Friday, 29 July 2016

The Field - Part Four

With the break in the series thanks to The Hockey Show, we're back to business here on HBIC in looking at the next set of teams in the Rio Olympic field hockey event. The teams we'll see in Parts Four to Six are generally what would be considered "wild cards" - good enough to win the event, but inconsistent enough to finish anywhere down to eighth-place or lower. They have the talent to make waves in the preliminary round, but it's their performances in the medal round that often leave their fans wanting something more. In any case, here are the next two teams in this examination!

Women's #9 - Germany

QUALIFIED: 2014–15 Women's FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals (3rd-place).

TEAM COLOURS: Black, red.

OLYMPIC MEDALS: Silver - 1984; silver - 1992; gold - 2004.


Germany claimed one of the four available spots at the 2014–15 Women's FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals by finishing in third-place at the event. Germany's preliminary round went pretty well as they hammered Uruguay 8-0, downed Ireland 3-1, tied the Americans 2-2, and tied South Africa 0-0. They downed Spain in the quarterfinals via the penalty shootout before running into the Great British team who defeated Germany 1-0. This pushed Germany to the bronze medal game, and they brought home some hardware after beating Argentina in a penalty shootout.

Germany has some excellent scoring threats in Lydia Haase, Hannah Krüger, and Eileen Hoffman. They have a fantastic young player in Charlotte Stapenhorst who received the Young Player of the Tournament award at the Women's FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals, and she is a definite scoring threat as well. They have a balanced attack with ten players recording goals at the FIH Semi-Finals, and they showed that they can win in penalty shootouts when the chips are down. Defensively, they held their own with teams ranked higher than them, but they couldn't get the results on the scoreboard they needed when it mattered.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: I like Germany's chances to bring home a medal, and they seem to win a medal every three Olympiads. This would be that year, but trends can only continue if they play above their heads when running up against upper echelon teams. There will be a number of those teams in Rio, so this German squad will need to fire on all cylinders for the two weeks in Rio. I like Germany, but they're facing an uphill battle if they are looking to medal in Brazil. They're a wild card for a reason, so don't bet heavily on Germany if the risks seem too high. It might be a safe play.

Men's #11 - Germany

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

TEAM COLOURS: Yellow, red, navy blue.

OLYMPIC MEDALS: Bronze - 1960; silver - 1980; silver - 1996; silver - 2008.


Spain needed some help to get to Rio, and they certainly didn't help themselves at the FIH Semi-Finals. They opened the preliminary round with a 3-2 loss to Canada, dropped a 4-1 decision to Germany, beat Austria 4-1, and was downed by Argentina 1-0. They dropped a 3-1 decision to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, but they looked like a much better team in that game. That would carry over to the consolation semifinals where they would down South Korea in a penalty shootout, and they would finish the tournament in fifth-place after dispatching New Zealand 3-1.

The problem, however, is that there were only four spots available at the FIH Semi-Finals and a fifth-place finish wasn't going to cut it. Thankfully, Argentina did the Spaniards a favor by winning the 2015 Pan-American Games, and that opened up their spot from the FIH Semi-Finals where Argentina finished in second-place. Because Argentina was now representing the Americas in terms of being a continental qualifier, the next highest finisher at the FIH Semi-Finals would take Argentina`s spot, and Spain jumped into the Olympics with their fifth-place finish!

Spain has a star in Pau Quemada who tied for the lead in goal-scoring at the FIH Semi-Finals with six markers. The problem, however, is that there isn't much scoring depth behind Quemada. Spain only had five different goal-scorers in the FIH Semi-Finals tournament, and the other scorers tied Quemada's output combined. Andrés Mir and Albert Beltran had a pair of goals each, but they`ll need more to have any chance of making it to the medal round.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK: I'll be honest: not good. Spain wasn't good at the FIH Semi-Finals tournament against lower-ranked Canada and looked horrible against Germany. They finally got it together against the lower-ranked South Korea before downing the higher-ranked New Zealand. They are wildly inconsistent, and that can't happen in a tournament as big as the Olympics. Spain has enough talent to throw some scares into teams, but they just seem to be too one-dimensional. If they can reach a sixth-place finish in Rio, that should be considered a success.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

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