Commonwealth Games: England's coach is confident of success

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ENGLAND LINE up today in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games men's competition in confident mood.

Barry Dancer, England's Australian coach, has no qualms about playing Australia. "Yes, I have a strong emotional tie, having played for Australia," he said, "but tomorrow it is England that matters.

"We are a better team and better prepared than when we lost to them in Utrecht in the World Cup and they are in transition. I am confident we can overcome them in the midfield and win."

Dancer's confidence will be based on the steady improvement they have made since coming here. The midfield has worked well, with Russell Garcia having several outstanding games and the 19-year-old Michael Johnson maturing with every outing, allowing Dancer to rest Justin Pidcock for significant periods.

The big disappointment and the danger to a final place is the lack of goals from the strikers, with the exception of Ben Sharpe whose hat-trick in the final 3-2 pool win against Pakistan was brilliant. India play New Zealand in the second semi-final.

Maggie Souyave, the women's coach, was equally confident for their semi- final against India, who have never beaten England in competition. The return of the experienced Tina Cullen and Mandy Nicholson, who missed the World Cup through injury, has contributed significantly to England's improved form here in Malaysia.

"Things have gone very well here and I am very pleased with our progress," Souyave said. "We need to convert a few more chances and maybe our corner drill will come off. It's now in our own hands."

Australia, the outstanding team here, play New Zealand in the other semi- final.

Meanwhile, Canada have offered an apology for the violent behaviour of their incensed men's team after they were denied a place in the semi- finals by the hosts, courtesy of a hotly contested last-gasp goal. The tournament director, Peter Crane, said a Canadian delegation had met him after the umpire had to be escorted off the pitch on Thursday.

"They made an unqualified apology and are willing to compensate for any damage caused by the players at the National Hockey Stadium," Crane said, in reference to a damaged changing room door.

Canada needed only a draw to go through and with only minutes to go the score was 1-1. Then the Canadian keeper kicked the ball clear, hitting a Malaysian player lying in the circle. The ball was returned and Malaysia scored as the Canadians appealed in vain to the Scottish umpire David Wallis.

At full-time, Peter Milkovitch, the Canada captain, and his players surrounded Wallis, appearing to push and abuse him as the Malaysians celebrated.