Samsung Champion’s Trophy 2007 @ Bukit Jalil KL

perghhhhh dah lama la tak tengok international hockey game kat bukit jalil

for official site, click here

to see the schedule (bigger version), click here 

The world´s top teams battle for glory in Kuala Lumpur
28 Nov 2007 11:21

The Samsung Champions Trophy 2007 in Kuala Lumpur is about to start, and, being the only international top event this year, promises an exciting race for the cup and some cracking encounters as the world´s best teams butt heads 9 months ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games. Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands all have the opportunity to win a record ninth Champions Trophy crown in the history of the event, while the current world numbers 4 to 6, Spain, Korea, and Pakistan have a good mind to spoil their party and certainly possess the potential to make their mark on international men´s hockey in 2007.

The field of participants in Kuala Lumpur is varies widely however, and will allow for some interesting comparisons: it features 4 European and three Asian teams plus current Olympic Champions and world number 1 Australia, five teams already qualified for Beijing (Australia, Netherlands, Korea, Spain, and Pakistan) versus three that face qualification events in early 2008 (Germany, Great Britain, and Malaysia), the teams ranked 1 to 6 in the world plus number 9 (Great Britain) and 15 (Malaysia), and a battle of age and experience against youthful fervor.

Hosts Malaysia field both the youngest and least experienced team in this tournament: at an average age of just under 23 years, its players have fewer than 70 caps on average – a stark contrast to the Netherlands and Australia, who bring forward the event´s most experienced squads with an imposing more than 114 caps per head on average. While Australia achieves this feat with a group of experienced players, of which none are uncapped and only 4 have represented their country fewer than 50 times, the Netherlands rely on veterans Jeroen Delmee (373 caps), Teun de Nooijer (362) and Guus Vogels (219) to drive up the average number of caps of a lineup that includes two as-of-yet uncapped players as well as 6 more with fewer than 50 caps.

Original Champions Trophy hosts Pakistan also come out for this event with a relatively young and unexperienced squad of an average age of just over 23 years, including 5 of the tournament´s 6 youngest players overall, and under 75 caps a head. Partly, this is due to some names noticeably absent from this squad: long-time veterans Muhammad Saqlain, Rehan Butt, Muhammad Shabbir, Waseem Ahmed, and of course penalty corner king Sohail Abbas have all ended their international careers or are at least temporarily unavailable for selection.

Australia on the other hand put forward the tournament´s “oldest” squad, with an average age of 26.7 years and only two players younger than 24. With this experienced lineup, the Oceania champions together with the Netherlands are heavy favorites for a spot on the podium, but the recent tied series against neighbors New Zealand in which the Kookaburras only narrowly avoided giving away a series against the Kiwis for the first time in history, suggests that Barry Dancer´s team may not simply waltz through to a certain tournament final.

The Netherlands are the other team highly likely to find themselves on the podium during the closing ceremony. After a dismal 7th place finish in their last appearance in an FIH event at the 2006 World Cup, the Dutch nicely rebounded to the title at the European Championships in August with an all-around convincing performance. Supported by a core group of ten players with more than 130 caps each, Roelant Oltmans is giving a group of exciting new talents exposure in this event, including Wouter Jolie, Rogier Hofmann, Quirijn Caspers, and Klaas Vermeulen. Also included is a new face to be watched out for, Jeroen Hertzberger, a 21-year-old having come through the Dutch youth and junior national team pipeline who recently arrested attention and inspired some raving reviews for extraordinary performances with his club team HC Rotterdam in the Dutch league and the Euro Hockey League.

The third team currently tied at 8 Champions Trophy titles, Germany arrive with a full strength squad, and full intentions to redeem themselves for the disappointing fourth place in the European Championships in August that condemned the reigning World Champions to Olympic qualification. To achieve this, coach Markus Weise is sending in the most compact squad of the tournament: with no player younger than 20 and only one player older than 26 years, the Germans sport an average age of 24.4 years and an average number of caps of just over 90. There are no uncapped players coming out for Germany, and the second goalkeeper is the only player to have played for his country fewer than 20 times, while at the other end of the spectrum, veterans Sebastian Biederlack (194 caps), team captain Timo Wess (189), Matthias Witthaus (242) and Tibor Weissenborn (280) provide a solid back bone of experience to the current World number 2.

Another one of Europe´s representatives in this tournament, Spain, are always a force to be reckoned with. Not having finished outside the top three since failing to grab a medal at the Athens Olympics, the Iberians have been plagued by injury however, and at this moment list the deployment of two starting players as doubtful while Juan Lainz, who made an excellent impression in his first major outing with the team at this year´s European Nations Cup, is definitely out with injury and will be replaced by a player still to be flown in from Spain. With a strong base of experienced players such as Kiko Fabregas, Pol Amat, Xavi Ribas, and Edi Tubau as well as Santi Freixa, recently returned to the squad after missing out on the Europeans after knee surgery, Maurits Hendriks men are nonetheless not to be underestimated in this competition.

The fourth in the European quartet at this event, Great Britain, one of this Champions Trophy´s field of participants´ late additions after the event had to be shifted out of Pakistan and was subsequently expanded to include 8 instead of 6 teams, enthusiastically jumped at this prime opportunity to work with the GB squad, bringing together 16 English and 4 Scottish athletes in a real tournament setting 4 months ahead of their Olympic Qualifying tournament in Santiago de Chile.

Finally, the field at the Samsung Champions Trophy is completed by Korea. Having already secured qualification for the Beijing Olympic Games, the Koreans field the second oldest but only fifth most experienced team here in Kuala Lumpur, and are of course keen to confirm their world top five status largely due to the excellent fourth place finish in last years World Cup. The squad is quite different from the one then however, with long-time captain Yong Bae Kim having ended his international career, and other regular names absent from the entry form, such as Sung Hoon Yoon or Jung Seon Lee.

Apart from the players that are here for each one of their countries, a major factor in the race to the final will be the ability of teams to adapt to the climate which with temperatures around 30 degrees and extremely high humidity will present problems especially to the European teams, coming from European winter.

During the tournament, FIH will also announce the WorldHockey Players and WorldHockey Young Players of the Year, both male and female.


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