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Hockey World Cup: Shin guards as South Korea rise once more

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As far as nicknames go, ‘Jangbas’ is as unconventional a fusion as they arrive. It isn’t the kind that’ll strike worry within the hearts of opponents. And actually not the endearing type.

But for Jang Jong-hyun, it’s an final honour. In South Korea’s modest hockey circles, the drag-flicker has acquired a legendary standing and earned direct comparisons with Pakistani nice Sohail Abbas, giving rise to the title ‘Jangbas’. To make sure, Jang’s physique of labor isn’t even a speck on Abbas. But for 20 years, the 38-year-old has been holding collectively South Korean hockey, conserving it afloat whereas it teetered on the brink. All, together with his sling-shot-like drag-flicks.

On Monday, there was the primary glimpse of the revival of a fallen big; a group that has been in an Olympic last, gained 4 Asian Games gold medals and clinched probably the most variety of continental titles. And after all, it was ‘Jangbas’ who was liable for it.

DRAMA on the Kalinga as Korea comes again repeatedly to win in opposition to Argentina. Here are some moments from the sport.

🇦🇷 ARG 5-5 KOR 🇰🇷(SO 2:3)#ARGvsKOR #HockeyIndia #IndiaKaGame #HockeyWorldCup2023 #HWC2023 @CMO_Odisha @sports_odisha @IndiaSports @Media_SAI

— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) January 23, 2023

He scored twice together with his drag-flicks after which deceived the Argentine defence with a beautifully-worked variation to arrange his teammate because the ‘Red Bumblebees’ stung former Olympic champions Argentina in what will probably be remembered as a World Cup basic. South Korea got here again from two targets down within the last quarter to make it 5-5 after which gained the penalty shootout 3-2 to enter the quarterfinals upon their return to the massive stage after eight years.

The wild celebrations that adopted carried on till the lights went off contained in the Kalinga Stadium. They are the one Asian group left within the event however coach Shin Seok-kyo wasn’t gloating. “It’s fantastic,” Shin beamed. “There was a lot of pressure on my team. It was very sad that India, Asia’s leader, lost. And then, Malaysia and Japan did also not make it. So, I am happy that an Asian team is in the quarterfinals.”

For Shin, this can be an ‘Asian win’ however there may be little doubt that the evening belonged to South Korea. He is cautious to not go so far as calling this a resurgence however Shin absolutely is beginning to dream. And an affirmation that South Korea is on observe to be counted among the many hockey elite as soon as once more.

Shin, who amassed greater than 200 worldwide caps between 1989 and 2002, was on the centre of a golden interval for South Korean hockey after they have been the undisputed greatest in Asia – having gained the Asian Games (1994 and 2002) and Asia Cup (1994 and 1999) twice every – and a power to reckon with globally, reaching the ultimate of the Sydney Olympics the place they misplaced to the Netherlands.

Nicknamed ‘Commando’ due to his physique, Shin was one of many most interesting drag-flickers of his period and a yr after he retired in 2002, Jang took over the mantle of being South Korea’s set-piece specialist. And though they by no means might replicate the highs of the Nineties, South Korea remained a continental big till the wheels slowly began to return off with the group failing to qualify for the final two Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.

Jang (L) celebrates his purpose with teammate. (Credit: Hockey India)

Limited assets

It wasn’t a thriller as to why Korea fell from grace so spectacularly. “Korea is not interested in hockey,” Shin stated. “It is not a famous sport.”

And so, the game suffered. Unlike India who’ve limitless assets, Malaysia who boast of Asia’s strongest home construction and Japan who’re nonetheless reaping the advantages of fund injection after internet hosting the Olympics, South Korea – as soon as the gold customary of Asian hockey – fell behind on all markers. They didn’t have the expertise pool, home construction, or cash.

“We have four clubs and five university teams, which put together provide between 150-200 players for national team selection,” Shin says. It’s been like that since his taking part in days.

To put that in perspective, whereas Shin has a participant pool of 200 to select from, his group’s opponent in Wednesday’s quarterfinal, the Netherlands, has near 250,000 registered gamers. The challenges don’t finish there. Three golf equipment – Seongnam City Hall, Incheon City Sports Association and Gimhae City Hall – largely fund the nationwide programme and nurture the little expertise that continues to be after most of it falls by the cracks at a number of ranges.

“They start at middle school and then proceed to high school. At both levels, there are 15 teams each. After that, you progress to University, which has five teams,” Shin says. “After University, some players go to serve the Army for two years, and after they finish the Army service, some go to the clubs and some players retire. It is very difficult to keep the players together.”

The save after which the celebrations!

Korea surprised the 2016 Rio Olympic Gold medallists Argentina of their crossover recreation at #HWC2023

This can be the @JSPLFoundation Moment of the day.#HockeyEquals #HockeyInvites @asia_hockey

— International Hockey Federation (@FIH_Hockey) January 24, 2023

Getting again on observe

Shin, who apart from being South Korea’s coach since 2018 is concerned with the nation’s largest membership Seongnam, says he’s targeted on sharpening the essential expertise of his gamers. “Ball control, open receiving, how to get that kick while attacking, how to defend…” Lacking any depth to stay to at least one taking part in model or philosophy, Shin’s group is thought for its tactical flexibility, altering its model as per its opponent.

A cussed group to interrupt down, South Korea can defend deep in opposition to sides which might be superior to them and aggressive, can play on the counterattack and are harmful from penalty corners, with Jang – who has scored 109 targets in 313 worldwide appearances throughout his 20-year stint with the nationwide group – as the principle drag-flicker.

It has labored as South Korea have been making all the proper noises within the final 12 months. The group has reclaimed its misplaced continental glory by profitable the Asian Champions Trophy in 2021 after which changing into the Asia Cup winners after a niche of 9 years.

Half of the gamers of their World Cup squad are within the early-to-mid 20s, giving Shin the hope that their greatest is but to return and in addition sounding out a warning for a wavering India close to this yr’s Asian Games, on which the South Korean coach has firmly set his sights.

Before that, on Wednesday, Shin’s aspect can gatecrash the celebration and win again its seat amongst the elite. “Who is in the quarterfinal?” the coach teasingly asks. “Who is it, Holland? Ooh, such a strong team!”

Daunting it could be, however with ‘Jangbas’ – the World Cup’s second-highest scorer from penalty corners – main them from the again, South Korea will imagine it’s not inconceivable.