Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 7 Review

Zeller goal delivers gold for Germany

Germany edged past Spain 1-0 at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Saturday, August 23, to win gold in Men's Hockey.

It was a typical German performance marked by a strong midfield and a stronger defense that choked Spain after Christopher Zeller scored the only goal of the match in the 16th minute.

The super efficient Germans broke Spanish hearts by winning the final and the gold medal by the narrowest of margins. Only Zeller's penalty corner conversion separated the teams, but there was no doubt about Germany's dominance.

Germany won the Olympic gold medal for the first time in 16 years while Spain took silver, which it also won at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games and the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

Australia ran over the Netherlands in the bronze medal match, winning 6-2 after scoring three straight goals to open the competition. Two 21-year old debutants, Eddie Ockenden and Des Abbott starred for Australia -- Ockenden scored three goals and Abbott one.

The Netherlands were left gasping and although they showed some spirit by narrowing the score at 3-2, the Aussies were unstoppable.

Australia, gold medalists at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, have now finished in the medals for the fifth Olympics in a row. The Athen's silver medalist Dutch return home without a medal for the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

Great Britain achieved their best since winning the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Games, finishing in fifth place after a 5-2 defeat of the Republic of Korea (ROK), the 2006 Asian Games champions.

Jonty Clarke of Great Britain topped the scorers list in the match with two goals while Barry Middleton, Ashley Jackson and Glenn Kirkham added one apiece. The ROK reply came from Jang Jong-hyun and Hyun Hye-sung off penalty corners.

Korea, silver medalists at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, improved on their eighth place finish at the Athens Games, by finishing sixth.

China beat South Africa 4-3 in extra time to finish 11th in the tournament. Skipper Song Yi yet again played the lead role with three penalty corner conversions, including the match-winner in the second half of extra time. Na Yubo scored the other goal for the home team while South Africa fought hard and did well to tie and force extra time after being down 3-1. Lungile Tsolekile, Ian Symons and Austin Smith scored for South Africa.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 7 Preview

World champions Germany play Spain for Hockey gold

Hockey world champions Germany will hope to add Olympic gold to their collection when they play Spain for the Men's gold medal at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Saturday, August 23. Australia and the Netherlands will clash in the bronze medal match.

The gold medal match will be a case of Spanish flair versus German efficiency. Spain will hope it will be third time lucky after finishing with the silver medal at the Moscow Games in 1980 and the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

Spain has the talent, the ability and character to upstage world champions Germany and they showcased all three attributes beating Australia 3-2 in the semifinal after being down 0-2.

Germany, although winning the Pool A encounter 1-0 which put their campaign back on track, could find the going far more difficult. They will need to be much sharper in attack than they were against the Netherlands in the semifinal, which they won on penalties, though their tight defense should bring them few concerns.

The bronze medal match will be between the Netherlands and Australia. The teams also met in a medal match at the Athens Games, in which Australia beat the Dutch to take gold. The first meeting between these two teams in the preliminary round ended 2-2, but this time, with a medal at stake, the match won't end in a draw.

The Dutch will be keen to avenge the Athens defeat and provide fitting farewells for goalkeeper Guus Vogels, midfielder Teun de Nooijer and skipper Jeroen Delmee, all probably playing their fourth and last Olympics.

South Africa will face China in the classification 11-12 match -- the first match of the day. A contest between two evenly matched sides, but for the Chinese team, making their debut in the Men's competition, the tournament has been a learning experience. China earned one point in the preliminary round from a draw with New Zealand. South Africa, despite losing all of their five matches in pool B, showed improvement in the latter part of the competition.

The Republic of Korea and Great Britain will meet in the classification 5-6 match. Both teams had their chances to finish higher but brief moments cost them precious points in their pool matches. Great Britain came through qualifying competition with two wins and two draws and, with some luck, could have made the top four.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 6 Review

Spain to meet Germany for Hockey gold medal

Spain and Germany fought back from the brink of defeat to set up the gold medal match in the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Thursday, August 21. World champions Germany, trailing by a goal four minutes from the end, overcame the Netherlands 4-3 in the penalty shootout after the sides drew 1-1. Spain went 2-0 down against defending champions Australia but fought back brilliantly to snatch a 3-2 win in the second semifinal.

The Spaniards, seeking their maiden gold medal, showed character after conceding goals in the first minute of both halves. Des Abbott and Eddie Ockenden gave Australia a 2-0 lead, but had no answer to the individual brilliance of Spanish forwards, Eduard Tubau, who scored twice to equalize, and Santiago Freixa, who netted the match-winner two minutes from time.

In the other semifinal, Germany's goalkeeper Max Weinhold emerged as the hero as he saved three attempts during the shootout. The victory was also Germany's first Olympic win against the Dutch since Tokyo 1964 and gives Germany its first entry into the final since Barcelona 1992, where they won the gold medal.

Taeke Taekema, the hero of many a Dutch win, was the culprit as he failed to convert in sudden death. Timme Hoyng scored for the Dutch in the 66th minute and Philipp Zeller of Germany equalized two minutes later to force extra time.

The teams tied 3-3 during the penalty tie-breaker as Weinhold of Germany and Dutch goalkeeper Guus Vogels of Netherlands made two saves each before Weinhold's decisive third stop.

The first match of the day had Belgium and Canada battling for ninth and 10th spots. Belgium thrived in the wet conditions and outplayed Canada 3-0 with Belgium's Jerome Dekeyser scoring twice and John Dohmen once to finish a creditable ninth. Canada ended their campaign on a disappointing note in 10th spot, with a missed penalty stroke from Wayne Fernandes of Canada not helping their cause.

Both teams finished in the same positions as they did the last time they participated in the Olympics. Belgium last participating in the Olympics at Montreal 1976 while Canada competing at the 2000 Sydney Games.

New Zealand beat Pakistan 4-2 in the Classification 7-8 match. Pakistan finished the Olympics in eighth, their lowest position in 15 Olympic appearances, after the loss to New Zealand. Hayden Shaw of New Zealand converted two penalty corners, while his compatriot Simon Child and Gareth Brooks were also on target for the Kiwis. Pakistan, after missing many chances in the first half, improved in the second half as Syed Abbas Haider Bilgrami and Rehan Butt scored.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 6 Preview

Netherlands faces Germany in bid for fourth straight final

The world's top four Hockey teams -- Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain -- will contest the semifinals of the Men's Hockey competition on Thursday in a repeat of the final four of the Athens 2004 Games. Australia and the Netherlands have looked the best of the 12 teams to date and are favorites to meet in Saturday's final at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium.

The first semifinal match will be between the Netherlands and Germany. The on-form Netherlands are seeking their fourth consecutive Olympic final and are favored to repeat their Athens 2004 semifinal victory against world champions Germany. Their hopes revolve around veteran midfielder Teun de Nooijer and penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema, who has scored 10 goals so far. Germany will be hoping for more from their forwards, especially Christopher Zeller, who was central to their 2006 World Cup success.

Spain will meet Australia at the semifinal to conclude the matches of the day. Australia thrashed Spain 6-3 in the semifinals at the Athens 2004 Games on the way to the country's first gold medal, with seven survivors from Athens; Spain have 11. Australia's strength lies in their explosive frontline of Eddie Ockenden, Grant Schubert and Jamie Dwyer.

Spain's last Olympic victory against Australia was in the semifinals of the 1996 Atlanta Games. Spain's Pol Amat and Santiago Freixa have been impressive with their lightning counter attacks.

Australia beat Spain 4-1 in the 2008 Champions Trophy final after the teams drew 1-1 in the preliminary rounds.

Belgium will meet Canada in the classification 9-10 match. Returning to Men's Olympic Hockey after a 32-year absence, 12th ranked Belgium have already exceeded most people's expectations. Belgium countered China in their final preliminary match to finish fifth in pool A.

Canada finished fifth in pool B after defeating South Africa 5-3.

Pakistan and New Zealand will compete with each other in the classification 7-8 match. Pakistan won the last of their three Olympic gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. But, despite a wealth of individual talent, the team could finish only fourth in pool B. World No. 11 New Zealand could have finished higher with sharper play.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 5 Review

No surprises in semifinal line-up

Australia stumbled to a 3-3 draw with Great Britain but completed the semifinal line-up in the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Tuesday, August 19.

Australia, gold medalists at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, finished second in pool B behind the Netherlands to set up a semifinal clash with Spain who topped pool A. In the other semifinal, the Netherlands who finished on top of pool B, face world champions Germany.

Great Britain nearly pulled off a win against Australia as they led 3-2 with two minutes left when Eddie Ockenden scored the equalizer. The two teams ended on a draw. Australia's other goals came from Bevan George and Jamie Dwyer while Barry Middleton, Richard Mantell and Rob Moore scored for Great Britain. Great Britain will take on the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the playoff for 5-6 positions.

As expected, the Netherlands steamed past Pakistan, winning 4-2 en route to the semifinals from pool B with 13 points. Pakistan's disappointing run continued as they slid to a third defeat and will play for 7-8 positions. Muhammad Imran converted two penalty corners for Pakistan. Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands converted two penalty corners and veteran Teun de Nooijer set up the other two goals by Matthijs Brouwer and Jeroen Hertzberger.

Pakistan will play New Zealand for 7-8 positions, their worst performance since finishing sixth at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

Germany continued their winning streak by defeating New Zealand 3-1 and booked their semifinal berth with 11 points, finishing second in pool A behind Spain (12 points). Looking a much improved side, world champions Germany whose Olympic campaign had a sluggish start, hummed efficiently to score three times through Timo Wess, Matthias Witthaus and Florian Keller.

The Kiwis fought on gamely in the searing midday heat, but could score just once when Hayden Shaw (NZL) flicked home a penalty corner in the second half. New Zealand finished on seven points.

Spain played smarter, if not better hockey than the ROK to win 2-1 with Santiago Freixa scoring both the Spanish goals to lead his team into the semifinals. The ROK fought till the end, but the few opportunities they missed hurt them. Their only consolation was a 69th minute goal by Yoon Sung-hoon, but it was all too little too late. Spain finished on top of pool A, ahead of Germany.

Canada, the Pan-American Games champions, just barely survived a highly physical 5-3 victory against South Africa that saw eight goals and eight cards, including a red -- Clyde Abrahams -- the first of the competition. Both teams played for pride and to avoid finishing at the bottom of the pool.

For Canada, Wayne Fernandes and Connor Grimes scored two goals each and skipper Robert Short the other, while Austin Smith had a double strike for South Africa and Lungile Tsolekile one. Canada will play Belgium for 9-10 positions and South Africa face China for 11-12 spots.

Belgium kept their cool after falling in arrears early to record their first win in the competition -- a 3-1 victory of China. China for the fifth match in a row, took the lead through Song Yi who converted a fourth-minute penalty corner, but failed to consolidate.

Belgium wore down the Chinese defense with ceaseless onslaughts to score through Xavier Reckinger, Jerome Truyens and John-John Dohmen to win the game comfortably.

China, with five defeats, finished at the bottom of the pool.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 5 Preview

Germany facing must-win match

Australia, the Netherlands and Spain only need a draw to book semifinal berths but world champion Germany must beat New Zealand to clinch a medal rounds place in the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Tuesday, August 19.

Pool A

The first match of the day will kick off between Germany and New Zealand. The world champions are on a comeback streak after a disappointing start but need to win to keep their medal aspirations alive. Even if they draw, Germany will advance should Korea fail to beat Spain. The Kiwis have no option but to win.

The Republic of Korea will play against Spain, which need only a draw to advance to the semifinals. But the Asian team must win. Spain now is expected to load its defense in a safety-first approach.

China will compete with Belgium to conclude the matches of the day. Both teams have one point apiece after four matches. China, making their Olympic debut in Men's Hockey, can finish no higher than ninth. Belgium, returning to the Olympics after an absence of 32 years, is also eyeing ninth spot.

Pool B

The opening match of the day will be between Netherlands and Pakistan. The Dutch have 10 points from four matches. Silver medalists at the 2004 Athens Games, the Netherlands will advance to the semi finals with a draw. Pakistan, whose last of three Olympic Gold medals came at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, are out of medal contention. Pakistan has six points from four games.

Canada in fifth in the pool with one point will compete with South Africa, which have lost all four of their matches. Both teams will play for 9th-12th in the second phase of the competition starting on Thursday, August 21.

Great Britain will meet Australia. The British team need to win by a record 15-goal margin (or smaller should Pakistan beat the Netherlands) due to Australia's goal-difference of +17 to Britain's +3. The last time Great Britain beat Australia was in the semifinals of the Seoul 1988 Games. All of Britain's four wins against Australia have been by a one-goal margin.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 4 Review

Spain allows Germany back into the hunt for a semifinal spot

World champions Germany beat Spain 1-0 and renewed their chances of reaching the semifinals of the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Sunday, August 17. The match between Pool B leaders, Australia and the Netherlands, ended in a 2-2 draw that all but confirmed their progress to the semifinals.

Pool A

Germany defeated Spain 1-0 and picked up valuable points to take their tally to eight. Moritz Fuerste of Germany scored an opportunistic goal in the 34th minute for the only goal of the match. The result will require Spain (nine points) to beat the Republic of Korea (seven points) and Germany (eight points) to defeat New Zealand (seven points) in their concluding preliminary fixtures on Tuesday, August 19, to qualify for the semifinals.

In overcoming Belgium 3-1, the Republic of Korea (ROK) finally showed the speed and dynamism that won them the silver medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. The ROK ended the first half trailing by a goal that Jerome Dekeyser from Belgium scored in the 20th minute.

In the second half, the ROK hit back with You Hyo-sik scoring twice and Jang Jong-hyun converting a penalty corner. The Belgians disputed You's equalizer, which was upheld after a video referral. The ROK moved to seven points from their second win and Belgium remained on one point after four matches.

New Zealand tied with China 2-2. China again wasted a strong start but picked up their first point in the competition. Two penalty corner conversions by Song Yi gave China a 2-0 lead by the 17th minute but lacked the experience to consolidate. New Zealand made the best of the situation to score from Simon Child and Shea McAleese, coming away with a draw that took their tally to seven points. That gives them a fair shot at the semifinals.

Pool B

The world's two top teams, Australia and the Netherlands, appeared content to play out a 2-2 draw that more or less guaranteed both a semifinal spot. The Aussies are strongly placed on goal difference (+17) which should be sufficient even if they lose their concluding preliminary match against Great Britain, who have a 7-4 tally. Taeke Taekema of Netherlands converted two penalty corners for the Dutch while Eddie Ockenden and Luke Doerner of Australia led the Australian reply.

Canada wasted an opportunity to record their first win after leading 1-0 until the 67th minute on a Ken Pereira goal. Great Britain barely survived the Canadian onslaught and the late goal by Matt Daly of Great Britain fetched them one point. The draw has left Great Britain (seven points) the virtually impossible task of beating Australia in their concluding preliminary round fixture on Tuesday, August 19, by a 15-goal margin to progress to the semifinals.

Pakistan beat South Africa 3-1. Pakistan survived a rough and tumble game against South Africa for their second win in four matches with goals by Muhammad Javed, Shakeel Abbasi and Muhammad Saqlain of Pakistan. The victory, however, did nothing to enhance Pakistan's chances of qualifying for the medal rounds as they have only six points.

South Africa's only consolation was their first goal of the competition, when Austin Smith converted a penalty corner in the 31st minute to level the scores.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 4 Preview

Germany battle to stay in medal hunt

World champions Germany will be desperate for points when they meet Spain in their Pool A Men's Hockey match at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Sunday. The world champions need to win their two remaining pool matches to advance to the semifinals. The world's two top ranked teams, Australia and the Netherlands, will attempt to keep their unbeaten record intact when they clash in Pool B.

The first match of pool A will kick off between Republic of Korea and Belgium. The Republic of Korea still fancy their semifinal chances but their loss to New Zealand could yet hurt them.

The famed Korean discipline that helped them to a Silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games has not been evident thus far, but they cannot be written off.

Belgium, despite drawing with world champions Germany, have had a disappointing tournament but always pose a threat.

New Zealand will compete with China in pool A. Victory against China would give New Zealand a chance of claiming a semifinal spot.

The only time the Kiwis reached the medal rounds was at the 1976 Montreal Games where they won the Gold medal.

China have enjoyed impressive starts in each of their three matches. If they can sustain the early momentum, New Zealand's task will be difficult.

The last match of the day will be between Germany and Spain. The world champions Germany face a Herculean task to keep their semifinal hopes alive.

With just four points from three matches Germany have no option but to win both their remaining pool games - against Spain and New Zealand - to make it to the medal rounds.

Unbeaten Spain have the ammunition to overpower Germany like they did at the 2008 Champions Trophy when they won 3-0. A draw will be enough for Spain to qualify for the semifinals.

In pool B, the Great Britain will play Canada as the first match of the day. Great Britain will continue their push for a semifinal berth but they need to win both remaining matches to qualify for the medal rounds.

Canada are still looking for their first points at these Games having lost all three matches they have played.

Pakistan will face off against South Africa. Pakistan's up-and-down performance in the Beijing Games has been true to the form book. Even with a strong finish to the tournament the three-time Olympic Gold medalist are unlikely to be in medal contention.

South Africa can fancy their chances against a thin Pakistan defence provided the forwards are on target.

Australia will meet Netherlands. The game of the day between the two best teams in the competition will decide the winners qualifying for the semifinals. At the 2004 Athens Games, the Netherlands won their pool match 2-1 but lost the final in extra-time by the same scoreline.

Some of the individual battles to watch will be Dutch penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema from Netherlands versus Aussie goalkeeper Stephen Lambert and Australian striker Jamie Dwyer versus world's top goalkeeper Guus Vogels from Netherlands.

Australia's enviable set of forwards look sharper and could make the difference.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 3 Preview

Race for Hockey semifinal berths heats up

The battle for semifinal spots intensifies as the third round of matches in the Men's Hockey preliminaries get underway at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Friday. Australia, gold medalists at Athens 2004, are the team to watch and beat as they take on Pakistan, while the Netherlands meet Canada. A victory for Australia and the Netherlands should almost guarantee them semifinal spots from pool B. The situation is fluid in pool A, where four teams -- Spain (6 points), world champions Germany (4), the Republic of Korea (3) and New Zealand (3) -- are in the hunt; none can afford to drop any more points.

In pool A, the first match of the day will kick off between Spain and China.

Spain, unbeaten in two matches and at the top of their pool, will be looking to regain their scoring touch. A win against China would all but confirm a semifinal spot for the Spaniards, who have yet to fire on all cylinders. China, with two defeats, can at best hope to salvage a draw if they can sustain their early tempo through 70 minutes.

New Zealand will compete with Belgium. New stay in the reckoning by defeating Belgium, a task easier said than done. Belgium is on a hot run after forcing a 1-1 draw with world champions Germany for their first point in two matches.

The Kiwis were unlucky to lose to Spain in their second game, but their performance underlined the team's potential to progress in the competition.

The last match of pool A will be between the Republic of Korea and Germany. The match has all the trappings of an intriguing contest, with the ROK team hoping to gatecrash the semifinal party like they did at the 2006 World Cup.

World champions Germany will need to be at their best against the ROK, who showed signs of regaining their form during their 5-2 rout of China. Germany's better composure and organization, besides experience, could tilt the balance in their favor.

In pool B, the Netherlands will face off against Canada. Any result other than a victory for the Netherlands would be a huge surprise, as the Dutch have not lost to the Canadians in five meetings so far. The Dutch will be eager to get back among goals after their narrow 1-0 win against Great Britain. Canada, the Pan-American champions, will look to redeem themselves after losing both their matches so far.

Pakistan will play with Australia, which is the hottest team in the competition. They are on a roll and their form suggests a third win for the defending champions. Another win should nicely set up defending champions Australia's final push for a semifinal berth.

Pakistan, for all the immense individual talent, are still to spark, but showed ominous signs during their 3-1 win over Canada. Pakistan's major concern is their rather fragile defense that will be under pressure from the rampant Aussie forwards.

South Africa will play with Great Britain to conclude the day's competitions. Great Britain displayed top form to keep pace with the Netherlands before losing 1-0, and they will be looking to carry the form against South Africa. A victory against the South Africans would keep Britain's semifinal hopes alive.

South Africa, with two defeats, will be eager to earn their first point by tripping Britain.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 3 Review

Germany slides to third

While defending Olympic champions Australia moved to within a whisker of qualifying for the semifinals, world champions Germany dropped more precious points from their 3-3 draw with the Republic of Korea (ROK) after the third round of preliminary matches in the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Friday, August 15.

Germany are precariously perched on five points in third position behind Spain (nine points) and New Zealand (six), but one ahead of the Republic of Korea (four).

Germany led twice in the match after recovering from an early reverse on goals by Philip Witte, Mathias Witthaus and Christopher Zeller. The ROK's hopes were kept alive by Yeo Woon-kon, Jang Jong-hyun and Seo Jong-ho. The draw saw Germany slide to third spot in the pool behind Spain and New Zealand while the Koreans are in fourth spot after three rounds.

Spain had to work overtime for their third win as China put up a solid fight. Their third victory in a row put Spain within sight of a semifinal berth. New Zealand kept themselves in the hunt with a timely 4-2 win over Belgium thanks in the main to goals from Simon Child in the 19th and 20th minutes, followed by a third from Gareth Brooks of New Zealand in the 30th.

The Netherlands, silver medalists at the 2004 Athens Games, moved a step closer to the semifinals with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Canada. Dutch penalty corner specialist Taeke Taekema took his tournament tally to six goals. He converted two penalty corners and a penalty stroke while Roderick Weusthof added the fourth.

Australia won a stormy 3-1 match against Pakistan, three of whose players -- Muhammad Waqas, Muhammad Saqlain and Waqas Akbar -- received yellow card suspensions. Pakistan wasted a solid start after Shakeel Abassi struck in the 17th minute.

Great Britain were unconvincing but were happy to take their second set of full points from the 2-0 win against South Africa. A couple of clever goals by James Tindall and Matt Daly pulled Britain through a difficult game, leaving the South Africans to rue the scoring chances they missed. Britain are third in the pool behind Australia and the Netherlands while South Africa, without a point, languish at the bottom with Canada.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 2 Review

Australia, Spain top their pools

While Olympic champions Australia cruised to their second victory in great style with a 10-0 win against South Africa, their main challengers – Spain, Germany and the Netherlands -- struggled on day two of the Men's Hockey competition at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Wednesday, August 13.

The Dutch were lucky to come through 1-0 against Great Britain, as were Spain who overcame New Zealand 1-0, while world champions Germany were held to a 1-1 draw by Belgium.

After two rounds, Spain tops pool A with six points while Australia leads pool B with six points, ahead of the Dutch on goal difference.

The first match of the day turned out to be a mismatch as defending champions Australia pumped in 10 goals past South Africa. The Aussies reveled in the conditions as Eli Matheson (three goals), Jamie Dwyer (two goals), David Guest (two goals), Grant Schubert, Fergus Kavanagh and Des Abbot scored at regular intervals.

It was heartbreak for New Zealand who lost the game in the final seconds after having kept pace with Spain throughout. Spain were grateful for the strike from Santiago Freixa as it fetched them three more points to take them to the top of pool A standings.

A foul in 63rd minute cost Great Britain the last match of the day as it led to a penalty corner that Taeke Taekema of the Netherlands converted for the only goal of the match. Goalkeepers Guus Vogels of the Netherlands and Alistair McGregor of Great Britain lent the contest a touch of class with fine saves that kept the scoreboard blank until the 63rd minute. The Dutch will be happy with the three points which left them on level with Australia at the top of pool B.

The Asian Games champions from the Republic of Korea (ROK) extended their unbeaten record against China with a fairytale come-from-behind victory to pick up their first points. China squandered a 2-0 lead that Na Yubo and Song Yi provided with goals in the sixth and eighth minutes to suffer their second defeat. Jang Jong-hyun was the hero for the ROK with three penalty corner conversions sandwiched between strikes from Seo Jong-ho and Kang Seong-jung. The highly-physical contest saw three yellow card suspensions, two of them to Korea who at one stage were down to nine players.

Pakistan came together as a team to record their first win in the competition with a convincing 3-1 win over Canada. Belgium continued to haunt world champions Germany, who lost their previous meeting 3-4 in the 2007 European championship. The teams played to a 1-1 draw.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 2 Preview

South Africa faces defending Olympic champion

South Africa in pool B will face defending Olympic champion Australia, while World No. 2 Germany will compete with Belgium in pool A as the Men's Hockey tournament continues with day two at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Wednesday, August 13.

The first match of the day sees Australia and South Africa face off in pool B. Australia, nine-time winners of the Hockey Champions Trophy and bronze medalists in the Sydney and Atlanta Olympics, defeated Canada 6-1 in their first match, while South Africa lost 0-5 to the Netherlands on the first day.

World No. 3 the Netherlands will meet Great Britain. The Netherlands won silver in the Athens Olympics and finished first in Sydney. Great Britain, the 1988 Olympic gold medalists, beat Pakistan 4-2 on day one. It was Britain's first win against Pakistan in the Olympics since the 1952 Games.

Canada will play Pakistan.

In pool A, World No. 2 Germany will face Belgium. The third-place finisher in Athens, Germany won the Hockey Champions Trophy in 2007 but finished in fifth place this year. They beat China 4-1, while Belgium lost 2-4 to Spain on day one.

China, making their Olympic debut as the host country, will compete with the Republic of Korea, which was defeated by New Zealand 1-3.

Winners on the first day New Zealand and Spain will compete for more points.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 1 Preview

Great Britain finally bests Pakistan after 56 years

Great Britain's first win against Pakistan in the Olympic Men's Hockey competition since the 1952 Games highlighted the opening day of the Men's Hockey preliminary matches at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium on Monday, August 11. Britain defeated Pakistan 4-2 on a day that saw top medal contenders Australia, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain posting clear-cut victories, while New Zealand upset Korea.

Germany defeated China 4-1. Making their Olympic debut in Men's Hockey, China showed promise early on with a second-minute goal by Na Yubo. A rattled Germany stayed afloat on a 21st minute equalizer from Christopher Zeller and then took control of the match. In the second half world champions Germany got into stride with goals by Florian Keller and Carlos Nevado for a comfortable win.

Great Britain, the 1988 Olympic Gold medalists, beat Pakistan 4-2. The British team got off to a great start to lead 3-0 on goals by James Tindall, Rob Moore and Ashley Jackson.

Three times gold medalists Pakistan, outplayed in the first half, began their fightback after change of ends. Shakeel Abbasi and Muhammad Waqas scored opportunistic goals to put Pakistan back in the hunt. Britain, however, closed the game with a 62nd-minute strike by Matt Daly after quality saves from goalkeeper Alistair McGregor.

It was Britain's first win against Pakistan in the Olympics since the 1952 Games.

The Republic of Korea lost their game against New Zealand 1-3. New Zealand's penalty corner specialist, Shaw Hayden, struck a purple patch with three conversions in the second half to lead his side to victory. The Republic of Korea, the Asian Games champions and semifinalists at the 2006 World Cup, flattered to deceive after taking the lead in the 12th minute through Lee Nam-yong. Goalkeeper Paul Woolford was the other Kiwi hero with some fine saves.

Australia won their match against Canada 6-1. Australia did as they pleased with their substitutes having a major say in the runaway victory.

Coming off the bench, Des Abbot from Australia scored thrice, while another substitute, Fergus Kavanagh, knocked in one, as did the experienced Grant Schubert and Eddie Ockenden, who notched his maiden Olympic goal.

The Aussies dictated pace and exchanges, but Canada drew some consolation through a Peter Short goal in the 38th minute.

Belgium lost the game against Spain 2-4. It was a typical all-European clash, with Spain posting a convincing if not commanding victory.

Goals by Pol Amat, Santiago Freixa, Xavier Ribas and Victor Sojo set up a Spanish victory that did not come with the ease the scoreline might indicate.

Belgium, bronze medalists at 2007 European Championship, slipped in two goals through Jeorome Truyens and Jerome Dekeyserto to mark their presence.

The Netherlands won a straight-sets match 5-0 over South Africa. It took the Netherlands a while to figure out the South Africans, but once they got going, they were unstoppable.

Taeke Taekema, the penalty-corner specialist, was twice on target in the first half, during which the Dutch struggled to contain the South Africans. The Dutch were a transformed side in the second half. Veteran Teun de Nooijer, playing in his fourth Olympics, created three moves that resulted in goals by Laurence Docherty, Jeroen Hertzberger and Matthijs Brouwer in the 44th, 47th and 66th minutes.

Olympic::Men's Hockey Day 1 Preview

Australia's defense of gold begins with Canada

Australia brings a veteran team to Beijing to defend the gold medal it won in Athens. Nine-time winners of the Hockey Champions Trophy and bronze medalists in the Sydney and Atlanta Olympics, Australia will face Canada when the Men's Hockey tournament begins on August 11 at Olympic Green Hockey Stadium. Placed in the top four in every Olympic Games since 1984, the Men's Hockey team is Australia's most consistent performer in any Olympic team sport for the past 20 years.

World No. 2 Germany, third-place finisher in Athens, won the Hockey Champions Trophy in 2007 but finished in fifth place this year. An opening day victory against China, who are making their Olympic debut, may give them the momentum they need to challenge Australia for gold. The team will be relying heavily on a core of experienced, battle hardened players like captain Timo Wess, Tibor Weissenborn and Matthias Witthaus as well as the rising star of the team Moritz F├╝rste.

The Netherlands, ranked No. 3 in the world, will play the last match of the day against South Africa. The Netherlands won silver in the Athens Olympics and finished first in Sydney. After finishing a surprising seventh at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Dutch men bounced back in 2007 to be crowned European champions for the first time in 20 years. The team relies heavily on Teun de Nooijer, the player widely thought to be the best the country has ever produced. His pace, skill and vast experience give potency to the attack as he bursts forward from the midfield.

With a series of solid results in recent years, Spain has continued to grow under the guidance of highly regarded coach, Maurits Hendriks. The Dutchman, who took the Netherlands to the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, has a strong squad known for its attractive style of play. The World No. 4 will open their tournament with a match against Belgium.

Great Britain's fifth-place finish at the 2006 World Cup in M├Ânchengladbach, their best finish since finishing as runners-up in 1986, is cause for optimism for Great Britain's chances in Beijing as they look to get back on the Olympic medal podium for the first time since claiming a famous gold medal at the 1988 Games in Seoul. They face Pakistan on opening day.

New Zealand meets the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the sixth match of the day. The ROK were late-comers to Olympic hockey, only making their debut when they hosted the Games in Seoul in 1988. In a remarkable progression 12 years later and in only their third Olympic hockey tournament, at the 2000 Games in Sydney, they came within a penalty stroke of becoming Olympic champions.

The medal matches of the Men's Hockey tournament take place August 23.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Improving movement with the ball

Pull back technique

Description:
Set up for cones about 2m square and explain the square being the clock Players start with the ball at 6 oclock and run to 12 oclock, players then stops the ball and pull the ball back towards 6 oclock to change direction and run the ball towards 3 oclock
restart practice

Coaching Points
:: stop the ball with the left foot forward
:: to pull ball back transfer weight from left foot
to right foot
:: Pull the ball all the way back to beyond the right
foot before running off with the ball into the
changed direction (because the ball should be
run slightly outside and in front of the right foot)

Click here to see video.

Round and Across

Description
Players run around the outside of the 4 cones with their ball (in the same direction). On the whistle, all players have to run across the square from the side they are on to the opposite side avoiding others.

Click here to see video.

Pull back

Description
Set up four cones in a 5 by 5 metre square You can have 1 to 4 players working in any one square, each player needs a ball.

Coaching Points
:: Beginners should try and stop with their left
foot forward then to push back from this foot
and change direction
:: some players naturally stop with their right foot
and then push off with their left (this should
not be discourage)

Click here to see video.


Lets practise!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Special: Tackle

Jab Tackle

Description
The jab can be used as a form of delay either to dispossess a player with the ball if the ball is away from the stick or to tempt the player to take their eyes off the ball and possibly lose possession.

Coaching Points
:: the stick jabs out towards the ball with the left hand
and then returns to both hands
:: after the jab the defender returns to the original
balanced position
:: the grip on the stick will change slightly, the hands turn,
usually palms upwards

Click here to see video


Open side Block Tackle

Coaching Points
:: Strong low body position and balanced ready to move
:: Left foot forward, right foot back
:: Stick on the ground or "hovering" slightly above the ground
:: Position of feet and stick make a strong triangle
shaped base
:: Tackle must be positive and strong with feet balanced
:: Stick face angled towards the ball
:: The tackle should be timed at the right moment (as ball
momentarily leaves attackers stick) initiated by a jab to
put player off or as player looses control.
:: The defender?s stick should not be flat on the ground as
this is a safety issue. The defender could be injured by the
attacker as the head is down too low and the attacker could
take advantage of this over commitment by using a low lift.
Flat stick only when attacker stationary or moving very
slowly

Click here to see video

Lets practise!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Special: Short Corner Defence

Short Corner Defence 2 - 2

Description
:: Setup the defence as shown with defenders on each post and a runner on each post.

Player 1 runs to the top of the cirlce with Player 2 running on their right hand side, but only 3/4 of the way out. Player 2 is their to put pressure on any slip left or pass back to the injector.

Players 3 and 4 are responsible for picking up any rebounds of the keeper as well as adjusting their position to close down any moves the attack might try.


Short Corner Defence 3-1

Description
:: Setup the defence as shown with 2 defenders inside the goal on either post.
:: In front of them are two runners.

Once the ball is injected Player 1 runs to the top of the circle, with player 2 running 3/4s of the way on their right hand side to cover the slip left. Player runs out on Player no 1s left hand side and runs level with Player 2. Player 4 comes 3 to 4 paces off the line to sweep the pads of the goalkeeper.

Coaching Points
:: Its important that Players 2 and 3 do not commit
themselves and instead try to read the corner.

Click here to see video

Lets practise!

Special: Passing and Receiving

Exercise 1

Round the Gate

Description
2 Players,1 ball. They have to pass the ball through the gate to their partner who, on receiving the ball has to 1st touch the ball wide of either the left or right cone. Then with his/her 2nd touch, pass the ball back.

Coaching Points
:: Make sure players stay behind the cones.
:: To go right play ball next to body
:: To go to left play ball infront of body

Exercise 2:

Description
:: Split the group in half.
:: The white team each have a ball.

The blue team position themselves statically around the area. Players with the ball make a pass to one of the static players, to then receive the ball back again and look to pass to the next static player - (1 minute, see how many passes you can make.)


Click here to see video


Lets practise!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Defending Tips : Jab Tackle

The jab can be used as a form of delay either to dispossess a player with the ball if the ball is away from the stick or to tempt the player to take their eyes off the ball and possibly lose possession.

Coaching Points
* the stick jabs out towards the ball with the left hand and then returns to both
hands
* after the jab the defender returns to the original balanced position
* the grip on the stick will change slightly, the hands turn, usually palms
upwards
Click here to see video

Lets practise!

Advanced Drills 6 v 4

Dear Hockey Player,

This newsletter we thought that we would test some of you slightly. This has been taken from our advanced library of drills.

As you will see, the concepts are the same - simple basic hockey. You should try this practice as the third or fourth exercise of the session. The first couple of exercises should look at the first touch and moving the ball away from a defender to allow you to do something with the second touch. Try the exercise below as a stepping stone exercise for posession, movement and passing.

The Concepts of the Exercise
Passing: short sharp passes. The passes should allow the receiver to move, do something productive with their first touch and go away from the defender. The area is small, so you don't have much time to hold onto the ball. The longer the player keeps the ball, the less space they have to make the pass and the less space the receiver will have.

Click here to see video

Receiving: receive the ball on the move. Never be flat footed when the ball comes to you. This will give you an advantage. Given the small area, it is important to make the most of all that you have. You should move the defender for you to create space for you to move into in which you can receive the ball. This also means that you will not stand still and wait for the ball to arrive, rather move towards the ball. The first touch should control the ball and put it where you are able to do something with the second touch, be it making a pass or executing a skill to exploit space.

Defending:get into position between the goal (in this case the receiver of the pass) and the origin of the pass and the attacker. The exact positioning and how close you are will depend on how good the attacker is, how comfortable you feel, and where on the pitch you are located.. The attacker should not have enough space to be able to exploit, be this by making a pass or executing a skill. Preferably step in front of the attacker to take the ball before the attacker receives the ball. If this is not possible, do not get caught in no-man's land. It is better to hang back rather than getting over-committed and giving the attacker an easy route through.

Defend in pairs. One high, one deep, communicating the whole time. The primary goal is to prevent the ball being played through the box, i.e. defending the space behind you.

The Exercise
The practice below will focus all of these concepts into one exercise. The channel is deliberately restricted so that players have to concentrate on their close skills. This forces the first touch to be good and to allow the player to do something with their second touch of the ball.

The Basic Exercise
Set the practice up as shown in the diagram.

This is essentially a 6 v 4 split into 3 sections. In the 2 end zones play 2 v 1 and a 2 v 2 in the middle section.

Initially, players in each section cannot go into neighbouring sections.

The aim is to move the ball down the channel without losing possession.

The only other restriction is that players cannot hit the ball.

Players are free to, and should be encouraged, to pass backwards. This should be used to maintain possession and manoeuvre the defenders.

Players should never be standing still, as they should be constantly involved in either moving the defenders to make space in which to attack, or else defending.

Balls straight through the middle section are allowed, but possession must not be given away.

Rotate the players on each side and in the different areas.

There is no rush. If a pass is not on, move the ball back to the end section. In these sections possession should not be conceded as there is a 2 v 1. By playing the ball between the 2 the team mates in the middle section attackers have time to draw the defenders to create space to move into in which to receive the ball.

In the end zone, the attackers should play the ball to the attacker in the middle zone when they make a sharp move into space.

The attackers should be encouraged to make a forward movement with the ball when they receive the ball. This must be done by creating space in which to move with the ball, and should therefore rely on a good first touch.

Click here to see video

Progression 1
Players can move between zones, but the 2 v 1, 2 v 2, 2 v 1 pattern must remain, i.e. if one player switches, then another player must take their place.

Players running from the end zone into the middle section now control a huge advantage. By moving forwards, they force a defender to make a decision about what to do.

The defender should make their decision based on how close to the other end zone they are and where the other attacker is. The defender should back off until they reach the critical point. At this time, the defender should step to meet the on-coming player, closing them down quickly and keeping the attacker's head down to deny them access to options.

The first goal of the defender should be to force the ball to go back to the originating end zone. If the attacker makes a mistake, it is then that the defender should think about stealing the ball.

Attackers in the middle section should not crowd the area that the attacker from the end zone has to run into, i.e. do not move towards the player coming forwards. If the attackers do this, they lose the forwards advantage that they will have. Extra space is created by one of the attackers in the middle zone replacing the attacker from the end zone. When the defender ceases backing off and starts to engage the attacker coming forward, or when the other defender engages the attacker, the attacker should make the pass.

If the other attackers in the far end zone have made a good lead run into space, play the ball into them if possible.

However, players should be encouraged to turn back out if there is no forward pass on.

Progression 2
Set a goal up at each end with a goalkeeper.

All the defenders (1, 2, 1), except the one in the far end zone, should attack the goal at that end when they legitimately break down the play in the game. All of the attackers, except the two in the far end zone, should defend.

This is a good exercise to improve reaction times when play is broken down and to focus on work rates to get back and defend.

Working with large groups. Multiple "channels" can be set up to run concurrently so that players should be involved all the time.

Lets practise!

Moving off the ball

These are three level of practices for your players to learn to move into space to support the player on the ball or to receive the ball in space.

Moving off the ball into space to help the player on the ball for beginners
Example: Pass and Move
Players have to pass the ball around the outside of the square with only 3 players. To make this possible, the player after the pass has to move to the empty corner (any direction).Click here to see video.

Moving into the space to support the player on the ball for intermediate players
Example: Switch and Pass
Player 1 dribbles across the square forcing player 2 to switch in order to receive the square pass from 1. Then 2 starts etc (pass from right to left and then from left to right).Click here to see video.

Example: Creating Space to Receive the Ball
Moving to create space to receive the ball for advanced players
Description:

Player 3 runs into the channel. At the same time player 1 passes the ball to player 2. Player 3 has to time the run, so they can run out of the channel once player 2 is ready to pass the ball, not before. Again it is important that player 3 should not have to slow down to receive the ball, and should take the ball while continuing to run and shoot at goal.Click here to see video.

Receiving the ball on the move
on the reverse stick side running into space.
Click here to see video.

Lets practise!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Passing, Receiving and the First Touch

In this edition we go back to basics - the first touch and passing.

Whether it be the start of the season or mid way through; for advanced or grass roots players, the first touch and the pass are of key importance to hockey.

With a good first touch, you can gain a metre of space, beat a player, make a pass, or set up to make an accurate and strong pass or shot.

Similarly with a good pass you can make space for the receiving player, move the defence out of position, cut the defence apart or simply build an attack.

The Pass

A good pass is one which enables the receiving player to do something productive with their first touch. Players should be reminded of this when they are practicing.

The receiving player should not have to think about controlling a bobbling ball, stretching for the ball, having to alter their run because the pass is too early or delayed, or having to move too far towards the ball for an underhit pass.

A pass should be:
* accurate
* of the correct pace; and
* well timed

Mastering these aspects of the pass should be built into every session, whether through simple drills purely concentrating on un-pressured passing, through to advanced conditioned games that require advanced passing under pressure of time and space and from other players.

Coaching Points:
* Use simple passing drills to warm up
* Encourage players to keep the pass simple and to think about how they would want
to receive the pass
* For the timing of the pass players should visualise what the receiving player is
going to want to do with the ball - what space they wish to attack, where the
next pass will go to - and make the pass accordingly to enable the receiving
player to do what they want to do with minimal effort.

Receiving a Pass and The First Touch

Before a player receives the ball they should know exactly what they want to do with it. This should include the space that they want to move the ball into with their first touch, where the next pass is going to go, or what space that they are going to exploit.

How to receive a pass:
* Know what you want to do with the ball before the pass is made.
* Make a run, whether a few steps or several metres to create space for you to
receive the ball in.
* Move towards the ball when the pass is made.
* Know where the defenders are around you before you / the ball meet.

The First Touch

By knowing what you want to do with the ball, and where the defenders are around you, you are in a position to move the ball into space with your first touch. The space may be to your left or right, in front of you or behind you.

The first touch of your stick on the ball should control the ball and at the same time move the ball in the direction where you have identified the space.

In the same motion, you should move your feet and body into position to be able to execute the skill that you intended, be it a pass, shot or driving into space.


Try this practice to develop accuracy of passing, awareness of the space, first touch, and subsequent pass.

Lets practise!