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by PAUL LISSEK, FIH Master Coach

Development of the World-Hockey - General Analysis: Impressions and trends

The 2002 Hockey World Cup held from 24.Feb. – 9th March in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was played for the first time with 16 teams in 2 pools of 8 teams each. All participants had to play altogether 9 matches in 2 weeks!

This placed a high demand on all athletes because of the number of matches within a short period under difficult weather conditions!

Despite this during the whole tournament you would have notice a high level performance for most of the matches!

The final especially was played at a high level by both teams with all the good factors of the game being shown and it was close to perfection as ever.

World Cup Winners Germany

The most important elements of play

Individual skills (technical and tactical):

The German players impressed with their high technical and tactical level in particular! The individual technical skill of all the players was obviously their biggest advantage.

Even the bench players played at a high quality level and any interchanging did not affect the high level of their performance!

One of the strongest points in the German play was the minimum numbers of technical and tactical mistakes! The percentage of ball possession compared with opponent teams generally higher! Except for the final the team were more or less in control of their opponents!

The only exception was maybe in the match against Pakistan that was close and their loss in the pool match against Spain, which I didn’t see.

The outstanding performances of their defenders Crone and Kunz made the difference against other teams! They were excellent and first class in the absolutely clean and fair tackle, especially the low tackle, and were very seldom beaten in a one against one situation!

All the midfield players played well and were strong both in attack and in defensive play.

In attack the outstanding speed and skill of Oliver Domke, Sascha Reinelt, Björn Michel and Bechmann made it very difficult for opponent defenders to adopt a successful man-to-man marking! All these players have a very strong scoring instinct and attitude, and in Domke they have a scorer of some "unbelievable goals"!

Goup-and team tactical aspect:

The cooperation and understanding among the different parts of the team was nearly perfect. The defence was built mostly through a "double team" or a group of players supported the acting player. The whole team tightened the spaces in defence so perfectly that it became very difficult for the opponents to create or find a space for a successful attack!

Another strong point in the tactical aspect was an almost perfect balance between individual and team tactical play! Creating space through a fast transfer mostly worked and always gave the forwards chances to receive passes even in crowded situations!

A perfect two against one skill made it possible for them to beat defenders by entering the D!

One very strong point in attack was the balance of short passes and long passes and the hard hits from Crone and Kunz into the opponents D created a lot of problems for the opponent defence and allowed them to make some very good deflections and deflected goals!

The German side seemed very young for a World champion! Many of their top players are below 25 and some are still juniors! From this point of view it might be astonishing how smart and cool those boys perform.

However when you consider that almost all the top eleven have played together as a team since the European Championship in Padua (Italy) 1999, and then you can imagine how much experience they have collected from around 150 matches in 3 years - a lot of experience! The most important experience was the one they got in Sydney Olympics when they were close to qualifying for the semi-final but maybe they were not ready then!

Runner’s up- AUSTRALIA

Astralia continued the successful tournament history and finished once again behind Germany in 2nd place!

Australia, with a new coach, Berry Dancer, presented a really strong team with a lot of first class individuals and team who really understand the meaning of "team-work"!

I enjoyed observing the wonderful passing system, when they built the ball out of defence! The accuracy and quality of passes and the extraordinary good skill of receiving passes in different positions and situations made the team for many a favourite for the title!

They had no problems reaching the semi-final and as an opposition coach you learn to respect the risk that they are always taking to make the game fast and attractive!

The pressure they put on the opponents is permanently on, the speed they break is unbelievable high tempo! They feel ("smell") the chances to regain ball possession when they are in defence and you can say the term "attack is the best defence" best describe the reality of their game.

For Malaysia to keep the result scoreless in the first half was a success, but the pressure built up in the second half and keeps increasing until the opponents break down!

The scoring attitude is a special strength of most of the players who never fear any risk for any injuries! Their "diving skills", their "rebounding skills", the way the hit, push and flick in the D is fascinating!

With every success comes more confidence which means that when they have once started to score they becoming very dangerous and can "kill the opponents" with a high score!

But, as the pool-match against England or the final against Germany shows, there are also weaknesses in the team!

When a match is not working like normal, they have a problem to change their style of play! They become nervous when the passes are not working so well, when they are stopped in one against one, when they cannot create enough chances to score! As long as their way of play is working they looking very commanding and much in control. However even when they realize their play is not working well, they will not change. They do same mistakes again and again, hoping it will work instead of realizing the different opponents style!

It happened in the final when they played against an equally strong team Germany! Both teams were very good in ball control and ball possession! The technical mistakes made by both teams were minimal. Both of them had their chances and played attractive attacking hockey! For 60 minutes both teams played well and created some good chances and both defences played tight and strong defence. It was the only a matter of time which team would make the first big mistake and would lose!

It was Australia who made a crucial mistake in defence, when a player lost ball possession in a very strong situation, where there was no need to take any risk.

Sometimes the Aussie wins are looking very easy. They have to learn to change tactics in certain situations, like playing against strong teams when it becomes critical!

The "Bronze-medallist" Holland

The "Champions of the past" have lost some players since the Olympic Games in Sydney and they were no more the dominant force either in the field play or in penalty corners!

The "survivors" like Teun de Noyer, Eikelboom, Jazet, Lomans, van Wyik etc, played out of their skin to help the team reach the semi-final! But it was not as easy or convincing the way in which they played!

The corner stone in the team could hold them on a level they needed!There is an outstanding de Noyer, maybe the number one in the world; they have a great player in midfield like Delmee, and the clever and experienced Erik Jazet in defence!

With Lomans there is still a PC-specialist from highest level but the efficiency was lower when the opponent PC-defence improved!

Holland were no longer dictating the play, they had some problems to solve their interior difficulties like the in balance between individual and team play! In most of the matches they lack concentration for some part of the game and looked temporary and looked like losing!

However one of their strength is still the brillant individual play of some outstanding players who can decide a match alone! The other winning point is their experience of all the players attain from participating in many top events where they are always involved in tough pressure matches right up to the finals!

A clear example was in the Bronze-medal match when Korea were leading until close to the end of the match and Holland used their last chance before the final whistle to turn the situation around and finally win!

Korea’s ups and downs!

The losers of the "Bronze-medal-match" could not fulfil their high expectations after winning the silver in Sydney 2000!

In their pool they had problems to reach the 2nd place ahead of Malaysia and till the last moment of the pool matches it was theoretically, not decided, whether they had qualified for the semi finals, because Malaysia were still able to reach the same number of points but needed a lot of goals!

Korea had some problems bringing back retired players to the high international level required!

The team was not as well balanced like in the Olympics, the individual skill, the physical advantage was still there but the team had problems especially building the ball out of defence and creating dangerous situations in the D.

In defence, including goalkeeping, they have shown some weaknesses! They could not use clear chances to be safe earlier in the semis and they made team tactical mistakes and some capital individual mistakes in defence when they gave away the "Bronze-medal" few seconds before the final whistle against Holland!

Fifth and sixth Pakistan, Argentina – 7th and 8th England, Malaysia

Pakistan has shown inconsistency from match to match! With the world best individuals like Sawar, Waseem, Nadeem, Kashif, and the top pc-specialist Abbas, the final result is unsatisfactory!

The word "Many individuals alone not making a team" became true! With Shabaz as a leader on the field the team had nearly all the conditions needed for a world champion but the teamwork was not at their best. The impression was there that different opinions and interpretations were working towards different directions but the main direction was not there!

Pakistan`s problem seems to be the outstanding skill facilities of all individual players!

A player who knows his strength of skill will always try to use it by holding the ball (too long), dribbling (too much)! When they learn to use the balance between individual and team play, it will be difficult to beat them!

Argentina’s 6th place must be considered as a success! They impressed through teamwork and team spirit! Tactically the team played extraordinary well and very disciplined!

They lost to the top teams Germany and Holland in the first two pool matches, maybe those difficult matches came a bit too early! All the other matches they won, even against Pakistan, one of the favourites for the semi-final! Teamwork was not the only strong point in the team! They had good individualist like Jorge Lombi who showed excellent skills and impressed with a good scoring attitude!

There was a good balance between team and individual play and with the PC-specialist J.Lombi they had very good conditions to reach the semi-final!

Argentina is a team that developed tremendously after the Olympics!

It will be expected that such a team will improve more and more! The infrastructure is good, enthusiasm for hockey is extremely well, the ambition and interest is there to learn and work with the technical and tactical development of international top hockey!

ENGLAND and MALAYSIA in "top 8"

Inconsistency for a world-class team like England destroyed all chances for the semi-finals! Good results and good performances against India, Australia and Korea changed with poor matches and defeats against Malaysia and Japan!

England has lost their PC-specialist Giles and there was no capable replacement for him!

Against the top teams like Korea, India and Australia they played very disciplined and clever! They were strong in defence and prepared counter attacks very clever. Obviously England had problems to develop their own style of play, especially when they met teams that tightened the space and they still have always chosen difficult ways to create chances!

Malaysia did well in the pool-matches and was really close to reach the semi-finals!

After surprising wins against India and England and good wins against Cuba and Japan there was the door open to make a sensation! The expected defeat against Australia was no problem, but there was a chance to get a point against Korea what finally could have made the difference!

The strongest point in Malaysian team was their tactical discipline! They did well in defence especially against the favourites, to close the space in their own half! They prepared many good chances with counter-attacks verses India, England, Korea and the PC-strategy; with a top flicker in Kuhan was always a chance to score!

Malaysia has changed their style of play! Players generally do not have enough basic skills to play on the same level like the top 6 but they are strong enough to react to other systems! With tactical discipline and with a necessary input of European elements of play

It is always possible to follow the high level teams and give them some problems!

The 2nd group of the participating teams, the ranking between place 9 and 16 I can rate only in general, because my observation concentrated more on the first group!

Hockey insiders must ask were are teams like Spain and India?

SPAIN finished on the 11th place, but was the only team that has beaten the world champions Germany!

They started with 3 big wins and 9 points, drew with Olympic Champion Holland and lost the final two pool matches and fall back on the 5th pool position to fight for places between 9 and 12!

With 11 points after 5 matches they looked like a semi-finalist and they have shown good hockey with good results against top teams.

They have a lot of skilful and young players and maybe it was a very hard but good experience for them!

INDIA, a team like Pakistan, with very skilful players as well, seldom played like a team!

Obviously there were too many internal problems in the team!

It was not possible to recognize their system of play! Defence was mostly wide open and opponents could organize their counter attacks! There was a lot of ineffective individual play, too many mistakes and lost ball situations! There were too many leaders but no one really leading, no one creator of ideas a playmaker and not enough players willing to work for the team.

NEW ZEALAND finished the tournament quite successfully with the 9th place! They lost only one match, against Holland with a high score! But played very well against Germany what was very close. They have shown in most of their matches a very good teamwork and some brilliant counter attacks and the forward line made some excellent moves in all the games and created very good chances!

South Africa, Belgium, Poland and Cuba finished on the last 4 positions!

South Africa could have finished better even though they lost against all the top teams with a clear and high score! The other teams were not able to follow the speed, skill and the technical and tactical level against most of their opponents!

Nevertheless I thought it was good having played once with 16 teams a hockey-world Cup!

There was a lot of motivation for new teams to qualify for this event in Malaysia!

Malaysia, with the beautiful stadium and the fantastic supporters, was an ideal place for such an event! Hockey was seen at a high level and the sport was presented at its best!

Paul Lissek (FIH master coach)

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