Friday, May 22, 2009

China, the surprise of the Asia Cup.

MHF set a target of reaching semi-finals in the Asia Cup and our boys got there quite easily. Target achieved but some where there was miscalculation, as a dreadful thing happened in the tournament. Everyone thought and expected South Korea, India, Pakistan and Malaysia or Japan as the semi-finalists. Unfortunately, India sunk to their lowest performance and ended up last in their Group and failed to qualify for the semis. This, notwithstanding the fact that they were Champions in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament, just a month earlier.

What do I mean by miscalculation? The feeling was India should easily be the Champions of Asia Cup and the issue would be whether the runner-up would automatically qualify for the World Cup. This is because India is suppose to be the host and therefore they are already a "qualified" team. While that was being contemplated , not much attention was given to China. The reason being the Korean coach who was responsible for the team at the Being Olympics in 2008 is not with them and a local Chinese was in charge of the team. All this put together, provided the basis to underestimate China.

China did the "magic", drew with Pakistan and India and made it to the semis. This meant that India was squeezed out. South Korea defeated them in the semis and for the 3rd and 4th placing they played Malaysia. 5 minutes away from losing the game to Malaysia, the Chinese managed a draw in normal and extra time. On the penalty strokes they held the lead and finished 3rd.

Prior to the Asia Cup, China was ranked 16th, Malaysia 15th, Japan 12th, India 10th, Pakistan 8th and South Korea 12th. At the end of the Asia Cup, South Korea remains at 5th, Pakistan moves to 6th, India drops to 12th, China moves steadily forward to 13th, Japan slides to 14th and Malaysia moves down to 16th.

Quietly the Chinese got their act together and did what they came out to do. No fanfare, just result orientated. Obviously it puts the traditional hockey countries save South Korea to shame. Not a significant force in hockey in the past decades, China seem to be blossoming into a hockey nation and maybe like their badminton and diving stars, their hockey may follow suit as world leaders. It is probably a matter of time.

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