All the news for Monday 30 July 2012
London 2012 Olympic Games - Hockey Competition Results
Pool Time Match Result
B 08:30 New Zealand vs. Australia 1-0
A 10:45 Netherlands vs. Belgium 3-0
A 13.45 China vs. Korea 4-0
B 16:00 Argentina vs. South Africa 7-1
A 19:00 Great Britain vs. Japan 4-0
B 21.15 Germany vs. USA 2-1
Argentina's magnificent seven
New Zealand stun Aussies in Pool B opener; Germany get past USA challenge
Argentina Celebrate their second goal (Photo: Stanislas Brochier)
Argentina vs. South Africa 7-1 (half-time: 5-1)
Argentina blew South Africa away in the first half to get their Olympic campaign off to a breathtaking start at a soaked Riverbank Arena in front of a crowd of over 12,500. They ran up a 5-1 lead by the interval as the inter-changing lines of the likes of Daniela Sruoga, Delfina Merino and Carla Rebecchi was too hot to handle.
Luciana Aymar was pulling the strings and it saw them run up a string of penalty corners. For the most part, Sulette Damons was doing a brilliant job to shut down Noel Barriosnuevo’s first phase efforts. But the rebounds fell kindly as, first, Aymar provided a neat dink before smashing home the third corner in the eighth minute, her 129thinternational effort.
Josefina Sruoga finished off the next after the ball got caught in Mariette Rix’s pads and she pounced to snap up from close range. South Africa did get one back a minute later, again an Argentinean corner proving the route. This time, however, Rix saved well and her side produced a full-length counter.
Shelly Russell worked the ball to Jennifer Wilson who picked a delightful cross for Dirkie Chamberlain to slide onto and score the pick of today’s goal to date. But Argentina were insatiable up front and there proved to be scant respite from the intense preesure. Martina Cavallero restored the two-goal advantage as Daniela Sruoga jinked through the circle.
From corner number six, Aymar notched her second, again a rebound while Carla Rebecchi picked off a peach of a reverse – Aymar the provider for 5-1 at the break. The second half proved a more sedate affair with Argentina sitting deeper, conserving energy while South Africa endeavoured to push on but could not break through.
Noel Barrionuevo’s neatly worked corner-switch extended the margin to 6-1 with nine minutes to go while Silvina D’Elia’s unpressurised hit from her side’s ninth corner completed the rout late on.
For more information on ARG v RSA, click here
Germany vs USA 2-1 (2-0 half-time)
Germany scraped to victory over the USA but they were hugely relieved as the USA had them on the ropes for the majority of the second half, Yvonne Frank just about keeping the three points in tact. They looked to be cruising when Fanny Rinne’s drag-flick and a classy Lisa Hahn finish had them 2-0 up at half-time. But the US earned four second half corners, one of which Lauren Crandall scrambled home.
It set up a grandstand closing quarter in which the Americans looked the more likely to score next but Frank ensured no more goals came. Like many of the other fancied tournament challengers today, Germany appeared to have the game wrapped up at half-time. They forced Amy Swensen into two brilliant early saves, the latter a sliding effort to deny Lisa Hahn’s corner deflection at the right post. But she was powerless to deny the second corner, Fanny Rinne emphatically picking out the top corner eight minutes in.
Pure German class saw them move 2-0 up. A swift diagonal attack from right to left saw Janne Muller-Wieland locate Hahn drifting left and away from goal. She was unmarked but still had plenty to do from a narrow angle but unleashed a rocket on her reverse.
There were plenty of signs in the first half that the US were keen for the fight, though, and they returned after the break fired up. Laubach drew an excellent touch from Frank after a successful video referral appeal won their second corner.
Kayla Bashore-Smedley was bossing midfield at this stage and her incisive pass found Michelle Vitesse with a golden chance to get one back but she dithered too long when Frank was prone.
A corner did ensue, though, and Laubach’s drag took a couple of deflections before injector Crandall dived on it to pull one back. Katie O’Donnell thought she had a leveller only for Julia Reinprecht to intervene with a foot before the ball rolled in before Frank smothered another O’Donnell volley. It was just not to be and Germany held on for what could be a vital three points.
For more information on GER vs USA, click here
New Zealand vs. Australia: 1-0 (half-time: 1-0)
The blue and pink Riverbank Arena was looking stunningly beautiful under the bright sunshine for the start of Olympic hockey. The two teams from Oceania were first in action and the emotion of the players from New Zealand and Australia, who had trained for so long for this first match, was palpable during the anthems. The Australians were nervous in the first minutes and conceded a penalty-corner on the first incursion of the New Zealanders in the circle, and Cathryn Finlayson scored the first goal of the Olympic competition to give New Zealand an early lead.
Australia quickly got rid of their early jitters and started to push back New Zealand on their heels. Megan Rivers thought that she had scored after the a superb run into the circle, but her powerful shot hit the post and nobody was on hand to use the rebound. The game then settled in a balanced contest, between two teams very close in the FIH Rankings (6th for New Zealand, 7th for Australia) and knowing each other quite well.
Anna Flanagan was close to tie the score for Australia with a powerful low shot on penalty-corner, but Black Sticks’ goalkeeper Bianca Russell saved it with an acrobatic dive. New Zealand successfully appealed to the video-umpire to avoid another penalty-corner late in the period, but were surprised in the last seconds by Anna Flanagan, who received a long ball behind the defense. Bianca Russell was once again up to the task and half-time was reached with the one-goal margin for New Zealand.
The Black Sticks were once again faster off the starting blocks and Charlotte Harrison received an excellent ball from Katie Glynn but, alone in front of the goal, could not turn fast enough to beat Toni Cronk in the Australian goal. The match continued with end to end attacks, keeping well entertained the near capacity crowd, with very vocal contingents of Aussies and Kiwis. Australia’s appeal to the video-umpire for a penalty-corner was rejected; however they soon played with an extra player when New Zealander Melody Cooper received a yellow card. They pushed forward, but the New Zealand defense weathered the storm quietly and the Aussies could not even generate a shot on goal.
Despite playing short one player, New Zealand managed to force a penalty-corner after a long run by Gemma Flynn, but Katie Glynn’s flick was weak and the score did not evolve. With time running out, the Australians became more desperate in their attacks. Georgia Nanscawen, Casey Eastham and Hope Munro were very active upfront but the Black Sticks’ defense, efficiently backed by Bianca Russell, once again held tight. With two minutes to go, Australia replaced their goalkeeper with an extra field player. The gambit nearly paid off on their first attack, but it was too little too late and New Zealand earned the 3 points of the win on the benefit of their early goal.
For more information on NZL v AUS, click here.
British hosts light up London
Comfortable win for China over Korea; Dutch too good for Belgium
2012 Olympic Games (women), London (Photo: Frank Uijlenbroek)
Great Britain vs Japan 4-0 (4-0 half-time)
Inspired by a partisan local crowd, hosts Great Britain powered into a 4-0 half-time lead, one which they ultimately did not need to add to further to enjoy a comfortable opening win. Using their physical superiority, they out-muscled the Japanese in midfield and affected a string of turnovers in great areas and were ultimately too strong in each facet of play.
Georgie Twigg fired the warning shot early on when she had a high shot just tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Sakiyo Asano. Alex Danson broke the deadlock when she capitalised on a ricocheting crash ball. She got an initial touch in the build-up before the ball bounced back to her mid-circle where she reacted brilliantly to control and apply a little reverse-stick dink over Asano.
One became two on 23 minutes when Hannah McLeod threaded a beautiful ball through to Sarah Thomas who applied a late glance into the bottom right corner. GB were further into dreamland when Kate Walsh recovered a corner rebound and worked the ball around the circle via Twigg to Walton. Her lift over Asano’s shoulder was delightfully neat, 3-0.
Helen Richardson, then, created the fourth in the 28th minute, providing a sweet ball through for Danson and she poached her second of the game and 52nd international strike.
The second half was played out at a much more sedate pace with Britain once again forcing most of the issue. Christa Cullen dinged the post with one of her drag-flicks while Chloe Rogers and Danson had the pick of the efforts from play but Asano did well on both occasions to narrow the angle and keep the chances under control.
GB did, though, have cause for concern when Walsh took an errant stick to the face, drawing blood and requiring her exit from the game with four minutes remaining. Richardson was also carried off, taking a raised ball to her left knee.
For more information on GBR vs JPN, click here
China vs. Korea: 4-0 (half-time: 1-0)
First match of the midday session was between Asian rivals China (ranked 5th in the world) and Korea (ranked 8th). With rain falling steadily at the beginning of the match, it took some time for the crowd to get into cheering mode and for the match to pick up pace. Korea forced a penalty-corner in the opening minutes, but could not produce much from it.
Both teams were playing with similar styles, disciplined defense and swift counter-attacks, however creating very few clear opportunities for goal. China had a penalty-corner in the 15th minute, but Ma Yibo’s low shot for an option fizzled. They had another opportunity in the 25th minute and this time Ma Yibo slotted her flick high and out of reach of Moon Young Hui in the Korean goal.
With the sun making a timid return, the end of the period was much more animated, with a few hot situations in the Chinese circle, but no other goal was scored before half-time, reached with a meagre one-goal lead for the silver medallists from Beijing, and the impression was that the contest could go either way.
Korea started the second period faster to try and force the equalizer quickly. They swarmed the Chinese circle, had a chance on penalty-corner which was totally unsuccessful, kept pushing and had a better attempt on their next penalty-corner which was well covered by Zhang Yimeng in the Chinese goal. The Koreans were still trailing by the lone goal and seemed to be on the verge of equalizing when Zhao Yudiao made the most of a loose ball in the opposite circle to score the second Chinese goal and establish a more comfortable lead.
The Chinese players suddenly seemed to find their second wind and promptly earned a penalty-stroke. Li Hongxia made no mistake to push the score to 3-0, setting an insurmountable climb back for Korea. The game became rougher and the two teams traded cards, with China down to nine players for a few minutes. In the final minutes, Ma Yibo scored her second penalty-corner of the match (doubling on the first day of competition her goal-tally from Beijing, where she only scored once in 18 penalty-corner attempts) and China grabbed their first win with a comfortable margin (4-0).
For more information on CHN v KOR, click here.
Netherland vs. Belgium: 3-0 (half-time: 1-0)
Second match of the day was between defending Olympic Champion, The Netherlands, ranked #1 in the world, and the Cinderella of the competition, Belgium, coming in the Olympic Games ranked 16th in the world. The Dutch women were loudly cheered by a huge contingent of fans all clad in orange, while the Belgian women looked tense during the anthems for their first ever match in Olympic competition.
As expected, The Netherlands dominated the early stages of the match without giving the impression of exerting themselves too much, circulating the ball wide of the Belgium defensive block. Maartje Paumen saw her first attempt at penalty-corner deflected on the post by young Aisling D'Hoogue in the Belgium goal, then Margot van Geffen followed up with a powerful shot that flew inches wide of the post. Play was limited to one half of the pitch, but the Dutch players could not beat the Belgium defense regrouped in the circle, and they peppered the outside of the goal when they had a chance to shoot.
They finally opened the score with only two minutes left in the period with a deflection from close range by Kim Lammers, receiving a perfect long ball from Eva de Goede, celebrating in style her 100th International Cap. The modest one-goal lead for The Netherlands at half-time was not reflecting the physiognomy of the game, but there was little doubt on the outcome of the contest.
The Dutch women continued their domination of play in second period, having most of the ball possession, and Kim Lammers scored her second goal of the match with another deflection from close range over the Belgian goalkeeper, this time on a pass from Ellen Hoog running around the Belgian defense on the right of the circle.
With rain suddenly starting to fall on London, pace of play abated a couple notches. The Netherlands scored a third goal on penalty-corner by Caia van Maasakker, a late addition to the Dutch team after the injury to Willemijn Bos, then rolled on to an easy win over a Belgian team which, to their credit, never gave up the fight, even forcing a penalty-corner in the last minute of play.
For more information on NED v BEL, click here.
Great Britain off to dream start with 4-0 win
Great Britain stormed to a terrific 4-0 victory in their first match of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Riverbank Arena this evening. A brace from Reading’s Alex Danson, together with goals from Sarah Thomas and Bowdon Hightown’s Sally Walton in an explosive first half, ensured that the home nation delighted an excitable and vociferous home crowd on the first day of the hockey competition.
The match was also milestone occasion for Reading defender Emily Maguire, as she capped her 100th international appearance with a resolute defensive display that restricted the Japanese attack to only three attempts on goal during the entire match.
Following the game Great Britain’s double goal scorer Alex Danson said, “It feels incredible [to score] but I just want to win. We’ve worked so hard as a squad on our goal scoring and it worked today, so that’s obviously something for us to feel very happy about. I don’t mind who scores so long as we score one more than them.”
“It’s a great start for us but we think of this as any other tournament. We can enjoy this while we’re having our horrible ice bath and then it’s thinking towards the next game because we don’t want to do it in one game, we want to do it in them all.”
After a cautious opening five minutes, with Japan looking slightly livelier, the match broke into life when Clifton’s GeorgieTwigg intercepted a loose defensive clearance in the Japanese half to drive into the shooting circle. The midfielder was unlucky not to opening the scoring as she fired the ball past the outstretched arms of Sakiyo Asano, but narrowly over the bar.
Nevertheless, Great Britain were not to be denied for much longer and they took the lead in the seventh minute. Following three long corners, Reading’s Helen Richardson eventually evaded two challenges and threaded a pass to find Danson free in the circle, who coolly lifted the ball past Asano with a reverse stick shot to open the Great Britain account at 1-0.
In the 14th minute, Japan registered their first meaningful attack on Reading player Beth Storry’s goal when SachimiIwao flashed a great pass across the circle, only for Masako Sato to agonisingly miss out on connecting with the ball with her stick at the back post.
Alex Danson then won a penalty corner following a foot infringement in the circle and Leicester’s Crista Cullen brought out the best from Asano when her powerful drag-flick was turned away low down to the Japanese keeper’s right hand side.
The home side were not to be kept waiting long for a second goal and three goals in the space of five minutes crushed any Japanese hopes of coming out of the match with any of the spoils. Reading’s Laura Bartlett found Leicester’s Chloe Rogers on the left hand side of the circle and the midfielder delivered a low pass into the corridor of uncertainty for Sarah Thomas to steal in from close range and double the lead for Great Britain after 23 minutes.
Shortly after, they stretched their advantage even further following a penalty corner set-play. Asano flat-patted Great Britain and Reading captain Kate Walsh’s drag-flick away from goal, but not far enough away from the danger zone to prevent Twigg finding Walton at close range. The Bowdon Highton defender claimed her second goal for Great Britain as she finished off the move by cutely dinking the ball into the roof of the net using the reverse of her stick to make it 3-0 in the 25th minute.
Great Britain further hammered home their ascendency in the 28th minute when they made the score 4-0. Following a sublime reverse ‘round the corner’ pass from Richardson, Danson grabbed her second goal of the game after expertly sliding the ball past Asano. The Reading forward nearly completed a first half hat-trick just before the interval but struck the ball over the bar.
Japan came out with a renewed vigour after the interval but try as they might, they could not break down a defensive unit that was intent on keeping Storry’s goal intact.
In the 49th minute, excellent build-up play from Richardson led to a Great Britain penalty corner from which Cullen again forced a dramatic save from Asano to keep the score at 4-0. The Japanese goalkeeper continued to frustrate and thwart the home nation when an interchange of passes between Danson and Rogers led to the striker forcing another block from close range in the 59th minute.
Cullen came close to adding to the goal tally but her strike from a penalty corner clipped off the right hand upright and there were no more scoring opportunities of note.
Unfortunately, there were injury concerns for Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry. Captain Kate Walsh left the field late in the second half after sustaining a facial injury. Kate was taken to hospital and is undergoing a medical assessment. Helen Richardson was also forced to leave the field when a lifted ball struck her on the knee.
Speaking after the game Great Britain Head Coach Danny Kerry said, "I thought that was a very thorough performance. We controlled the game and that led to good penetration. We took our chances in the first half. I felt we were tight and disciplined. In the second half we hit the post and their keeper made a good save."
Great Britain women’s next match at the Riverside Arena will be on Tuesday 31 July at 16.00 against Korea, who lost their opening game 4-0 against China today.
Your next chance to see Great Britain hockey live on the BBC will be at 19:00 tomorrow (30 July) when the men take on Argentina at the Riverbank Arena.
Great Britain 4 (4)
Danson 7, 28 (F, F)
Thomas 23 (F)
Walton 26 (PC)
Japan 0 (0)
GREAT BRITAIN WOMEN’S SQUAD v JAPAN
Beth Storry (Reading) [Goalkeeper]
Emily Maguire (Reading) [Defender]
Crista Cullen (Leicester) [Defender]
Kate Walsh (Reading) [Defender]
Ashleigh Ball (Slough) [Midfielder]
Nicola White (Slough) [Forward]
Sarah Thomas (No Club) [Forward]
Laura Unsworth (Reading) [Defender]
Helen Richardson (Reading) [Midfielder]
Georgie Twigg (Clifton) [Midfielder/Forward]
Alex Danson (Reading) [Forward]
Hannah Macleod (Leicester) [Midfielder]
Sally Walton (Bowdon Hightown) [Defender]
Anne Panter (Leicester) [Defender]
Chloe Rogers (Leicester) [Midfielder]
Laura Bartlett (Reading) [Midfielder]
Great Britain Hockey media release
Great Britain women's 4-0 hockey success over Japan soured by injuries
By Jessica Winch, Riverbank Arena
Painful end: Britain captain Kate Walsh left the field with four minutes remaining after being hit in the face with a hockey stick. Photo: PAUL GROVER
Great Britain’s women won their opening match against Japan 4-0, but at a cost. Their captain, Kate Walsh, and midfielder Helen Richardson were both carried off the pitch injured in the closing stages.
Play was suspended with fewer than four minutes to go after Walsh was hit in the face by a hockey stick and fell to the floor. She was helped off the pitch holding ice to her cheek.
Shortly afterwards, Richardson was hit in the knee by a ball, and was carried off the pitch supported by two Team GB support staff.
After a heavy shower the sun came out as the two teams lined up at the start of the match, to the relief of spectators at the uncovered Riverbank Arena, which was almost at full 16,000 capacity.
Great Britain quickly took the lead; a cross from Richardson found Alex Danson, who lofted the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Sakiyo Asano with a reverse stick shot to score the first goal of the home side’s Olympic run in the seventh minute.
Japan had a chance at goal after 15 minutes with a quick free hit and a pass aimed for goal, but the ball was fired narrowly wide.
Sarah Thomas scored for a 2-0 lead. Sakiyo Asano saved a penalty corner but Georgie Twigg flicked the ball to Sally Walton who scored a beautiful reverse flick goal to take the lead to 3-0.
Richardson fed a beautiful through ball to set up Danson’s second goal of the match as Great Britain took a commanding 4-0 lead.
The score stayed the same during the second half. With less than eight minutes remaining, Great Britain were awarded another penalty corner and Georgie Twigg fed the ball to Crista Cullen but she could not increase the lead.
After the match, defender Cullen said: “What was really important was that we got ourselves into the tournament and had a good start. I’m so proud of the girls who got those goals, field play goals, open goals, and [their] attacking play. I think the girls did brilliantly today.”
The 26 year-old added: “You’ve got to make sure you stamp your authority on the tournament in the first game and that’s exactly what we did. We’ve got to carry on now, we’ve got a big game against Korea. All Asian sides play in a similar way, so it’s about making sure we understand where we went wrong and how we try and make those [things] right.”
She said the team did not know the situation regarding Walsh’s injury, but she said: “She was hit, but we’ve got the best team who are going to put her back together again and get her back on that pitch. We’re as positive as we can be about it.”
Hospital check-up for injured Walsh
Great Britain's Kate Walsh left the field with blood pouring from the mouth
Great Britain Hockey coach Danny Kerry confirmed captain Kate Walsh had been taken to hospital after being hit in the face late in their 4-0 win over Japan.
However, he does not yet know how serious the injury is and it is likely an update on her condition will not be given until Monday. The 32-year-old, the team's most experienced player, was caught on the left side of her jaw by a full swing by Akane Shibata and left the pitch with blood coming from her mouth.
"She's with the medical people and we are awaiting further information," said Kerry. "She has gone to hospital to be checked out."
The injury to Walsh was the only downside to a comprehensive victory as midfielder Helen Richardson came off after taking a ball to the kneecap but is expected to recover in time for Tuesday's match against South Korea.
Striker Alex Danson grabbed the headlines with two goals either side of strikes from Wales international Sarah Thomas and Sally Walton.The Reading forward was returning to the venue for a competitive match for the first time since May when she was forced off with a dislocated shoulder in the final of the Olympic test event, which GB won.
"To come out and win our first game was exactly what we dreamed of and have worked towards," Danson told Press Association Sport. "It was incredible to score. I can't believe I'm at home and my family are watching but if I'm completely honest I don't mind who scores, as long as we score one more than the opposition.
"We celebrate the goals because we have spent hours practising so when we score you get the feeling it is working. I guess it is different now because this is where we now want to be.
"I had a scare at the test event and it was more the feeling of not being part of something incredibly special which worried me. It is difficult to explain how it feels when I line-up with my team-mates because you just want to do so well for the next person. So the thought of not being part of that was most devastating. To be here is the greatest thing I could be given."
Kerry was satisfied with the way the game panned out, even if they could not add to their first-half tally.
"I thought we controlled the game and took our chances in the first half and in the second half it was all about not being gung-ho and retaining that control," he added. "It was a very thorough and diligent performance. It was the first time the girls had played in front of the full 16,000 here and they weren't affected in any shape or form."
Poor start for SA women
The South African women’s hockey side got their Olympic campaign off the worst possible start yesterday as they went down 7-1 against Argentina.
If the weather patterns experienced at the Riverbank Arena were anything to go by then the result had already been determined by a higher power.
The match started under a cloud burst before the sun emerged during a period early in the second half when the South Africans managed to get their game going before the clouds gathered again as Argentina added to their tally.
It was always expected that Marsha Marescia’s side would be up against the Beijing 2008 bronze medallists and world’s second best side and although there were glimmers of hope when Dirkie Chamberlain netted to make the score 2-1, the world No 12-ranked side failed to effectively defend against the opposition’s short-corner attack.
The South Americans were rampant from the first whistle as they pegged the South Africans back inside their half of the field, forcing them into making errors as the pressure built.
The scores stayed level for all of seven minutes as captain Luciana Aymar made it 1-0 from a short-corner before Josefina Sruoga widened the gap to 2-0
Chamberlain’s effort followed shortly after as a counter-attack started down the right before they used their number advantage to good effect with numbers in the D as Jen Wilson’s precision pass found the stick of the diving striker to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes.
But from there on out it was all Argentina as they quickly added to their tally taking a 5-1 lead into the halftime break.
The South Africans seemed more structured in the second half but it was too little too late with the Argentineans adding two more strikes at the death to inflict more misery.
Attention will move to the men’s side today as they get their campaign underway with an equally daunting encounter against world No 1 Australia, a day that the women’s side will use to regroup and refocus before their next match against New Zealand tomorrow.
Elsewhere, New Zealand pulled off a surprise 1-0 victory over former champions Australia in the opening game of women’s field hockey, a first ever win over their rivals in Games history.
New Zealand rode on an early goal from Cathryn Finlayson to secure their landmark triumph.
Argentina in seventh heaven – nightmare start for SA
By Mark Etheridge
South Africa started their 2012 Olympic Games campaign with the worse possible case scenario, going down 7-1 to second-ranked Argentina in their Group B women’s hockey match at the Riverbank Arena in London on Sunday.
The South Africans had trailed 5-1 at halftime and despite holding the South Americans to a 2-0 scoreline in the second half the damage had been done after a merciless display by the Argentinians.
Fifteen minutes into the second half the score was still 5-1 after goals had earlier rained down on the South African goal harder than the summer showers crossing London.
Nine minutes into the second half the combination of Jen Wilson and Pietie Coetzee nearly earned reward after a committed Wilson had flung herself flat out on the blue astroturf in order to supply Coetzee with a cross that she narrowly squeezed wide.
The South Africans looked a far more accomplished side in the second half and with 10 minutes to go a penalty corner, their first, saw captain Marsha Marescia’s pinpoint cross to Coetzee eliciting a sharp save from goalkeeper Florencia Mutio.
But with eight minutes to Argentinia made it six of the best (for the SA side it was six of the worst) as Noel Barrionuenvo slammed one past Rix.
And then with just two minutes to go there was a final nail in the backboard of the SA goal when Silvina D’Elia slammed home as the SA defence failed to close her down.
In the first half the Argentinians had been awarded eight short penalty corners and scored from three of them.
An eighth minute penalty corner by Argentina super-striker Luciana Aymar saw coach Giles Bonnet’s girls on the back foot from the go-get in their Group B match as they struggled to get out of their own half.
Wave after wave of Argentinian assaults found SA goalkeeper Mariette Rix the busiest player on the field.
The first goal came from Argentina’s third short corner as Aymar came in from the left to hit a low drive goalwards which Rix was only to parry off her pads and into the backboard.
Then in the 20th minutes Josefina Sruoga slotted home after Rix had blocked a shot that Kate Woods was just unable to clear out of the danger zone (2-0).
South Africa then got on the scoresheet with 20 minutes to go after good work from Wilson down the right found an unmarked Dirkie Chamberlain.
But the second ranked Argentinians restored their two-goal lead with 10 to play through Marina Cavallero as a cross flashed in from the right and Cavallero flat-sticked it home.
South Africa’s woes weren’t over yet though as Aymar, the woman they call La Maga (the Magician), conjured up some lovely work in the South African D before making it 4-1.
It got worse when Carla Rebecci made it 5-1 with a flat-sticked shot from the left.
Next up for the South Africans are New Zealand on Tuesday and after Sunday’s nightmare Bonnet’s troops are going to have to regroup in spectacular fashion if their Olympic dream is to have any chance of being realised.
SASCOC Road to London
Argentina thrash SA hockey women
London – The South African women's hockey team were beaten 7-1 by world number two Argentina in their pool B opener at the London Olympics on Sunday.
Conceding 11 penalty corners (PC) in their first outing, the South Africans were always on the back foot against a determined-looking Argentine side hoping to improve on their third-place finish in Beijing four years ago.
Luciana Aymar opened the scoring from Argentina's third PC of the match, before Josefina Sruoga doubled the South Americans' lead in the 20th minute, also from a PC.
The South Africans looked to work themselves back into the game, with Dirkie Chamberlain pulling a goal back 12 minutes from half-time, after receiving a pinpoint cross from Jennifer Wilson.
Wilson picked up a pass from SA's defence after goalkeeper Mariette Rix made a save from an Argentina PC and hit back on the counter attack with an impressive turn of speed from deep in their own half.
Chamberlain's celebrations were short-lived, however, as Argentina restored their two-goal cushion through Martina
Cavallero, who slotted home after she intercepted a defensive clearance and scored from close range.
Aymar doubled her tally in the 29th minute as she scored a second PC past Rix, to hand Argentina a 4-1 lead as the South Africans struggled to keep up with the pace and tempo of their first clash.
Carla Rebbechi sealed a dominant first half for Argentina as she drilled a shot past Rix five minutes from the break, leaving SA with a mountain to climb in the second period.
The teams seemed content to keep the play between the areas in the second half as SA played catch-up to a rampant Argentine outfit while the leaders maintained their devastating momentum.
The South Africans won their first PC of the match in the 59th minute, but striker Pietie Coetzee's effort was well saved by Argentine shot-stopper Laura del Colle.
Argentina replied with a PC of their own 30 seconds later – their 10th of the game – which was converted by Noel Barrionuevo.
The SA defence was tested throughout and Argentina kept up the pressure, which turned into yet another PC three minutes from time, with Silvina D'elia adding her name to the scoresheet to wrap up a miserable start for South Africa.
US falls just short in opening match against Germany
LONDON – It was not the way the U.S. had hoped to start their Olympic campaign. Under the lights of Riverbank Arena, in the final match of opening day, Germany defeated the U.S. 2-1. Had there been extra time on the clock, the result easily could have been reversed.
“There were certainly some positives to come out of tonight’s game, but in the end the cold hard fact is we gave up two goals to the world’s No. 3 ranked team,” said Head Coach Lee Bodimeade. “We are looking forward to facing Argentina, a very familiar opponent for us. It is well documented that we qualified for the Olympics by beating them in the Pan American Games. We feel we match up well against them and will be expecting to elevate our performance as we will have to, to get the result we need.”
Fanny Rinne, the experienced German veteran with 335 caps to her name, struck early on a penalty corner. Rinne’s drag flick was perfectly placed in the upper right corner of the cage and out of U.S. goalkeeper Amy Swensen’s (Grantville, Pa.) reach.
Katie O’Donnell (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) were strong on the front line, creating space for scoring opportunities, but were unable to capitalize in the first half.
Lisa Hahn recorded a field goal at the 21 minute mark to increase the lead by two. Hahn sent a reverse chip shot sent high and to the left corner of Swensen’s cage.
The U.S. came out attacking in the second half, applying resilient pressure and firing several shots on goal. The U.S. earned four penalty corners and Claire Laubach (Centreville, Va.), who celebrated her 29th birthday today, was called to take the first three. Her third was successful and touched by captain Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, Pa.) for a tally on the boards.
The U.S. was inches away from scoring an equalizer on their fourth penalty corner, but a foul in the circle prevented a second goal.
“We did not come out as ready to play as we would have liked and Germany punished us for it,” said Crandall. “They put in two great goals and we knew we had to up our game in the second half. I think we had some pre-game jitters at the start and those two goals from the first half hurt us in the end.”
“I think our first half play had a lot to do with nerves,” said Keli Smith Puzo (Selinsgrove, Pa.) “It was the first game of the Olympics and it just took us too long to get into the game. We knew we had to come out fighting in the second half and that is what we did. We put Germany under a lot of pressure and that was really the game turner. We are going to build on this first game and come out stronger, early on in the next game.”
Up next is Argentina.
Get ready as Pan American rivals meet again in what is bound to be a nail-biting, fierce competition. Argentina will be looking for a vengeance and the U.S. will fight to prove the victory last fall was not a fluke. Tune in to MSNBC at 2:00pm ET to catch some of the live action.
Argentina boasts three medals from an Olympic Games, but has yet to claim gold. They kicked off their Olympic campaign with a dominant, 7-1, performance over South Africa.
USFHA media release
USA goes down fighting to Germany in their Olympic opener
By Jawwad Qamar
The USA women were unlucky to not get a point against the German powerhouse in their opening match of the London Olympic Games. After conceding two goals in the first half, the USA women put on a spirited fight in the second half but came up one goal short.
A perfectly placed drag flick in the 7th minute by the German captain Fanny Rinne in the top far corner, out of the reach of a rising USA keeper, Amy Swensen, during her team’s second penalty corner gave the Germans a quick 1-0 lead. After back and forth action, where the Americans held their own against the Germans, Janne Muller-Wieland found an open Lisa Hahn on the left of the American goal at the 20 minute mark, courtesy of Caroline Nichols. Hahn easily beat Swensen with a reverse stick shot high for a 2-0 score.
In the second half, the USA women came out with the sense of urgency keeping pressure and the ball in Germany’s half but not on target. They even won a penalty corner on video referral after umpire Wendy Stewart missed a foot call on the Germans, but failed to score.
The Americans persistence finally pays off as Kayla Bashore-Smedley’s through pass finds Michelle Vittese who earns a penalty corner after being denied by the German keeper, Yvonne Frank. And, and this time, Claire Laubach’s low drag from right to left is neatly deflected by captain Lauren Crandle.
For the next 16 minutes the Americans revved up the pressure in search of the equalizer but the Germans were equal to the task as two great opportunities by the always reliable Katie O’Donnell went awry.
Had the USA women played in the first half the way they played in the second the result might have been different
The women’s competition started with New Zealand upsetting Australia 1-0. In the other first day matches Nederland beat Belgium 3-0, China defeated Korea 4-0, Argentina toyed with South Africa 7-1 and the host Great Britain beat Japan with a surprise ease 4-0.
The USA next faces their arch Pan American rivals, Argentina and must win if they have any hopes of finishing in the top two from pool B.
Black Sticks Women win opening trans-Tasman Olympic match
A 1-0 win to New Zealand against Australia has given the Kiwis the start they were hoping for in their opening match at the 2012 London Olympics. It was a thrilling match and the first time that the Black Sticks Women have won a game against Australia at an Olympics.
Coach Mark Hager said it was always going to be a tough contest and to come away with a win is a good start to their campaign.
“We scrambled well in defence and goalkeeper Bianca Russell I thought played really well. It wasn’t our best hockey, we kept running it down the middle of the pitch, but it was a win none the less,” says Hager.
“We talked as a team last night about how Australia had an amazing hockey history at the Olympics and that we had nothing to lose and that we had to put away our chances.”
Playing at 8.30am in warm conditions on a blue-sky day, New Zealand got what they were hoping for early on when Midlands player Cat Finlayson scored from a penalty corner in the third minute.
It took a while for players from both sides to get into a rhythm, but they created equal opportunities with each side having three shots on goal in the first half.
In the second half, the Black Sticks looked the dominant side having more opportunities to score. Melody Cooper was yellow carded in the second half but it didn’t seem to hinder the Kiwi side with the statistics going their way with more shots on goal. Australians Teneal Attard and Emily Smith were green carded.
Capital’s Anita Punt showed her speed throughout the game, blitzing the Australian defence at every chance she had. Defenders Samantha Charlton, Kayla Sharland and Clarissa Eshuis and goalkeeper Bianca Russell were all stand out players.
The Black Sticks Women play their next game at 9.45pm (NZ time) on Tuesday 31 July against South Africa. The Black Sticks Men play their first game at 7.30pm (NZ time) tomorrow against Korea.
New Zealand 1 (Cat Finlayson), Australia 0. HT: 1-0
Hockey New Zealand Media release
Black Sticks aiming at history
By Dylan Cleaver
New Zealand 1
New Zealand have erased all memories of the Beijing debacle and created a major wave at the Olympic women's hockey tournament, beating Australia last night.
It was the first time in five Olympic matches New Zealand have avoided defeat against the most successful side in history who have won three golds.
New Zealand have three wooden spoons and a whole lot of sob stories to take home from their Olympic travels.
With a confident side preparing to face South Africa tomorrow night (NZT), that could be about to change.
"We spoke about it last night and said what have we got to lose?" said coach Mark Hager.
"What medals have we won? Nothing. We want to get to the medal rounds and give ourselves a chance to make history."
An early Cathryn Finlayson goal was all it took to kick-start the campaign and New Zealand displayed a combination of dash and doggedness to repel Australia.
The goal was not a thing of beauty - the ball fell into the path of Finlayson off a rebounded penalty corner effort - but it was a beautiful thing.
New Zealand's pace troubled Australia initially, but then they got narrow and dragged the Hockeyroos back into the match.
"We need to use around the outside a bit more. We kept trying to cut infield," pacy winger Anita Punt said. "I think it was just nerves and trying to do things that we don't usually do."
"Tell me about it," retorted Hager. "That wasn't the message, to go through the middle. We spoke about going outside, giving the ball early but for some reason we get tired and start to run the ball through the middle of the pitch. Against teams like Australia you can't do that. They're too talented."
What New Zealand did absolutely by the book was scramble well and contest every 50-50 ball like the match rested on it.
They also had an in-form Bianca Russell in goal. Twice she stopped Emily Smith at point-blank range, the second time seeming to take the wind out of the favourites' sails.
"It was a really good effort in defence," Punt said. "We haven't held a 1-0 lead from the start for a very long time so it was good."
The clock seemed to stall when it reached five, but New Zealand, with Clarissa Eshuis and Russell's reassuring presences, were not to be denied.
After Beijing, then NZOC secretary-general Barry Maister lambasted the performance of New Zealand's team sports and the women's hockey team were the worst. This side is almost unrecognisable from the 2008 version and should not pay for the sins of its predecessors, but you cannot ignore the fact this programme is in need of some Olympic redemption.
Australia was a tough introduction. Familiarity breeds not so much contempt but conspiracy, with the Hockeyroos accusing New Zealand of a spying raid during a recent four-nations series in Auckland.
New Zealand's coach Mark Hager, an Australian, laughed off the claims, but said it proved that his compatriots were concerned about the challenge they posed. He was probably right.
The New Zealand Herald
Black Sticks win Olympic opener
By Dylan Cleaver
New Zealand could be forgiven for wanting to celebrate long and hard. Wins at the Olympics against Australia don't come around every day - or any day in the case of the Black Sticks, who had played four, lost four until tonight's shock 1-0 victory.
Such is the Olympic schedule however, that their celebration will be a bit of match analysis, the odd flea in their ear from coach Mark Hager and an immediate switch of focus to Tuesday's opponents, South Africa.
"We've got to drop this game and focus on South Africa because it's a quick tournament," speedster Anita Punt said. "This game's gone. We'll take a few quick points that we can work on and start planning for South Africa because they use a similar sort of press to Australia.
"We'll be going home and watching clips on South Africa. That has to be our focus."
Still, they can take some satisfaction from driving their transtasman neighbours to distraction, scoring early off a Cathryn Finlayson scrambled effort, which settled any nerves they might have brought into the match.
"I think it did," Punt said. "But leading into this tournament we'd get the lead and we'd drop off and let them back in. It was a really good effort in defence.
"We haven't held a 1-0 lead for a long time. It was really hot out there, it was hard."
Punt's blinding pace caused Australia's defence issues, but they were not able to capitalise on this often enough, much to the frustration of both coach and player.
"You could probably hear the coaches' yelling at us," Punt said. "One of our strengths is our speed. We need to round the outside more and look for options. We need to look at that against South Africa."
Punt is expecting another hard fight against South Africa, saying when New Zealand does win against them, it tends to be by the barest of margins.
New Zealand have been handed a brutal pool. They must win their next match before they face the No 2-ranked team, Argentina, on Friday morning (NZT). The sixth-ranked New Zealanders then have a date with the 10th-ranked US, before rounding out pool play with another tough game against Germany (No 3), who beat them 5-1 in a pre-Olympic international.
The New Zealand Herald
Australia Gallant in Defeat Against Kiwis
The Hockeyroos were gallant in defeat going down to New Zealand 1-0 in their Olympic opener in London tonight.
Australia was on the back foot from the outset when the Blacksticks converted their first penalty corner through Cathryn Finlayson, who sent home a rebound just two minutes in.
Right from the get-go former Australian Kookaburra and Blacksticks coach Mark Hager’s influence was evident with the Kiwis executing a very attacking style of play.
New Zealand had a far higher work rate in the first half and pressured Australia all over the park, causing basic errors.
The Blacksticks dominated the opening half and aside from Victorian Georgia Nanscawen who looked the only danger in attack, Australia seemed flat.
Megan Rivers had some strong forward forays through midfield and when her shot on goal hit the post, it seemed nothing was going the Australian's way.
When Ashleigh Nelson eventually forced Australia’s first penalty corner, drag flick specialist Jodie Schulz was off the ground and Anna Flanagan’s shot was saved by the New Zealand keeper.
The Blacksticks press continued to deny Australia any space to work the ball out of defence or transfer and as a result they went to the break 1-0 up.
In the second, Australia did lift the tempo but New Zealand again had plenty of chances, with Australian keeper Toni Cronk having a blinder, saving at least three certain goals.
Australia was unlucky when a video referral was rejected, denying the Hockeyroos a much needed opportunity to give Schulz a crack at the goal.
The Australian crowd roared when the replay clearly showed NSW striker Emily Smith was tripped while taking a shot on goal.
Then to add insult to injury, the New Zealand goal keeper knocked smith to the ground and it was the youngster who was sent off for decent.
On the counter attack New Zealand would have scored again if there had not been some brilliant tackles by Schulz and Teneal Attard.
Overall Australia was dispossessed too often in midfield and too many turnovers allowed New Zealand to beat the Hockeyroos for the first time ever at the Olympic Games.
Australian Head Coach Adam Commens removed his goalie with two minutes to go, to add an 11th field player to the mix, which almost paid off when a shot from Casey Eastham was almost deflected in.
It wasn’t to be however and the Hockeyroos now have a difficult path to make the finals, having to take on Germany, ranked three in the world on Tuesday.
New Zealand 1 d Australia 0
Goal: Cathryn Finlayson(NZ) PC 2m.
Australia: Toni Cronk, Georgia Nanscawen, Jodie Schulz, Teneal Attard
New Zealand: Katie Glynn, Stacey Michelsen, Anita Punt, Kayla Sharland
Hockey Australia media release
New Zealand beat Australia 1-0 in Olympic hockey
LONDON: Cathryn Finlayson scored in the third minute on Sunday to give New Zealand a 1-0 victory over old rival Australia in the opening women's hockey match at the London Olympics.
Australia is a three-time Olympic champion, but its last gold medal performance was at home during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. New Zealand, meanwhile, is improving after failing to win a single match at the 2008 Beijing Games.
New Zealand had the ball in the Australian net in just the second minute, but the umpire had already blown for a short corner for an earlier offense. From the corner, Finlayson hammered in the rebound for her 18th international goal.
Australia should have equalized before the break but first veteran Megan Rivers hit the post with a low hard shot and then Emily Smith could only shoot straight at New Zealand goalkeeper Bianca Russell when all alone in the circle just before half time.
Australia threw everything into attack in the second half but could not break down the stubborn Kiwi defense and could have gone further behind had it not been for a great low save by goalkeeper Toni Cronk to turn away a Charlotte Harrison backhand shot.
"We created a lot of chances in the first half," said New Zealand captain Kayla Sharland.
"We scouted them a lot, we watched a lot of video footage of them," she added. "We knew our gameplan two months ago, we knew what we needed to do. We wanted to have a good start and get on a roll, I'm just very happy for the group."
The match was the first Olympic hockey match ever played on a bright blue pitch that is intended to make the fast-moving ball easier to follow for players, fans and television viewers.
Group B also features one of the tournament favorites, Argentina, along with Germany, South Africa and the United States. Defending champion the Netherlands is in Group A with Belgium, China, Britain, Japan and South Korea.
The men's hockey tournament was scheduled to start Monday.
The Times of India
India begins its campaign against the Netherlands
Michael Nobbs, coach of India’s national squad, said the team was looking forward to taking on the Dutch. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
In the face of formidable challenges, the focus is on penalty-corner specialist Sandeep Singh
Amidst the fret and fever of speculation, India is poised to set the ball rolling on Monday against the Netherlands in the men’s hockey competition. If wishes were horses India would be riding to the podium. But stark reality stares at the Indian team.
Everything rests on performance. Then expectations can be met.
There is a filament of optimism in aiming for a sixth spot; a realistic assessment. But India is notorious to under-perform and flop when expectations soar.
It is indisputable the team is well trained, properly balanced, meticulously coached and enjoyed enormous exposure in the last eight months. Tested and tried against all the leading outfits, save for the Netherlands, the opponent today in pool B, the players are battle ready.
Michael Nobbs deserves plaudits. His is pragmatic and not prone to hyperbole.
His goal of a sixth place is definitely not a sign of pessimism.
Placed in the group which includes the defending champion, Germany, and former gold medallists, the Netherlands and New Zealand, with the usually unpredictable Korea and Belgium, the challenges confronting India are formidable.
Is the squad geared up to face them? The answer is “yes” if the performance level goes notches higher and stays at that plane throughout.
Poor consistency rate
A detailed investigation of the record will, however, show the bane is one of appalling consistency rate.
While the overall strength of the defence cannot be portrayed as exemplary, the composition of the mid-field generates a veneer of assurance.
Here everything centres on Sardar Singh, one of the top pivots in contemporary hockey, and his co-ordination with Gurbaj Singh on the right, and Birendra Lakra on the left.
The focus, perhaps rightly so, is on Sandeep Singh as the penalty-corner specialist. But how many will India obtain rests on the fluency and finesse of attack in the hands of seasoned Shivendra, Tushar, Chandi and Sunil.
So, it all boils down to the link among the layers, defence, mid-field and attack.
While India has played against all its group opponents recently, it has not faced the Dutchmen since 2010. It is yet to win a game since 1996.
An overview of the contestants from the perspective of medal chances presents a fascinating vista.
The Netherlands, winner of the back-to-back gold in Atlanta and Sydney, with Germany are viewed as possible semifinal qualifiers from Pool B. Under coach Peter van Ass, the Dutchmen look up to the experience and élan of the iconic Teun de Nooijer.
Germany is perfectly balanced. Coach Marcus Weiss has an assembly of extraordinary talent in skipper Maximillian Mueller, and awesome strikers in the Zeller brothers, Christopher and Philip, ably supported by Matthias Witthaus.
On form, the Kiwis are feared most.
The recent Azlan Shah tournament underlined their potential to break the rhythm of any.
The Koreans and the Belgians chugged along after overcoming several hurdles with resilience and equanimity to be in London.
The Aussie dream of an Olympic gold dawned in 2004. A real powerhouse by any yardstick, Australia is tipped to scoop the gold. Only plain bad luck can halt its march.
Ric Charlesworth, acknowledged the best brain in coaching and Jamie Smith, accepted as the outstanding wielder of the hockey stick along with the penalty hitter Christopher Cierello, hold the cards for the redoubtable Australians.
The challenge, if there can be one for Australia, stems from the Britons.
On home turf and before a supportive audience, the coach Jason Lee and his men are passionate to regain the gold it won in 1988 in Seoul.
In Ashley Jackson, Matt Daly and Richard Smith, Britain has a clutch of match-winners.
Chasing the elusive gold is Spain, silver medallist in Beijing, under ace flicker Santi Freixa, while Pakistan, led by the ageing Sohail Abbas, is fighting against odds to regain its identity.
What Argentina has for its opponents under the cloak of unpredictability is hard to guess. Peter Lombi (coach) and Mathias Vila are busy scripting the plot.
The emerging sequence for a swing in the power alignment is sure to enthral the game’s aficionados.
Time to count for Tushars, Ignaces and Chetris
12-year old Tushar Khandker could no longer resist. His parents were not allowing him to play and practice hockey. He ran away from home, and this kiddish instinct forced his parents to change their minds.
Tushar grew up with hockey. His father expired when he was a tour. He came back to India, returned as quick as possible, and did not miss out any Junior World Cup match. The spirit, the sacrifice, utter madness to play for the country drive him forever. Each hockey player’s story is so much of similar stuff that their passion and perseverance are the two wheels on which our Indian hockey rolls on. Then you know one Ignace Tirkey, the smiling assassin on the turf. ‘Ignace chal gaya toh India chal gaya’ (If Ignace does well, India will do well). This is the common refrain of Indian coaches.
When India won the Junior World Cup in 2001, I asked each gold medalists two names whom they feel best of the lot at Hobart.
Ignace was in most of the list. He made a lasting impression, it is his habit. Ignace made it to the national team after his younger brother did so; and the fact now is Ignace is all poised to blossom at London, while his sibling Prabodh would sit at home and watch his elder brother’s amazing longevity.
Ignace is typical of those from tribal land. A big family, living in villages without electricity, prospering now because of hockey.
If Tushar is the case of individual’s thirst for the sport, Ignace epitomizes a distant but distinct part of another part of vast Indian canvass – a community’s desire to rise, and hockey being the social instrument of change.
Ignace from non-descript village from the most neglected part of India, had been Indian national teams’ captain for many events including the Commonwealth Games, and he won both Arjuna and Padmashree in the space of one year.
His story does not end here.
I saw him in almost in tears three summers ago at Kuala Lumpur. He was part of the Azlan Shah team, but the coach had a doubt on his fitness. He was not allowed to travel further to Ipoh, and had to return, his plea did not cut ice. He consumed the insult with his characteristic humility. Perhaps only player in the team never complained about anything to anybody. That’s why the coach did not survive, Ignace did.
Then see the case of Bharat Chetri, our charmer- in- chief in London.
He just missed 2004 number to much junior Adrian D’souza, and then saw with open eyes and pain the 2008 Olympic berth slipping away at Santiago.
Not many would have dared to imagine the guardian-less goalkeeper, who once almost seemed migrated to Malaysia, active in their league, gaining lot of distaff companions, would have survived to London, that too with the captaincy label. It’s a dream come true for Chetri, who has found a savior in Michael Nobbs, without whose patronage, he would not have scaled the height – first goalie to lead India at the Olympics – which he did ultimately.
Every coach dropped him when almost everyone thought when he was at his peak of form! Nobbs did not.
Chetri is comeback kid. Almost every alternate year of his career is blank, but this simpleton never gave up.
Their sunshine time has come.
Indian team at London is full of Tushars, Ignaces and Chetris.
Each one has his own trails and tribulations, distinct journey to London.
Indian hockey is platform for all.
Where only merit count.
Where cultures melt.
Where human barriers lose track. Where else you will have the scenario of Coffee-estate Coorgi merge with not so affluent Adiviasi; well built Haryanvi with his Punjabi pugree join fragile Southies, and each UPite set a style trend; no more than three have same mother tongue! What a cultural diversity, add to this the head staff, mostly from migrant's paradise Australia.
Our players hail from as big diversity as one can imagine. They made it to the team amidst adversity, but climbed up with sheer strength of merit.
Now the time has come for each of these gems -- many known to the country as stars, and a few will be so in a fortnight’s time -- to stay tall and count.
The country is watching hockey with enthusiasm as never before. The stunning final against France in the Delhi Olympic Qualifier, though erroneously, catapulted hockey into the top delight at the London mela.
The coach Michael Nobbs always played down the Delhi, probably it had no takers, as the nation again indulges in hockey glory or merry whatever.
The players, who toiled over a decade, together with those who made it on the current form, will have to deliver now to meet the minimum expectations of the team. None would like the story of missed chances, any longer, any more. The world is mercilessly professional. Emotion has limited role.
Our players can meet the expectations, and are well tuned to turn in a stellar show. Two things are clear. Firstly, players are ready to give their best. Secondly, the nation fully backs them.
A victory therefore will be considered and counted more than that.
Our players deserve to scale what you set out to. We are there with you, and go all out. Our Tushars, our Ignaces, our Chetris deserve their place in the moon, and it is rising in the land of 'no sun'.
Beware of Teun de Nooijer
The Netherlands are an unlikely European country. Here even national team selection is not an exclusive right of coaches. Like India and Pakistan, the public opinion counts in areas which are exclusively the domain of coaching in other parts of Europe. Chief coaches of the national teams had to bow down to public pressure, which often hail poplar stars much against the perception of coaches.
In the mid 2000s, the public opinion forced appointment of foreign coach for the Netherlands’ national team. The irony of such appointment whereby the services of Australian Terry Walsh was requisitioned in the run upto Athens Olympics was the Netherlands were the depending Olympic champions.
The burly De Roost, chief coach who brought Holland to finals of 2002 World Cup, had to go in favour of Terry Walsh, in 2003 and then Maurits Hendrics took over the reins. The politics and public opinion again forced the present coach Stephen van Ass to avail the services of Tuen de Nooijer and Taeke Takema. Those who watched the abovementioned duo would agree they were almost aged stars, not even aging, if their performance in the last two world cups are any indication. Taeke Takema, veteran at penalty corners, converted some goals only against India in 2006 World Cup, and that was not suffice for the country to make it to the semis. Pakistan added salt to the injury in the fifth place decider. The Netherlands was hardly a force either in the next World Cup or last Olympics. The teams lacked vibrancy which it showcased in the 90s. At the last world cups, the two veterans – Teun de Nooijer and Taeke Takema -- presented another dull chapter though there were adequate spells in which they sparked to a vintage polish. England put them aside in the crucial semis in Delhi 2010. This the big picture.
Presence of Teun de Nooijer, the wily inside forward who move like an eel in the periphery of the striking circle – the one who do so after Pakistan’s Shabaz Ahmad Sr. – in the tomorrow’s line up in normal circumstances must send a shiver down the spines of the Indians. Nooijer need not be that artistic, agile and aggressive for which he is known for, and is hailed as the world’s best. That he did not win the confidence of the present chief coach, who had dropped him early in the year, but had to take him back due to public opinion, like the case of Dhanraj Pillay in the run up to the Athens Olympics, speak in itself how much he is a spent force.
However, these veterans have a special attribute. They conserve their energy, and come up with a burst that blow up the rival team’s otherwise well-regulated game. They wait for their chance to change the course of the match, in which they almost are not noticeable. But in a split second they do damage.
What one remembers is the goal struck by veteran USSR player Servenko against India in 1988 opener. He was hardly a force in the match, but when presented a chance midway through the second half, and it was due to the fact that our players were protesting an umpiring decision, he struck the only goal of the match. India lost 3 valuable points. Had India at least drawn the match, we would have been in the semis. Nearly the same scene was there in 2006 Madrid World Cup (women) when Natascha Keller – who is now playing her fifth Olympics – struck to strip India of full three points.
Servenkos and Nataschas would not score many goals, would not spend full energy to make their indelible impression on the outcome of any match, they will do with characteristic ease and in their won bidding.
If India is casual with respect to Nooijer, the old horse will turn the tables. Nooijer will have to be taken care of. He may not be a bundle of energy in the mould of Sardar Singh. But has a hawkish eye on availing opportunities that comes his way.
He is no more a play maker par excellence at midfield, but a striker at upfront. He will try to encash self start and no offside rule. India need to take care of this guile gun if it entertains any idea of garnering full points on Monday.
High on confidence, Indian hockey team take on the Dutch
By Mihir Vasavda
A newspaper of high repute here in England published a dummies guide last Friday, illustrating the sports which each country dominates. It made for a very interesting read; countries like USA, Russia, Germany, China had the sports fighting for space in a small column width. For India, there was little work the art designer had to do. In a blue background, only ‘hockey’ was written in bold font across the Indian map. Perhaps, he wasn’t aware of the current state of the sport in India.
London presents an opportunity for the Indian team to find its lost glory. Redemption begins now. And the road to attaining it couldn’t get tougher. Michael Nobbs’s India open their Olympic campaign against the mighty Netherlands at the Riverbank Arena inside the Olympic Park on Monday. After failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics four years ago, this marks India’s return to the Games after eight years.
To state obvious, India need a positive result. But the challenge they face is daunting. Against the No 3-ranked Netherlands team, even a point would be as good as a win. India would take that happily.
Nobbs insisted his side would play for a win and that will be a mighty task for a team that is still in the rebuilding phase. “We have gone through the tough grind in the run-up to the Olympic Games, and the boys have worked hard. They are now excited about getting on to the pitch,” said Nobbs. “We just can’t wait for the action to begin.”
Nobbs has a few key points to ponder on the eve of the match. Firstly, whether to adopt a restrained approach or play the attacking brand of hockey – a style that India have played over the last one year. Going all out would expose the defence, which is another worry for Nobbs. Sandeep Singh, VR Raghunath and Ignace Tirkey, the three defenders, haven’t done full justice to their potential. That will surely give Nobbs a headache as the clinical Dutch will make the most of any mistake India will make. It will also be interesting to see whom Nobbs starts as the goalkeeper. Bharat Chetri is the captain of the side but over the last one year, PR Sreejesh has started in big matches. Whether the coach will stick to that trend will be keenly observed.
The Dutch, meanwhile, would like to better their bronze-medal finish at the Beijing Games. The Indians will be wary of Dutch spearhead Teun de Nooijer, who has more than 600 appearances to his name and will be playing in his fifth Olympics. The Dutch will be without their penalty corner ace Taeke Taekema owing to an injury.
Nobbs said it is players of de Nooijer`s quality that can trouble his defence, but the Indians had worked hard. “We’ve done the drills, but now need to execute them on the field,” said the Indian coach. “The Dutch are an aggressive team, and we must learn not to give them any leeway.”
Action time for hockey stars after 8-year wait
London: There is no dearth of tourist spots in London, but the only place drag flicker Sandeep Singh would like to visit is the Bushey Station. Ever since the star Indian defender came to know about the local organising committee’s decision to rename the station after former Indian hockey star Leslie Claudius, he has been hoping to go to the station to see how it looks.
“An important station in London being named after an Indian hockey player is a huge thing,” Sandeep told The Telegraph. “I can imagine how much influence India had on the game during those days.”
On Monday, the Indian hockey team will play their first Olympic match in eight years, against the Netherlands, but the keen followers of the game aren’t too optimistic about India’s performance.
Runaway winners in hockey when London hosted the Olympics in 1948, India are now rated strugglers of the game. When reminded, Sandeep stopped for a moment and said: “I sincerely hope we return from London the same way as Claudius and other players did in 1948… All I can say is that there would be no lack of effort on our part.”
But then, all said and done, Indian hockey nowadays is more about emotions, as the reality has not been rosy. Chief coach Michael Nobbs has often talked about the aim of finishing fifth or sixth at the Games. Some of the former stars, however, are a little more optimistic and said that it would be a miracle if the team reached the last four.
Winners of two back-to-back gold medals in 1996 and 2000, the Netherlands are not the same team which they used to be. Still, they are good enough to get the better of the Indians, led by Kalimgpong-born goalkeeper Bharat Chetri. The Indians are taking heart from the fact that both Sardar Singh and Ignace Tirkey are fit .
Majority of Indian fans present here are still not sure whether to throng the hockey stadium to cheer Nobbs’ boys, or visit the shooting range to watch Abhinav Bindra in action in the 10 metre air rifle event. After all, it was Bindra who brought India’s lone gold in Beijing four years ago.
The Telegraph, India
India face formidable Holland in opener
Riverbank Arena, the hockey venue, is finally bustling with activity. Three days ago, workers were driving home the final nails into the makeshift stands while volunteers were still trying to figure out entrance and exit routes.
On Sunday, the arena looked ready for action as the Indians trooped in late in the afternoon for a light practice session.
It will take time getting used to the blue turf here, but any colour is welcome if the Men in Blue can manage to get going. The missed bus to Beijing had raised fears of an extended exile, but Aussie coach Michael Nobbs has ensured that India get their rightful place back in the world of stick masters.
They begin first on Monday against The Netherlands, a bunch of top dogs who have been playing together for almost five years. The men in orange, ranked third in the world behind Australia and Germany, play a level above the Indians but it will boil down to making opportunities count.
For India, ranked No. 10 in the world, it is all about punching above their weight. The team is not very experienced and has not played regularly at the top level. What should work for them is the fact that they have key players in key positions to rattle the Dutch.
The team trained on the blue turf for the past three months and even played at this venue a month back in a four-nation tournament. The new turf has settled down and should see a fast and furious game of hockey.
The key lies in the midfield with playmaker Sardar Singh, who will have to shine like the singer he loves, Chamkila. Sardar will be supported by Gurbaj Singh, Birendra Lakra and Manpreet Singh in the feeder line.
WHAT MIGHT WORK
India's strike force is capable of being unstoppable on its day. Coach Michael Nobbs and trainer David Jones made fitness a priority and now the team is almost on par with the top teams in terms of speed, agility and stamina. The team has also changed its style of play which will work to its advantage.
WHAT MIGHT NOT
Coach Nobbs may have reinvigorated the attack but he couldn't do much about the defence . With Sandeep Singh and VR Raghunath not the best of defenders, they may end up conceding too many. Can the strikers score enough to make up for that? The new blue turf too could pose a challenge, especially as India haven't really adapted to it yet.
Sardar Singh, Sandeep Singh, SV Sunil
Goalkeepers: Bharat Chetri (Capt.), PR Sreejesh; Defenders: VR Raghunath, Ignace Tirkey, Sandeep Singh; Mid-fielders : Sardar Singh (vice-captain ), Gurbaj Singh, Birendra Lakra, Manpreet Singh; Forwards: SV Sunil, Gurwinder Singh Chandi, Shivendra Singh, Danish Mujtaba, Tushar Khandker, Dharamvir Singh, SK Uthappa; Standbys: Sarwanjit Singh, Kothajit Singh.
India's pool: India, The Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand,
The Times of India
India hockey team eager impress on return to Olympics
Back in the Olympics after eight years, the Indian hockey team would look to relive the glory days when it opens its campaign against the formidable Netherlands in the 30th Games here tomorrow.
Eight-time Olympic gold medallists India, currently ranks 10th in world hockey, are confronted with the aggressive world number three Dutch, whose robust European tactics can be quite a handful.
London evokes fond memories as it was the city in which independent India scripted its maiden sporting success story by winning the Olympic hockey title in 1948.
Winners of the 1996 and 2000 Olympic titles, the Dutch are the only team after India to have won successive gold medals.
India won Olympic titles in a row between 1928 and 1956, but are now striving to earn their first semifinal berth in 32 years since the gold medal in the boycott-hit 1980 Olympics.
World champions Australia start as the title favourites in men's hockey with reigning Olympic champions Germany rated as the other formidable contender.
Australia won the last major encounter between these two teams, in the 2010 World Cup final in New Delhi.
Despite losing several of their established stars in recent years, the Netherlands are still considered just a notch behind Australia and Germany.
Indian captain Bharat Chetri said his team has worked hard and was aware of the significance of the return to London for the Olympic Games.
"We want to produce a good display. We are eager to show that the London connection with Indian hockey is not just symbolic," said Chetri, promising an exhibition of aggressive hockey.
Heavy burden of history
India take on formidable Dutch as they begin their quest to regain lost glory
They are nowhere near the top, either in rankings or in performance but that wouldn’t stop the country from expecting a miracle from the Indian hockey team at the Olympic Games.
Blame it on history. Every Indian team at the Olympic Games has been weighed down by the past – eight gold medals bring a heavy burden – but past will have no relevance when action starts at the Riverbanks arena on Monday.
India, placed in Pool B, are up against Holland in the first match. As opening matches go, it couldn’t have got tougher but there are no easy matches at the Olympic Games and as coach Michael Nobbs says, it is good to have the big matches out of the way early. Nobbs has been trying his best to temper expectations. He has repeatedly said the team is still not at the same level as Australia, Germany or Holland. A top-six finish is what the Australian has been targeting.
Preparatory matches haven’t exactly gone the way Nobbs would have liked, as the team struggled against Spain and Britain. Worryingly, penalty corners too didn’t fetch India much success. Perhaps, that is what Nobbs had in mind when he said he was trying to fix certain things before the team takes the field for the first match.
Sandeep Singh’s strikes from short corners were important in India’s progress to the Olympic Games this time after they missed out on an Olympic appearance for the first time in their history at Beijing 2008. But at this level, getting penalty corners itself will be a difficult exercise, putting the onus on strikers to land field goals.
The good news from the Indian point of view is the recovery made by Sardar Singh and Ignace Tirkey. Sardar is the fulcrum around which the team’s fortunes revolves and the other day, he had declared that he was fully fit and ready for the Games. India also need Tirkey’s experience at the back, with Sandeep and V R Raghunath not really polished performers.
The Dutchmen, champions in 1996 and 2000, are attempting to regain the crown after their bid in Beijing was thwarted by Germany. Coach Paul van Ass has taken some tough decisions in their bid, dropping penalty corner ace Taeke Taekema and also striker Jeroen Hertzberger but veteran Teun de Nooijer, playing in his fifth Olympics, is very much there to lend experience.
Among the other teams in India’s pool, defending champions Germany, ranked No 2 in the world, are a formidable unit at any major championships while New Zealand have the confidence of the Azlan Shah triumph behind them. South Korea, as usual, will bank on fitness, speed and setpiece skills, meaning India won’t have a moment to relax in their pool.
Tournament favourites Australia head Pool A and having swept everything before them in the last three years, look primed to add the Olympic gold to their collection. Historically, Aussies have failed to fulfil their promise at the Olympic Games – their only success came at Athens 2004. Four successive Champions Trophy wins, a World Cup triumph and the Commonwealth Games gold light up Australia’s path to London. With such an imposing record, Aussie coach Ric Charlesworth, having guided the women’s team to two gold medals, will believe that he can make it this time with the men.
Great Britain, playing at home, will look to spoil those plans while Spain and Pakistan are the other challengers in the pool, trying to prove their credentials again at the top level.
Groupings: Pool A: Australia, Great Britain, Pakistan, Argentina, Spain, South Africa. Pool B: Germany, Holland, India, New Zealand, South Korea, Belgium.
Monday’s matches (all times IST): South Korea vs New Zealand (1.00 pm); Australia vs South Africa (3.15 pm); Spain vs Pakistan (6.15 pm); India vs Holland (8.30 pm); Britain vs Argentina (11.30 pm); Germany vs Belgium (1.45 am).
Hockey's golden period — Those were the days
By Mihir Vasavda
In 1927, a team comprising army men set sail for New Zealand. Back then, team sports weren’t really considered to be the India’s forte and funding an entire team wasn’t really affordable. With no federation in place to govern the sport, the army took the onus upon themselves.
Thus, it marked the beginning of the first overseas tour for the Indian hockey team. They travelled to New Zealand to play a three-match series. It was a landmark tour for the Indians as they had never ventured outside the subcontinent before. The team, led by T Collen, put up a memorable show. The series ended in a draw (India won one, lost one and drew one) but it served as an impetus for the future.
That performance came as a pleasant surprise for many involved in running the sport and they formed the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) later that year. The IHF also became the first body from Asia and Africa to be recognised by the International Hockey Federation (FIH). With an active federation in place and the faith in players’ abilities established, India a fielded hockey team for the first time in the Olympic Games at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. The rest, as they say, is history. Brilliantly led by Jaipal Singh and some stellar performances by the legendary Dhyan Chand and goalkeeper Richard Allen ensured India won the gold medal in its first outing at the Olympics.
The win marked the beginning of an era of dominance that remains unparalleled in the sport till date. In the following two Olympics, it was a given that India would win the gold and they duly obliged.
Their next big challenge came in 1948. The world was still reeling under the aftermath of the Second World War. India got its independence from the British, but suffered a devastating partition where many Anglo-Indians left the country and a number of Muslims migrated to Pakistan. That came as a big blow to the hockey team and a brand new bunch of players went for the London Games. None of the players on that team had represented India in the Olympics earlier while many, who had represented India in the previous Games, played for Pakistan. For instance, AIS Dara — the captain of the Pakistan hockey team in the 1948 Olympics had represented India in the 1936 Games.
As the team prepared for the Olympics, which were being held after 12 years, an obvious question was posed: is the depleted Indian side still the best in the world? But the team dispelled any such fears and, in a symbolic manner, defeated Britain in front of the royal family to clinch independent India’s first gold. “It was a dawn of a new era in Indian hockey. The earlier teams had players from the entire subcontinent. Here, it was just us — young and fairly inexperienced players. Yet, we managed to win the gold,” recalls Keshav Dutt, a member of that legendary team.
For the next 12 years, India somehow managed to hang on to their gold medal — winning an unprecedented six consecutive times by the time 1956 Games ended. At the same time, their new neighbours Pakistan were making rapid progress. The winning streak was finally halted at the 1960 Rome Olympics when Pakistan beat India by a solitary goal in the final to mark a beginning of their era of domination.
With Pakistan turning into a new force and the rest of the world too catching up, India were no longer the same force. Yes, they returned with vengeance at the Tokyo Olympics to claim the gold but that was just the last great flickering before the flame extinguished. The final nail in the coffin came at the 1976 Montreal Games. It further asserted that the power of the sub-continental giants was on the wane. India achieved its lowest-ever ranking at the Olympics at Montreal, where New Zealand emerged as the gold medal winners.
The Montreal Olympics, in fact, changed world hockey forever. It was the first time that an artificial turf was used, something which never comforted the Indians. The circumstance in which the synthetic surface was introduced was controversial in itself. The organisers of the Montreal Games insisted hockey should be played on artificial turf as they expected rain to create havoc during the Olympics. “Hence, they were of the opinion by playing on natural grass the hockey tournament would not finish on schedule. If artificial turf wasn’t adopted, then they would drop hockey altogether. The FIH was left with no other choice,” says hockey historian K Arumugam. The FIH bowed to the organising committee’s diktat and allowed the use of synthetic surface.
India protested in vain. In fact, they even boycotted a pre-Olympic tournament but they didn’t receive support. Pakistan, a heavyweight during that time, too didn’t second India at the time.
Of course, there were commercial reasons too behind the introduction of the turf. “The company, Astro-turf, which was keen to introduce artificial turf in hockey, was American. They found it easy to convince the Canadian organising committee, who applied pressure on the FIH,” Arumugam observes.
Playing on artificial turf demanded more speed, strength and stamina. India never managed to match the fitness levels of the Europeans, who with their slick style of play dominated the game.
For decades, India have blamed the introduction of synthetic playing surface as the reason for their downfall. But it’s only one side of the story. India’s slump had begun much before the 1976 Games. Even after those Olympics, the two World Cups were played on grass. One of those held in Mumbai (1982 World Cup) at the Wankhede Stadium. Yet, India did not even qualify for the semifinals. Also, the number of tournaments that a team played had increased since the 1970s. The first half of that decade saw the first World Cup while the latter half saw Champions Trophy make its debut. Till then, it was only the Olympics and Asian Games that were of major interest to the nations. More tournaments meant the number of matches that were played during the year increased, which in turn demanded tremendous fitness.
There was also reluctance of accept change. India got its first artificial turf in 1982 for the Asian Games, six years after it was introduced. Pakistan, on the other hand, had installed one by 1978 and also hosted the Champions Trophy on it. “It just happened to be that the downfall of Indian hockey coincided with the introduction of artificial turf. There was a serious decline which no one observed,” says Arumugam.
When the cricket team, led by Kapil Dev, won the World Cup in 1983, the shift away from India’s national game was complete.
The inept federation complicated things further; there was no attempt made to arrest the downfall. While the world had adopted 21st century training methods, India continued to adopt its medieval ways. The humiliation was complete when the eight-time champions failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
Today, just like the 1948 Games, London provides the team a chance to begin afresh. It’s up to the team to make the most of it.
Expert preview: Pakistan vs Spain
Spain pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s chances of advancing to the next stage in the Olympics. -Photo by AFP
Salman Akbar is a veteran goal-keeper who made his debut for Pakistan’s hockey team in 2001. Termed by Olympian Shahid Ali Khan as one of the most hard-working players in the game, Akbar has won the 2005 Rabo Trophy and the 2010 Asian Games gold medal with Pakistan. He was adjudged the ‘best keeper’ in both events. Here, he previews Pakistan’s opening game of the London Olympics against Spain (at 17:45 PST on Monday).
There has been a lot of discussion on the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympic Games that highlighted the British culture and history. For me, the stand-out moment was the lighting of the flame. Handing over the flame to the youth was a great move. Truly inspiring.
It was also nice to see the Pakistan contingent in our traditional shalwar kameez, which promoted our culture. Personally, I think this is a tradition which should be carried on in the future. It was a big relief and a great moment to see Sohail Abbas as the flag-bearer – he deserved to lead from the front. Thank God there was no repeat of the fiasco from the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Now that the pomp and celebrations are over, it is time to get down to the real business and wield the hockey sticks. Pakistan’s hockey campaign begins on Monday against a very tough Spanish side.
Spain have become strong contenders after finishing second behind Germany at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, bagging their first medal in hockey. They are currently ranked fifth in the world and pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s chances of advancing to the next stage in the Olympics.
Spain are slow to get into the rhythm of the tournament and are not able to give their best show in opening encounters in most cases. Here lies Pakistan’s advantage as this will be a very important match for them. Despite not being very strong tournament starters, Spain have had a good year of preparations for the London, including their runners-up finish at the 2011 Champion’s trophy in New Zealand so they will remain one of the podium favourites.
The Spanish team is full of skilful players, including Santiago Freixa, Pablo Amat and Eduard Tubau and they all come together to form a very strong and seamless attack. The Spanish love to threaten their opponents from the left, with their trademark back-hand shots. Here, the role of Pakistan’s defence will be very important, especially in the deep. I expect Spain to keep the Pakistani defence line on their toes. The goalkeeper, Imran Shah, will have to show great communication skills when he shouts out to the defenders to keep the team away from trouble.
Spain are relatively weak in the midfield and they have to rely on support from their strikers to try and keep the spaces compact. Apart from the attacks from open play, Spain can also be very threatening from penalty corners. They have a good penalty corner attack with Pau Quemeda and Santiago Frexia as their main drag-flickers.
Pakistan are lucky to have the world’s best drag-flicker and leading goal-scorer in their side. The Greenshirts should try to win as many penalty corners as possible and give Sohail Abbas maximum opportunities to score. This will be a good way of bringing Spain under pressure as they are not very confident in defence, especially when it comes to defending turn overs.
In deep defence, they are weak in man-to-man marking and leave spaces behind. However, Pakistan have problems of their own in their forward line. Over the years, they have been found guilty of missing several goal-scoring opportunities, sometimes, really easy ones!
Before leaving for London, our coaches insisted, as always, they have worked hard on it and have almost overcome this problem. If it is true, then Pakistan will not be a easy team to beat.
Pakistan’s midfield has some really energetic players and has the services of the most experienced player of the team in Waseem Ahmed.
Strategy for Greenshirts
The Greenshirts should not focus on playing attacking hockey for all 70 minutes of the game. Instead, they would be better off waiting Spain to make mistakes and build on them. They need to focus on doing a lot of turnovers and get maximum numbers of penalty corners.
Pakistan must try and break the connection between Spain’s strikers and for that they have to play most of the game half-court press.
If Pakistan’s players and coaches play with patience, Spain will be in real trouble.
Pakistan should start with three strikers, three midfielders and four defenders. Shakeel Abbasi should start in the midfield and if needed later, he can play as a striker. Rehan Butt is quite capable as a lone striker.
Sohail should not play in deep defence as he is very effective on the sides so he can be very useful as a right-half. If he plays as a full-back, then Rizwan Junior should be the right-half as he is a very talented and energetic player.
Waseem should hold the centre with Fareed Ahmed as a left midfielder and they can switch their positions when needed. Rizwan Senior can also be used in the midfield as he has also shown several good performances as a left midfielder.
In deep defence Muhammad Irfan is the best choice he is a solid defender and a brave player. I haven’t seen Spain doing variations on penalty corners so Pakistan should not have much problem defending PCs as they have good first runners in Rizwan Senior and Muhammad Irfan. Our goalkeeper Imran Shah has a big responsibility on his shoulders to support the whole team with a good performance and give some much-needed confidence to the team.
Players to watch
Sohail Abbas, Shakeel Abbasi, Muhammad Rashid, Muhammad Irfan.
For me, a draw will be a good result for Pakistan but losing all three points will really harm their chances of progressing.
Pakistan take on Spain in their opener
By Muhammad Ali
LONDON: Pakistan will take on Spain in their opening match of the London Olympics 2012 Field Hockey Tournament at the Riverbank Arena, Olympic Park here on Monday (today). It is interesting to note that field hockey debuted over 100 years ago at the 1908 London Olympic Games. Pakistan are in Group A along with Australia, hosts Britain, Spain, Argentina and South Africa. Defending champions Germany are in Group B, which also includes Netherlands, South Korea, New Zealand, India and Belgium. Pakistan’s match will start at 13:45 pm BST (17:45 pm PST). The other matches of the day are South Korea vs New Zealand, Australia vs South Africa, Netherlands vs India, Britain vs Argentina and Belgium vs Germany.
Pakistan’s main hopes for a medal are on hockey. The 35-year-old sharp shooter Sohail Abbas is the captain of the squad. Pakistan’s recent poor performance in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia forced the selectors to recall senior players Rehan Butt, Mohammad Waseem and Shakeel Abbasi who featured in a rebel hockey league in India which threatened their places for the Olympics.
Three times Olympic champions and four times world champions Pakistan have slumped at international level after poor planning and with talent becoming increasingly scarce. They finished at their worst-ever eighth position in the last Olympics in Beijing four years ago, and then slumped to the 12th and last position in the 2010 World Cup in India. The team did win the Asian title in China in late 2010 however to secure direct qualification for the London Games and give a boost to their confidence.
Sohail, the highest goal scorer in the history of international hockey, told Daily Times that it had always been his dream to captain his country in the Olympics. “And today that has come true. Now the real test begins,” Sohail added. “I strongly believe if we play as a team we can be a dangerous side in the Olympics and back on the medals podium.” With a tally of 345 goals, the strongly built Sohail is considered to be one of the few players who can take Pakistan back to their Olympic glory days. “They say hockey today is all about speed, precision and fitness, I say if we play as one and use our skills effectively we can beat any team,” he maintained. Sohail, who missed the last Games in Beijing after scoring 11 goals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and eight in Athens four years later, is hoping to rediscover the same form in London. Pakistan won Olympic gold medals in Rome 1960, Mexico 1968 and Los Angeles 1984 but their last Olympic medal was in Barcelona 1992 when they picked up bronze. Pakistan have not stepped on the podium for quite some time and they would try to rectify it this year.
The greenshirts have a great history laced with flair and flamboyance. There are no competitions in the hockey world that don’t bear the stamp of the team’s class. The bastion of Asian hockey, whose game is emulated by aspiring nations, is passing through a crucial phase, caught between high expectations and an unforgiving and increasingly competitive world. Pakistan have been the most visible of teams, travelling across continents in their quest for resurrection, and in the process entertaining the world at large. Presence of Pakistan in London adds spice and grace to the event. “We have high hopes with the team,” head coach and manager Akhtar Rasool said. “If we finish on the victory podium it would be as good as a gold medal, if we finish between 4-6 it would be worth the hard work,” he added.
Khawaja Muhammad Junaid, a member of the Pakistan team that won the bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and who is here as part of the coaching staff, believes that the greenshirts have made remarkable progress in recent years and that could be seen in these Olympics. “It should now reflect in the Olympic results,” said Junaid, who is here assisting head coach Akhtar. “It is all about believing in your ability to achieve big at the highest level and hockey in the sub-continent today has all the necessary skills, including speed, aggression and counter-strategy.”
Traditional powerhouses Australia and Germany look set to dominate the hockey tournament. Germany are the reigning Olympic champions, but since their win in the Beijing Olympics have looked increasingly unsteady compared to an improving Australia side. The Aussies beat Germany in the 2010 World Cup in New Delhi to underscore their gold medal potential in London. Australia have won the Champions Trophy every year since 2008. Germany could manage only fifth place in the 2011 competition. Second at the 2011 Champions Trophy were Spain who have looked dangerous since their 1-0 loss in the 2008 Olympics final. “Our aims are to finish in the top two of the group so we can reach the semifinals,” Spain coach Dani Martin said. The Netherlands will also be disappointed to leave London without a medal, having been one of hockey’s dominant teams for over two decades. But the Dutch have not won gold since the Sydney Olympics, where they successfully defended the Olympic title they won four years earlier.
Hockey at this Olympics will create at least a bit of new history for itself: these are the first Summer Games that hockey will be played on a blue pitch. All the other participating teams have practised on the turf for at least six months before coming to London. But Pakistan’s practice on the blue turf is not that much. They played on the blue turf during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cp in Ipoh in May this year. The blue turf is bouncy, slippery and faster than the green one and the Pakistan players will surely face a lot of problems. Since the blue turf at the Olympics will be much faster, the 12 participating teams will need extraordinary fitness levels to excel on the surface.
The Daily Times
Pakistan Hockey team fears Blue Astroturf and poor performance
By Hamza Khan
London: Pakistan hockey team will begin their Olympics journey against Spain today, but on recent Europe tour Pakistan’s team performance remained poor on blue Astroturf.
Pakistan hockey team has lost their two Olympic practice matches but on the other hand Spain has the experience of playing on blue Astroturf. They have won series which was held on blue Astroturf in Europe.
Pakistan’s record of playing on blue Astroturf is very poor. Pakistan hockey team looks completely flopped while plying on blue Astroturf in Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament.
Captain of Pakistan’s hockey team Sohail Abbas said in disappointing tone a few days back that “there is no expectation of winning the gold medal but we will try to put a tough fight against the opponent teams”.
He said further that by losing in practice matches from Belgium and Netherland we had pinpointed our mistakes.
“We missed four expected goals against Netherland which is very concerning,” he added.
According to Chief Selector Hanif Khan, We don’t have any expectation from Pakistan Hockey Team.
“We hope that Pakistan will show its best performance and it will be a miracle if Pakistan hockey team reaches the final,” he added.
The News Tribe
Pakistan start quest for elusive medal today
By Raheel Hanif
LAHORE- Pakistan start their genuine medal quest to appear on the medals table today (Saturday) when hockey team kicks off their Olympics campaign against Spain on the new-look blue turf today.
Three times Olympic champions and four times world champions Pakistan have slumped at international level after poor planning and with talent becoming increasingly scarce. They finished at their worst-ever eighth position in the last Olympics in Beijing four years ago, and then slumped to the 12th and last position in the 2010 World Cup in India.
The Pakistanis continued their indifferent form in the warm-up games for the Olympic preparations when they lost 5-1 to Netherlands and 2-0 to Belgium. To make matters worse, Pakistan were sweating on the fitness of one of their ‘key’ player – Muhammad Irfan – who has sustained an ankle injury in the practice game against the Netherlands.
The twin losses and Irfan’s injury have raised fears that Pakistan might not be ready for the Olympic challenge where they would be battling against top teams like world numbers ones Australia, hosts Great Britain and Spain for a place in the semi-finals.
The team did win the Asian title in China in late 2010 to secure direct qualification for the London Games and give a boost to their confidence. The Green shirts have a great history laced with flair and flamboyance. Pakistan have not stepped on the podium for quite some time and they would try to rectify it this year. Pakistan are in Group A along with Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Argentina and South Africa. Defending champions Germany are in Group B, which also includes Netherlands, South Korea, New Zealand, India and Belgium
The 35-year-old sharp shooter Sohail Abbas has been retained the captain of the Pakistan’s hockey squad despite their poor last place finish at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup held in May this year in Ipoh, Malaysia. Pakistan’s recent poor performance in Malaysia forced the selectors to recall senior players Rehan Butt, Mohammad Waseem and Shakil Abbasi who featured in a rebel hockey league in India which threatened their places for the Olympics.
Since their first-ever participation in the London Olympics in 1948, Pakistan have succeeded in winning just 10 medals in 64 years including three golds which came from hockey. Pakistan appeared on the medal list first in 1956 when, when hockey team managed a silver at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Pakistan went on to win its first-ever gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics by trampling all over their arch-rivals India under captain Abdul Hameed ‘Hameedi. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Pakistan had to settle for the second place.
At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Pakistan edged out Australia by 2-1 to win a gold medal. Asad Malik and Abdul Rasheed scored the two goals, helping the Pakistanis hold their heads high in pride under captain Tariq Aziz. At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Pakistan hockey stars were defeated by hosts West Germany by a lone-goal margin in the final. As poor and biased umpiring visibly cost Pakistan the match, all the 11 players in the final were suspended for a disorderly behaviour during the medal ceremony. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Pakistan were restricted to a bronze medal. The Green-shirts then won their last gold in hockey at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by defeating Germany in the final. At the 1988 Seoul games hockey team failed to win any medal but boxer Syed Hussain Shah bagged a bronze medal. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Pakistani hockey team clinched a bronze medal, courtesy Shahbaz Ahmed Senior, who was nicknamed ‘The man with the electric heels.’ And since then Pakistan is still looking for a medal till now. The downfall in the game of hockey has cost Pakistan dearly as the green shirts failed to earn a single medal in last 20 years. So it’s the first and crucial match for Pakistan today against Spain, which will determine that whether it’s indifferent players will join the legends or follow the misery of last 20 years.
Pakistan Hockey in Olympics
1948 London Olympics 4th
1952 Helsinky Olympics 4th
1956 Melbourne Olympics Silver
1960 Rome Olympics Gold
1964 Tokyo Olympics Silver
1968 Mexico Olympics Gold
1972 Munich Olympics Silver
1976 Montreal Olympics Bronze
1984 Los Angles Olympics Gold
1988 Seoul Olympics 5th
1992 Barcelona Olympics Bronze
1996 Atlanta Olympics 6TH
2000 Sydney Olympics 4TH
2004 Athens Olympics 5TH
2008 Beijing Olympics 8th
Pakistan Hockey in all competitions
Competition Gold Silver Bronze Total
Olympic 3 3 2 8
World Cup 4 2 0 6
Champions Trophy 3 6 6 15
Asian Games 8 2 3 13
Asia Cup 3 3 1 7
Azlan Shah Hockey Cup 3 6 2 11
Commonwealth Games 0 1 1 2
Day 2 Olympic Preview - GB v Argentina
Harry Martin and Iain Mackay with India's Manpreet Singh at the Olympic Test Event
Great Britain men's opening fixture of their Olympic hockey campaign, sees them play Argentina, who are ranked 9th in the world.
Fixture: Great Britain v Argentina
Date and time: 30 July 2012 - 19:00
Location: Riverbank Arena
Watch live on BBC: Olympics 8 (red button for Sky, Virgin & Freesat)
Great Britain #4
Head to Head Record
Goals For: 43
Goals Against: 48
The last time Great Britain played Argentina in an Olympic Games was Athens 2004. GB came out on top winning 4 – 1 and Rob Moore, who was amongst the goal scorers that day, also features in the squad at this year’s Games. GB’s latest encounter with Argentina at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in May was full of goals, but unfortunately Argentina came out victorious, with the final score standing at 3 – 2. Ashley Jackson scored both of Great Britain’s goals from penalty corners.
Player to watch: Great Britain
Named as captain of the Great Britain team Barry has a wealth of experience and will be going into his third Olympic Games this summer as the most capped GB player, with more than 250 international appearances. Barry has been a formidable force in the GB ranks since his debut as a 19 year old back in 2003. He has racked up an impressive 74 goals and has been named no fewer than three times in the FIH All Stars team in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Barry cites his greatest achievement to date as captaining the side to glory in the 2009 European Championships in Amstelveen. Barry will be hoping to set a captain’s example at the Games and will be hungry to score, as his last international goal came against South Africa in February.
Players to watch: Argentina
We asked the GB team who they consider are the 'players to watch':
Name: The three Vila brothers Argentina vila brothers
Rodrigo: Centre forward
Lucas: Centre forward
A unique achievement will be accomplished at this summer’s Games with the three Argentinean siblings all representing their country on the hockey pitch. Lucas (pictured - right), the youngest brother is a fast and skilful forward who will be making his first appearance at an Olympics. His older brothers, Matias and Rodrigo (pictured - left) have already competed together at the 2000 and 2004 Games. Matias, the oldest, is captain of the side and very experienced whilst Rodrigo is a dangerous attacking threat.
Great Britain Hockey media release
Hockeyroos Hope to Keep Medal Hopes Alive
The Hockeyroos are geared up to bounce back against Germany tomorrow...get behind our girls!!
Game: Wednesday August 1 Live Foxtel 6.07am and Channel Nine
AUSTRALIA V GERMANY
Pool B: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa, USA, Argentina
Players to watch:
Australia: Toni Cronk(Goal keeper), Georgia Nanscawen, Jodie Schulz
Germany: Natascha Keller, Fanny Rinne, Julia Muller
After a disappointing start to their Olympic campaign, the Hockeyroos life doesn’t get any easier with their next assignment Germany.
The Germans are ranked third in the world and have something to prove, after finishing fourth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Germany has the belief it can once again win gold and repeat its 2004 Athens Games triumph.
They are led by a true champion, in 35 year old Natascha Keller, who has played over 400 internationals (Indoor and outdoor) and scored an intimidating 203 goals.
At this, her fifth Olympics, Keller was named her countries flag bearer and with the promise of retirement after the London Games, Australia will have to play above itself to conquer this hurdle.
But the Hockeyroos are a champion team and were unlucky to be defeated 1-0 by New Zealand. Moments that never went their way could have easily secured a different result.
Australian Young gun Georgia Nanscawen looked dangerous in attack in the opening match against the Kiwis and was unlucky not to find the back of the net.
Hockeyroos goal keeper Toni Cronk kept Australia in its first match and she will need to produce another top performance.
Drag flick specialist Jodie Schulz did not get an opportunity against the Blacksticks, as the Queenslander was off the field when Australia forced their only penalty corner for the game.
Schulz becomes very important in this match-up, particularly as short corners can be a weakness in the German’s game.
With no world class drag flicker, Germany opts to use variations to convert, as their first shot on goal is not their strongest weapon.
In field play, Australia will also need to watch four-time Olympian Fanny Rinne, who has plenty to play for, as she is likely to retire alongside Keller after the Games.
Against New Zealand, Australia was outplayed in midfield and that will be an area Hockeyroos coach Adam Commens would have focused on coming into this match.
One advantage for Australia is that the Germans are known to get off to slow starts, conceding goals early, so the Hockeyroos attack will need to force short corners from the outset and give Schulz a chance to make an impact.
Hockey Australia media release