The Busan Asian Games 2002 Review
By Paul Lissek
The Asian Games 2002 in Busan/Korea ended with a surprising ranking considering two facts;
Missing Pakistan among the medallist.
The fifth placing of China, in front of Japan and closer behind the top 4 in Asia than years before!
The host country, Korea, after bad results during Champions Trophy 2002 in Collogue, Germany has improved tremendously and got a deserved gold medal, beating India in the final match 4:3. But Korea was not as an outstanding team during the Asian Games tournament.
10 players in the starting line up 2002 in Sydney 2002 Olympic silver. Players who resigned after the Olympics came back to fight for a gold medal successfully. Indeed Korea was the most experienced teams and not less than 8 players, age were over or close to 30 years old.
The 1:1 draws in the pool match against India and the close 4:3 won in the final game against the same team showed no dominance of the winner but a more fight and unpredictable situation among the Asian top teams.
Pakistan started strong into the tournament beating all teams in their pool easily with high scores. Maybe the easy going first round made them over-confidence for the semifinal against India. They seemed to be not good enough prepared for an India team, which started better and never lost the leading position in that game. The main reason why they maybe "best team" in the Asian Games ended only forth is a minor determination from match-to-match and loosing power after a long season with too many top events in a short period. It shows that it is impossible, even for the best team in the world, to be always top during a period of 9 months with 4 high level events!
Pakistan did not play all those events in 2002 with the same team. The leader and best player, Shabaz Ahmad, quit again after World Cup and the structure changed and it is not easy to develop a new team for a new structure without reasonable time and preparation !
Pakistan has the individualist equipped with all the skills you need to perform among the best. But the Bronze medal match against Malaysia showed that they can struggle even against a team they have beaten easily a few days ago when tactical changes are made and the balance between individual and team work is wrong.
Korea the gold medallist has improved a lot of tactical; they have used the World Cup and Champions Trophy to prepare their team for their high light, the Asian Games to be as fit as possible in the right moment. They used those tournaments to improve the short corner defense and attack as well as the tactical strategy in defense and attack in general. Korea has learned from European teams during World Cup and Champions Trophy and used the experience, even bad experience, to take the right consequence in the right moment. They still take profit from the old stars, such as Song and Kang concerning the scoring abilities and the pc-specialist has made obviously a great improvement since the Sydney Olympic.
India seems still to be able to beat every top team in the world. But their play is not stable nor consistent, they change players, coaches and system as they like, and wondering about inconsistency !
The players all have a great skills and they seem to be fit physically as well. My felling is they still owe the master of improvisation.
Malaysia with a young and inexperienced team made their bad experiences in the right moment and learned from a 1:6 defeat how important it is to tighten the defense first, waiting for counter attacks.
The team showed tactically good 1st half against Korea in the semis and made it difficult to the better team to win.
Malaysia gained confidence after using a soy defense quite well against Korea and did it more successfully in the Bronze medal match against Pakistan. With this kind of play there is always a chance against ‘team with individualist’. To improve the quality of a team it is necessary to improve the technical level and the physical strength!.
For insider expected was the 5th place from China. My observation during our test series in China resulted in a high respect from a team, what never appeared in top tournament. Their technical & tactical level was astonishing high and I saw a chance for China to reach the top 4!.
There is a clear system in developing the team. There is a lot of good knowledge about top hockey and with the physical advantage you must expect a further development like the ‘Korean model’.
Against strong teams they create an unexpected tactical respect, working in defense and attack like ‘video teams’. The players might be able to anticipate the situation and follow the needed tactics. But there is no consistency from match to match and players following more their on instinct rather than the needed structure.
That makes it on one hand difficult for top teams to beat them on the other hand weaker teams with a clear strategy have always a good chance to make that problem or beat them.
Typical for India was the situation in the final when they were down 0:3 in the 2nd half for normal teams a hoples in situation for a come back. India different was it strategy or intuition that they made tactically the best choice to hit long balls hard into the "D", waiting for mistakes in Korean defense. It worked but was not good enough because they were not able to change tactic again after 3:3. They continued to attack and had no patience to wait and tighten their defense, which was a risky play against a team with better pc – flicks and set pieces.
Paul Lissek FIH Master Coach