Friday, 15 August 2008

Putting Up Zeroes

Wednesday's games on the men's side of the field hockey competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics saw a number of zeroes put up. Low-scoring games are common in field hockey as teams match their opponents' movements, but you'd expect to see end-to-end action in some of these games. Granted, there have been some very exciting games thus far that have had goals scored on both ends of the pitch, but there were some phenomenal games played on Wednesday that ended with one team not scoring. Here are the results from the second matches on the men's side that took place on Wednesday.

Australia and South Africa met up in the first game of the day, and the "Kookaburras" proved once again why they are considered a favourite for a medal in this sport. Australia defeated the South African squad by a 10-0 score, and showed why they are the defending Olympic champions. The Aussies had goals scored by Grant Schubert, Fergus Kavanagh, Des Abbott, Jamie Dwyer with a pair, David Guest with a pair, and Eli Matheson with a hat trick. Not much else can be said about the Aussie squad's performance except that it was a showing of dominance.

Korea and China, long-time rivals, tangled in the second game. China jumped out to a lead in the 6th minute on a goal from Yubo Na. Two minutes later, Yi Song doubled the lead. However, Korea's Jong Heo Seo replied at the 13th minute to cut the deficit to one goal. At the 35th minute, before halftime was called, Jong Hyun Jang converted on a penalty corner to even up the score at 2-2. Jang added his second and third goals of the game at the 55th and 57th minutes respectively. Both of those tallies came on penalty corners, and gave Korea a 4-2 advantage.

Belgium and Germany matched up in the third game of the day, and the two European squads battled to a 1-1 draw. There were a number of glorious chances for either side to establish a lead early on, but it was the Germans who struck in the 19th minute on a reverse stick shot from Mattias Witthaus. However, three minutes after the Germans got on the board, the Belgians responded. Cedric Charlier scored his first Olympic goal for the Belgians to even the score. The rest of the match was highlighted by scoring chances, but neither side could break the deadlock.

Pakistan met up with Canada in the fourth game of the day, and it appeared that the Canadian squad was quite outmatched early on as Pakistan had a number of chances and sustained pressure. Bindi Kullar, however, opened the scoring for Canada on a last-minute penalty corner in the first half by converting a rebound. The Pakistani team didn't back down from their relentless attack strategy, and it paid off in the second half. Muhammad Imran scored a penalty corner at the 39th minute, and that was followed immediately by a Shafqat Rasool in the 39th minute again. Pakistan continued to press the Canadians at every turn, and they were rewarded with the insurance marker in the 57th minute when Muhammad Waqas scored on a reverse stick shot. Pakistan ran out the time, and won the match 3-1.

Spain and New Zealand put on quite a show in their match. Both teams came out flying, seizing opportunities to attack and counterattack. Both teams had a number of chances, especially Spain late in the half, but the two teams remained deadlocked at 0-0 as they went into the half. The Blacksticks really carried the play in the second half, and had Spain on the ropes a number of times. The teams see-sawed back and forth up and down the pitch, and it appeared that we were going to see the first scoreless draw. However, with four seconds remaining, Spain's Santi Freixa managed to put a ball past a number of players and into the goal. Spain wins the most exciting match on the men's side to date by a 1-0 score on the late goal.

After watching that game, there was another great game on the schedule featuring the Netherlands versus Great Britain. Great Britain stymied the Dutch attacks time and time again, keeping the powerful Netherlands team off the scoreboard. The two teams entered the half tied at zero. The second half looked to be much like the first. However, the Dutch squad finally got on the board in the 63rd minute. Taeke Taekema scored off a penalty corner, and the British were not able to respond before time ran out. The Netherlands wins the match 1-0.

More Olympic field hockey action coming up this week. I'm playing in a softball tournament on the weekend, so check back later in the day on Saturday for an update. I'll have my eye on the hockey action this weekend despite me fielding ground balls and popflies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

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