Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anthoni to face old friends for first time

Given the spectator numbers to date, Ireland's match with Malaysia should prove the biggest draw of the Champion's Challenge II to date with the South-East Asian side adorning the crowd with bodhrans and plenty of noise (seen talking to players post-match, below right).

Some may have hoped for the fixture to have been the final but, after Pakistan last year at the Setanta Trophy, the influx of an Asian side to Belfield has brought a distinct extra bit of magic to the tournament and so having the glamour tie against the hosts needed to happen at some stage.

Like Pakistan, Malaysia have shown a 100pc commitment to attacking hockey - fittingly throwing nine men forward with 45 seconds to go of their tie with Russia despite holding a 4-3 lead.

A 70-metre Russian overhead almost caught them out but the Malaysians tend to give sides a chance to play and express themselves, making this afternoon's semi-final Ireland top billing.

For Ireland assistant coach Arul Anthoni, the game will be his first against his country of origin having missed out on that occurrence during his time in South Africa when he was unable to travel to a tournament.

However, he is confident he has the inside track, saying he knows the opposition 'inside-out'. His direct opposite number - Noor Zaiful - was one of his team-mates during his 83-cap career as was current forward Chua Boon Huat (left) while Anthoni has encountered all bar Malaysia's two U-21 players in club action.

Whether that knowledge can lead Ireland to victory tonight remains to be seen but it should be the highlight of what has been a high-scoring tournament to date.

Elsewhere, Ireland's U-18 girls start Saturday's action at 10am (Irish time) against Russia needing a win to secure their A division status in Nivelles. A draw could be enough but only if France win by a single goal against Lithuania though the Irish have the benefit of playing second and knowing the exact equation.

Finally, after two last-gasp results, the U-18 boys have achieved the primary objective of promotion to the A division and can now add the cherry of some silverware should they beat France in the EuroHockey Championships Trophy final.

Saturday match schedule:
Champion's Challenge II:
5th to 8th playoffs:(9.30am) Japan vs Austria; (12pm) Russia vs Chile
Semi-finals: (2.30pm) Poland vs France; (5pm) Malaysia vs Ireland

EuroHockey Girl's Youth Championships: (8am) Lithuania vs France; (10am) Ireland vs Russia
EuroHockey Boy's Youth Trophy final: (4pm) Ireland vs France

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Setanta are showing the womens chamions trophy this week. See here