Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Field - Part Two

Yesterday, we started out looking at the two lowest-ranked teams in the Rio Olympic field hockey events according to their FIH rankings. Spain on the women's side and Brazil on the men's side got the treatment yesterday, so we'll continue looking at the next lowest-ranked teams that will take to the pitch in Rio. As we saw yesterday, there are some teams that have the odds stacked against them when it comes to winning a medal, but anything can happen on the pitch! Today's teams? India and Canada!

Women's #13 - India

QUALIFIED: 2014-15 Women's FIH World League Semi-Finals (5th-place).

TEAM COLOURS: Light blue, white, saffron.


LONDON OLYMPICS: Did not participate.

Like Spain's qualification, India needed help to get into the Olympics. The Netherlands won the Antwerp FIH Semi-Finals tournament, so they claimed one of the four spots available in Antwerp since Brazil's women's team did not qualify as the host team. Second-place South Korea had already qualified by winning the 2014 Asian Games. New Zealand took a second qualifier spot by finishing in third-place, Australia's spot was up for grabs after they won the 2015 Oceanic Cup, leaving two spots for fifth-place and sixth-place to jump in. That's how India got into the Rio Olympics.

This will just be the second appearance all-time at the Olympics for India's national women's team. They finished in fourth-place at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, so there's hope they can turn in another outstanding performance. There have been other tournament wins in the past, but they haven't recorded a tournament win since 2004.

Ritu Rani led the team in scoring in Antwerp, and there's a belief that there could be other breakout stars on this Indian team. Vandana Kataria, Poonam Rani, and Rani Rani are all seen as legitimate goal-scoring threats, so this squad should be able to find the back of the net when given the opportunity. The only question will be whether they can keep pace with the higher-ranked teams.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: India will be in tough as they suffered a 5-0 loss to New Zealand and a 4-2 loss to Australia in the round-robin in Antwerp before getting trounced by the Netherlands 7-0 in the quarterfinal game. They did beat Japan in the fifth-place game so there's some hope for a win or two, but they're still trying to catch the teams at the top of the rankings.

Men's #15 - Canada

QUALIFIED: 2014-15 Men's FIH World League Semi-Finals (4th-place).

TEAM COLOURS: White, red, black.


LONDON OLYMPICS: Did not participate.

Canada qualified for the Rio Olympics by finishing in fourth-place at the FIH World League Semi-Finals in Buenos Aires, Argentina, claiming one of the four available spots there. In the preliminary round, Canada downed Spain 3-2, beat Austria 3-0, and suffered a 2-1 loss to Argentina before being blown out 9-0 by Germany. A penalty shootout win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals pushed Canada into another match with the Argentinians, but Canada fell 3-0 in the semi-final. The bronze medal game saw Canada get hammered 6-0 by the Netherlands, but they did what they came do in getting qualified for Rio.

David Carter, Canada's goalkeeper, was named as the Player of the Tournament and the Goaltender of the Tournament in Buenos Aires, so you know that Canada has a pretty good last line of defence. Mark Pearson, Gordon Johnston, and Sukhi Panesar are three major strikers for Canada, and they should carry the load of the offence for the Canadian squad.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: Canada is still a neophyte when it comes to the big tournaments, and their record in the medal round of the Buenos Aires tournament is a testament to that. Despite winning the game against New Zealand, the Canadians recorded no goals in three games when hardware was on the line. Their blowout losses to perennial favorites Germany and Netherlands also serve as a reminder of the growth that is needed for Canada. If they can reach the medal round in Rio, they'll have taken a major step in their quest to show the world that they belong.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

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