Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Men's Hockey Set For Medals

Like the women's side of the event, the men's field hockey tournament was dominated by the Dutch. If there is one country that could go for double-gold in these Olympics, the Dutch field hockey squads were a good bet. Like the women, they rolled out the preliminaries without a draw or loss, and they were impressive in their marching over the competition. Needless to say, the Dutch men look poised to capture a medal in London. Let's see who else made the cut as they prepare to award the medals in men's field hockey.

NETHERLANDS: While they certainly didn't blow out any teams in the field, the 18 goals scored versus the seven scored-against is still an impressive feat on the Olympic stage. Mink van der Weerden has been on fire since the tournament has started, leading the Dutch squad in goals, and Billy Bakker has been right behind him. Those two do make up a big portion of the offence this far, but make no mistake in that any of these Dutch men can score. The Netherlands will be the favorites for gold when the medal round begins, and they may run roughshod over the British squad.

GREAT BRITAIN: Great Britain earned the second spot in Pool B with a 2-0-3 record. Their only wins came over Argentina and Pakistan, tying with a weaker South African squad, and two strong teams in Australia and Spain. However, in not allowing Spain or Pakistan to earn victories, Great Britain remained in the running for one of the top two spots in the pool. Spain's loss to Australia in the early going hurt Spain in the end as Great Britain qualified for the medal round one point ahead of the Spaniards.

While Great Britain will find great motivation from their home crowd, the Dutch team just seems to be a more well-rounded team in terms of its scoring and defence. The game will be close, I believe, but the British men will find themselves playing for the bronze medal.

AUSTRALIA: Australia won Pool A with a 3-0-2 record. The Hockeyroos played some inspired hockey as they put up big scores early in the tournament. Downing South Africa 6-0 and Spain 5-0, they drew their next two games against Argentina and Great Britain before hammering Pakistan 7-0. Needless to say, if Australia gets rolling, the score can get out of hand in a big way. While they can score, they seem to fall into other teams' schemes. If the pace slows, Australia can be contained.

Australia looks like they should fare well in the medal round, but they'll run into a very good German team from Pool B. I'm not sure the Australians can carry the play against the Germans, so this one is a toss up. If I was forced to bet, I'd never bet against the Germans, though.

GERMANY: Germany comes into the medal round with a 3-1-1 record, falling to the Netherlands and playing square with New Zealand. Florian Fuchs has his name all over the scoresheets, though, as he has put this German team on his back. Germany plays a very controlled game, though, opting to remain in their system rather than playing the game wide-open when presented with the opportunity. As a result, the scores haven't been reflective of the skill of Germany which is in its structure and defensive play. If defence win championships, the Germans may very well have the best shot at the gold medal.

Germany's solid defensive play was exposed by the slick passing game of the Netherlands, and this could prove to be a way to beat the Germans. New Zealand tried to emulate the Dutch gameplan, and were successful in gaining a draw. But the Germans appear to be learning quickly from their mistakes, and this could be beneficial as the tournament rolls on.

There are your four men's teams who will be competing for the gold medal in London this week. The Netherlands appear to be the odds-on favorites once again, but anything can happen in one-and-done tournaments. An injury, a mistake, a slip-up... anything can change a team's fortunes in a second! That's why this tournament has been so good thus far! Keep your eyes on the men's event for some drama and excitement as the medal ceremony nears!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

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