Hockey Headlines

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Field - Ten Of Twelve

After a break for The Hockey Show yesterday, we're back to finish off this field hockey examination of the teams competing in Rio de Janiero at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The final three entries in this series will consist of the teams that are most likely to medal due to their powers as nations on the pitch. Two countries have both their men's and women's teams in the top-three, so you have to think that they're definitely going to bring home some hardware on one or both sides, but nothing is guaranteed as we know. Take note of some of the names written in these next entries as well. These are the men and women who will most likely be at or near the top of the scoring races during the Olympics as well!

Women's #3 - Australia

QUALIFIED: 2015 Oceanic Cup (1st-place).

TEAM COLOURS: Yellow, green.

OLYMPIC MEDALS: Gold - 1988; gold - 1996; gold - 2000.

LONDON OLYMPICS: 5th-place.

Australia qualified for Rio by winning the 2015 Oceania Cup, becoming the continental qualifier for the region. I take nothing away from Australia in their qualification, but they really only compete against one other team in that tournament as you'll see. In the Oceania Cup's preliminary round, Australia blasted Samoa 25-0 before tying New Zealand 2-2. They would meet in the final as well, and it would go to penalty shots after being tied 1-1 through regulation time. The extra shots saw Australia score on shots three and four while New Zealand could only convert on one of five shots, giving Australia the Oceania Cup tournament victory!

Australia also competed in the FIH Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Belgium, and they put up a pretty successful result. The preliminary round saw Australia down Poland by a 9-0 score, defeat Belgium 2-0, fall to New Zealand 2-0, but recover to beat India 4-2. The quarterfinals pitted Australia against Italy, and the Hockeyroos downed Italy 2-0. They would run into a powerhouse in the Netherlands in the semifinals, and the Hockeyroos would be bounced to the bronze-medal game with a 5-1 loss to the Oranje. They would meet their rivals in New Zealand in the bronze-medal game, and the Hockeyroos would down the Kiwis by a 4-2 score to capture third-place!

Australia has a phenomenal player in Jodie Kenny who will celebrate her 30th birthday in Rio! The defender was the top goal-scorer at the FIH Semi-Finals with ten goals, and she earned the Hockeyroos Player of the Year award in 2015 as she led the national program with 22 goals after posting a team-best 29 goals in 2014. The Hockeyroos feature a fairly balanced attack as ten players recorded goals at the FIH Semi-Finals, but no player scored more than two goals outside of Kenny. In short, they rely heavily on defence and tactics to get Kenny into positions to score, but leaving players unchecked will most certainly see balls in the back of the net. Emily Smith, Jane Claxton, and Kathryn Slattery will be names in the balanced attack.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: The London Olympics saw Australia miss the medal round by being one goal short on the goal differential. Otherwise, we may be talking about a previous medalist here. In saying that, I really like what Australia can do, but there are some good defensive teams who may be able to neutralize Kenny when the chips are on the table. If the Hockeyroos can get some additional scoring out of some of their players, they have an excellent shot at bringing home a medal in Rio. They'll be in tough with Argentina, Great Britain, and USA in their pool, but Australia should find itself in the medal round if they play well on both ends of the pitch.

Men's #3 - Germany

QUALIFIED: 2015 FIH Men's World League Semi-Finals (1st-place).

TEAM COLOURS: White, black, red.

OLYMPIC MEDALS: Bronze - 1928; silver - 1936; bronze - 1956; gold - 1972; silver - 1984; silver - 1988; gold - 1992; bronze - 2004; gold - 2008; gold - 2012.

LONDON OLYMPICS: 1st-place.

Germany qualified for the Rio Olympics by winning the FIH Semi-Finals tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the preliminary round, Germany beat Spain 4-1, shutout Austria 5-0, lost to Argentina 4-3 on a late goal, and hammered Canada 9-0. In the quarterfinals, Germany downed South Korea by a 2-0 score before knocking off the second-ranked team in the FIH rankings in the Netherlands by a 2-1 score in the semifinals. They would meet Argentina in a rematch from the preliminary round, and the Germans would flex their muscle by downing the Argentinians 4-1 to win the FIH Semi-Finals tournament and qualify for the Rio Olympics.

The Germans looked to qualify as the European continental qualifier at the EuroHockey Nations Championship, and things looked good through the preliminary round with a 4-0 win over Belgium, a 2-0 win over Ireland, and a 7-2 win over France to put them into the medal round semifinals. They would need a penalty shootout to claim victory over England and move to the final, but they would find themselves on the wrong side of a 6-1 score against the Netherlands to miss out on the EuroNations Championship gold medal and an automatic continental qualifying spot.

Germany has one of the most lethal attacks of all the teams in Rio, and they certainly spread the wealth around the team. Nine players scored goals at the FIH Semi-Finals, and only one of those players - Linus Butt - finished with less than two goals. Christopher Rühr led the tournament in scoring with six goals, and Niklas Wellen was named as the Young Player of the Tournament after posting four goals. Florian Fuchs, Moritz Fürste, Mats Grambusch, and Christopher Zeller are all dangerous scorers as well, and goalkeeper Nicolas Jacobi will make his Olympic debut after being a reserve in 2012.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: Germany is going to medal in Rio, and you can say you heard that here first. They have beaten a number of Olympic qualifiers, but still are prone to having their defence stretched out by good passing. This opens holes for scoring chances, so Jacobi will need to be at his best if they're to challenge for the gold medal. Their pool features the Netherlands, but the remaining teams should pose little trouble if Germany is prepared for each and every game. I suspect they will be, and they should find themselves in the Rio medal round where they will capture a medal.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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