a fiery three-Test series in Antwerp 6 months ago.

SA Hockey Association media release



First blood to Australia

Australia defeated Malaysia 3-1 in the first of the four friendly matches played in Australia at the Perth Hockey Stadium this morning.

The solitary Malaysian goal was scored by Izwan Firdaus after the Aussies had taken a 1-0 lead. Two goals by Tim Bates in the second half sealed the win for the Aussies.

The two teams square off against each other at 5.30pm tomorrow at the same venue.

Malaysian Hockey blogspot



No stopping Young Guns

Champs finally hit stride for big win

By JUGJET SINGH



UniKL’s Muhammad Taufik Abdul Hamid scored two goals in their 8-0 win against SSTMI in the Junior Hockey League yesterday.

LEAGUE champions UniKL Young Guns made short work of Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) Juniors with an emphatic 8-0 win in their Milo-Junior Hockey League tie yesterday.   

It was UniKL's third win of the season, and they look  well placed to retain the league title with  SSTMI Thunderbolts being their biggest hurdle.

The UniKL goals were scored by Taufik Abdul Hamid (seventh, 64th), Hafify Rodzi (20th), Nor Aqmal Ghaffar (21st, 57th), Aslam Hanafiah (32nd), Haziq Samsul (36th) and Syafiq Zulzairin (67th).

"We started off slowly by beating MBPJ 2-1 and then TBSS 4-0, and it was nice to see that the players were hungry to score in this match," said UniKL team manager Amir Azhar.

However, Amir is still unhappy with their penalty corner conversion: "We received eight penalty corners but could only score two off direct attempts, and one off a set piece. We need to improve further in that department."

UniKL  play Bukit Jalil Sports School next weekend, and should continue their winning run.

Meanwhile, Datuk Taha of Gemencheh, Negri Sembilan, picked up the dubious distinction of  receiving the first red card of the  season at the Seremban II pitch yesterday.

Datuk Taha's Khairul Izwan was  sent off in the sixth minute, but they still went on to beat Old La Sallians Association of Klang 1-0  in Group B of Division Two.

The Taha winner was scored by Amirul Roszainie in the 18th minute.

RESULTS -- Division One: USM-MSSPP 4 TBSS 3, UniKL 8 SSTMI 0.

Division Two -- Group A: Politeknik KPT 2 Anderson Juniors 1.

Group B: MP Batu Pahat 2 Padang Midin 1, Tunas Pahang 0 KLSS 4, Datuk Taha 1 Olak 0.

TODAY -- Division One: BJSS Juniors v MBI Anderson (Education Ministry, 5pm), SSTMI Thunderbolts v MB Petaling Jaya (Taman Daya, 4pm).

Division Two -- Group A: Sapura v Kelantan HA-MSSK (KLHA, 6pm), MSSPP-USM Jr v Politeknik KPT (USM, 4pm).

Group B: Malacca HS v Padang Midin (Malacca, 5pm), MB Batu Pahat v Yayasan Pahang (Taman Daya, 4pm).

New Straits Times



UniKL draw level at top Champs beat SSTMI, 10-man Datuk Taha also win

By AFTAR SINGH


KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Taha School’s Mohd Khairul Izwan Ahmad Jais has the dubious distinction of being the first player in the Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) to be shown the red card this season.

Khairul was given the marching orders in the sixth minute of their match against Old La Sallians Association of Klang (Olak)-PKT for a rough tackle.

Fortunately, the 10-man Datuk Taha School from Gemencheh managed to eke out a 1-0 win — courtesy of a Mohd Amirul Roszainie goal in the 18th minute – in the Division Two match at the Seremban Two Hockey Stadium yesterday.

Although it was Datuk Taha School that had a player sent off, it was Olak-PKT manager Joseph De Silva who was annoyed with the poor standard of umpiring.

“It was really bad. I will write to MHC (Malaysian Hockey Confederation) to complain about the poor umpiring,” he said.

Reigning defending champions Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) chalked up their third win on the trot with an 8-0 hammering of Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in a Division One match at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium.

UniKL are now level on nine points with defending overall champions SSTMI-Thunderbolt, who lead the standings on a better goal difference.

Mohd Taufik Abdul Hamid (7th, 64th) and Mohd Nor Aqmal Abdul Ghaffar (21st, 57th) notched a brace each to spark the UniKL onslaught.

Mohd Hafify Mohd Rodzi (12th), Mohd Aslam Mohd Hanafiah (32nd), Mohd Haziq Samsul (36th) and Mohd Syafiq Zulzairin (67th) chipped in with a goal each.

UniKL team manager Amir Azhar Ibrahim was delighted to see his players finally finding their scoring touch after struggling to find the net in the first two matches – beating Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) 2-1 and Tunku Besar School of Tampin (4-0)

“We could have done better. I’m not too happy with our penalty corner conversions as we only scored from three of the eight chances,” he said.

“My forwards are not clinical in their finishing.

“They must do better as goal difference could decide the league title.”

The Star of Malaysia



It was a win- win situation for Dar Academy  at the final of the national juniors

By Ijaz Chaudhry


Tanvir Dar hockey academy  was in a quandary -who to support-  at the final of the 31st National Junior Championships of Pakistan in Lahore. WAPDA had four Dar HA boys on its match sheet. Their opponent National Bank had two academy boys playing for them but more importantly they were coached by Olympian M.Akhlaq, also the head coach of Dar HA.

The final, televised live by the newly established sports channel of the state run PTV (Pakistan Television) and watched by a number of former stalwarts of Pakistan hockey in the stadium, turned out to be a well-contested affair. WAPDA won the title and the lone goal was netted by, who else, but a Dar HA lad. The six foot plus Aleem  expertly flicked a penalty corner rebound into the net. M.Rizwan, Khalid Bhatti and Saleem Nazim were the other three academy boys in the WAPDA colours. Rizwan was the live wire for WAPDA. The play maker initiated more  moves than anyone else on the pitch. Saleem Nazim was rock solid in his role of the holding mid fielder while the lanky full back Khalid Bhatti was consistency personified. The runners up included the brothers Arsalan and Faisal Qadir of the Dar HA.  Arsalan, the top scorer of the 2009 youth Olympics, was his team’s highest goal getter at this tourney. The kid brother Faisal shone in the defence. For  the coach Akhlaq, it was third time unlucky as his National bank has now lost the last three finals of the national juniors.

For good measure, the third placed Sui Southern Gas were  assisted by three lads of Dar academy:  Asif, Adnan and Zeeshan.

Sitting in the stands, the academy president Olympic gold medallist Taqueer Dar’s face exuded satisfaction as well as pride.

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on hockey and other sports. For more about him and his work, visit: www.sportscorrespondent.info

Dar Hockey Academy



Good bye Rahul, says Dilip Tirkey

Uthra Ganesan


In 1995, a lanky young man, stick in hand, made his first foray on the international scene. A year later, another youngster, wielding the willow, did the same.

In a national sport and a national obsession, Dilip Tirkey and Rahul Dravid have had uncannily similar career graphs --- to the extent of earning the same sobriquet, 'The Wall'. While the former has retired from active play and graduated to becoming a national selector, the latter is on the verge of calling time on a career that, till six months back, was the ideal how-to-guide on a long haul in professional sport.

Tirkey, who has had only two brief interactions with Dravid in his 15-year-long career, and Dravid: two men who let their deeds on field speak for them, without courting controversy. “It's easy to pull down a player when he's not doing well, but scores – whether in cricket or hockey – are subjective. The problem is that for a player like Dravid, the bench has been set so high that anything below that seems a failure, even though it may still be miles ahead of anyone else,” Tirkey says.

He may well have been talking about himself. For almost 12 years, Dilip hardly missed a match due to injury or poor fitness; for 15 years now, Dravid has never been accused of taking it easy on the fitness front.

All his life, Tirkey remained the go-to man of Indian hockey, entrusted with the job of staying behind and guarding the defence even as others went on to score goals and become stars. For all his life, Dravid has been the silent worker, the vital cog in the Indian cricket wheel that held the team from collapsing even as others, brash and belligerent, bypassed him to instant stardom. Till he played, Dilip used to be the first to turn up for training and last to leave the field, sweat dripping all over. Even now, Dravid happens to be the first to turn up for nets and continues shadow batting long after others have quit. All his life, Dilip had to struggle with the larger-than-life persona of Dhanraj Pillay for recognition, and never cribbed; all his life Dravid has remained in the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar, and never repented his role.

Dilip's meetings with Dravid were nothing dramatic – once in 1998, when both were yet to graduate to the league of extraordinary gentlemen in their respective arenas, and the other in 2000, when both had begun to show how special their gifts with the stick – and the bat – were. “We were training at the Chinnaswamy Stadium (in 2000) and Dravid had come for practice. We just met briefly, exchanged pleasantries and wished each other luck. What was most remarkable was that he had already become huge but, at heart, he was still just a sportsperson. There was none of the attitude one expects from cricketers in India; he knew us all, appreciated our performances and went about his practice like anyone else, toiling for a few hours when he could have taken it easy,” remembers Tirkey.

The veteran defender also thinks that those who criticise legends for one poor show need to remember that every great sportsperson becomes so because of his achievements over years. “I personally feel that a great player's form dips only because of two reasons – injury or mental pressure. In my case, it was my ankle injury. In Dravid's case, I don't know but as an international sportsperson I think it would be the pressure to perform, specially since everyone else around him is failing as well. Having been the sole survivor of several clashes – most recently in England – the pressure on him to repeat that task would be immense, something everyone should understand.”

Most important is seeking a replacement. Dilip retired when his injuries became repetitive, but even before that there were calls to replace him with “talented youngsters” who can do the job as well, if not better. Since he called time, however, Indian hockey is still struggling to find an ideal replacement among those talented youngsters, despite having tested close to a dozen players in various combinations. Even now, coach Michael Nobbs says defence is India's biggest concern – ironic, considering it was the backbone of Indian hockey till Dilip was active.

Similar is the case with Dravid. While pointing fingers at his age, critics forget the other numbers – his matches, runs, catches. And the fact that even his shrillest critics haven't been able to convincingly name one player who has earned his spot. That Virat Kohli scored a ton in the very last Test innings on this series was an indication, at best, of the talent he may possess – not a sign of the commitment and long hours that must necessarily go into becoming The Wall.

Dravid and Tirkey. Two men who epitomise Indian sports, legends in their own right. When one demands respect for the achievements of the other, it makes sense to listen.

Indian Express