Saturday, May 31, 2014

Heartbreak: Belgium ride on Dohmen's final-minute goal to silence India 3-2

Leaking early goals and late goals is something Indian hockey has been synonymous with. And Saturday was another occasion at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague for India to stay revive those memories as they pressed the ‘nerves’ button and conceded a goal with just fifteen seconds for the final hooter to lose 2-3 to Belgium in their opening game of the 2014 Rabobank World Cup.

Vastly experienced John-John Dohmen did the spoiler act outmaneuvering PR Sreejesh, who otherwise had a fabulous day in office.
India could not probably overcome their nerves and allowed Belgium to dictate terms from the starting hooter. The Red Lions controlled the midfield supremely creating waves of attacks on both flanks, but they had to counter PR Sreejesh, who literally foiled everything thrown at him until the final stages of the first half when his citadel was finally breached.

It was largely due to Sreejesh’s heroics in the Indian goal that his side was able to stay even against the fifth ranked side. The Indian goalkeeper thwarted three short corners in the first half before Belgium nailed the opening goal through Florent van Aubel.

The Indian forwardline was non-existent in the first- half as play was confined to the Indian ‘D’. The Indian were guilty of spraying around loose passes and losing possession in critical times inside their own half.

It was a transformed India in the second half as India showed plenty of resolve to draw level almost against the run of play through splendid work by recalled Gurbaj Singh, who worked his way into the Belgium ‘D’ from the right and fed Mandeep Singh, who tapped home much to the joy of the Indian supporters at the Kyocera Stadium.

The Terry Walsh-coached side pulled ahead when Akashdeep Singh deflected home a Vokkaliga Raghunath pass from the left, which stunned the Belgians to silence.

The Redshirts restored parity when Simon Gougnard made the scoreline off their fifth penalty corner to keep the contest interestingly poised.
Just when it looked India will hold out for a creditable 3-3 draw, Belgium screwed up their happiness through John-John Dohmen.

In other day one games, defending champions Australia thumped 13th ranked Malaysia 4-0, while 4th ranked England was held to a 1-1 draw by 10th ranked Spain in the men's section.

In the women's section, hosts Netherlands swamped Japan 6-1, Australia pipped Korea 3-2, while New Zealand sneaked past Belgium 4-3.  

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Malaysian fullback Kevin Lim pulls out of World Cup with hamstring injury

Malaysian men’s hockey team suffered a setback as defender Kevin Lim was ruled out of the World Cup with a hamstring injury.

The fullback who made his senior international debut in the 2014 Kuantan Champions Challenge I, sustained the injury during a practice match against the Netherlands, which they lost 2-8. Lim will be replaced by Mohamed Izad Hakimi.

The 13th ranked Malaysians face reigning champions and world number one Australia in their World Cup opener on Saturday.

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Injured Ramandeep, Nikin return home

Two Indian players – Ramandeep Singh and Nikin Thimmaiah returned home after withdrawing from the World Cup squad following injuries in The Hague in the lead-up to the big-ticket event.

Ramandeep Singh was first to be on the injured list – he severely injured his right eye socket and cheekbone during his team’s opening practice game against Argentina, which India lost 1-2. Nikin Thimmaiah sustained a hamstring injury a day later leaving the Indian forwardline depleted. The duo were replaced by Lalit Upadhyay and Yuvraj Walmiki.

Both the players are expected to be fully fit in four weeks’ time. India kickstart their World Cup campaign against Belgium on Saturday.

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India can reach semifinals, says 1975 World Cup winner and Dhyan Chand’s son Ashok Kumar

No talk about the hockey world cup can be complete without a mention of India’s glorious 1975 World Cup Cup triumph at Kuala Lumpur. And the man, who scored the all-famous match-clincher against arch-rivals Pakistan in the summit clash – Ashok Kumar – son of legendary Dhyan Chand – exudes an extra dose of high energy reminiscing the biggest moment of Indian hockey in World Cup. “Those are my memories which can never be wiped off – we always recall those days with pride and that was the last time India made a podium finish at the World Cup,” Ashok says in an exclusive interview to Hockey Passion.

Rewind to the 2014 Rabobank World Cup, Ashok has no hesitation about painting an upbeat picture. “Look, the team has prepared quite well. The new coach got adequate time to settle down with the boys and the boys are getting all the required facilities. I think the boys are better prepared to deliver in The Hague,” he quips.

The 64-year-old Meerut-born former stalwart, who was also part of the bronze-winning 1972 Munich Olympics team, believes the team have the wherewithal to fare well in the World Cup. ‘We have a pretty decent side this time around. We have goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who is really solid and then we have Vokkaliga Raghunath who lost weight and looks leaner and fitter. Captain Sardar Singh has plenty of experience under his belt and there is Gurbaj who is making a comeback after being in the wilderness. This team have the potential to reach the semifinals,” he says with a tinge of confidence.

The Indian team’s head coach Terry Walsh has talked about setting realistic expectations and is of the opinion that a top-6 or a top-8 finish should be seen as a significant improvement for the national side. But Ashok, who was also part of the Asian Games silver-winning Indian teams of 1970, 1974, 1978, refused to be drawn into it. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion and I firmly believe that this team can put up a good showing in the World Cup.”

The four-time World Cupper lavished praised on talented youngster Mandeep Singh. “He is naturally gifted and has excellent goal-poaching skills. Of course, he has to improve his ball speed and can be a great asset to the side.”

He tips Germany to win the World Cup. “Germany have a lot of depth and they will be strong contenders for the World Cup.

How about the recent felicitation by Hockey India to all the 13 living members of the 1975 World Cup winning side? “It’s a good gesture on the part of Hockey India to honour us with a cash award of Rs 175,000. Of course, at this stage of my career I won’t be spending that money for myself, but for my kids and family members,” the suave, soft-spoken former striker fired a parting shot.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

2014 Hockey World Cup opening ceremony today, real action begins on Saturday

The stage is set for the 2014 Rabobank Men’s and Women’s Hockey World Cup, which will be held in The Hague, Netherlands from May 31 to June 15. The opening ceremony of the high-profile event will be held on Friday, which will mark the official commencement with as many as twelve teams in both men’s and women’s categories vying for top honours.

The real action begins on Saturday with defending champions Australian men facing world number 13 Malaysia in a Pool A tie, which will be the first match of the tournament, while the women’s section kicks off with world number 5 New Zealand taking on 12th ranked Belgium in a Pool A tie.

In other men’s matches on day one, 8th ranked India meet 5th ranked Belgium, while 4th ranked England face 10th ranked Spain. Among the other women’s games on day one, 4th ranked Australia clash with 8th ranked Korea while top-ranked and hosts the Netherlands lock horns with 9th ranked Japan.

All Pool B games in both men’s and women’s categories will start on Sunday

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