The WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago, Chile, started smoothly for the favorites with Great Britain cleanly dispatching Mexico (11-0) and India having no problem to defeat Russia (8-0), but host Chile had an unexpected setback, losing a hardly contested game against Austria (3-4).
The competition is played in a superb new facility at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago, diligently prepared by the Chilean Hockey Federation, and day 1 was played in very hot conditions that could well prevail during the whole week.
Game 1 – Great Britain v. Mexico: 11-0 (half-time: 2-0)
Great Britain, one of the two favorites for the final qualification, seemed to have an easy opener against a Mexican team that looked very young and inexperienced. But, despite controlling the flow of the game, it took them nearly fifteen minutes to score their first goal by Simon MANTELL. His brother Richard added one a few minutes later on the British second penalty-corner. Mexico played a steady defensive game, backed by an excellent Moises VARGAS GARCIA in goal, and managed to reach half-time with only the 2-goal deficit.
The British players then steadily increased their lead, without forcing their pace in the afternoon heat, with goals from Stephen DICK, Richard ALEXANDER, Simon MANTELL, Barry MIDDLETON, Matt DALY (2), Rob MOORE, Ashley JACKSON and James TINDALL.
Great Britain were never in danger in this game, but they might be unhappy with some of their untidy plays in the first half, and with some on their wasted opportunities, including on a number of penalty-corners that they could not control.
Game 2 – India v. Russia: 8-0 (half-time: 4-0)
The Indian team was impatiently awaited by the crowd, and they immediately offered a display of their individual skills. The athletic Russian players opposed their compact defense and held tight for a while, showing their experience of the indoor game with some good collective organization and skills in tight space. It took a penalty corner by veteran Dilip TIRKEY to break the deadlock in the 14th minute, but the rest of the game was entirely dominated by the Indian running game, with some spectacular goals well appreciated by the crowd, including a hat-trick by Prabhjot SINGH, the most dangerous forward today.
The Russian defenders were far too inexperienced to prevent the quick passing game of the Indians, who somehow always managed to end up with a player alone in front of goal. It took some heroic opposition by Roman ROGOV in the Russian goal to prevent the score from escalating faster. Russia’s only chance came from a penalty-corner in the last minute of play, but they did not succeed to open their tally.
In the absence of Diwakar RAM, removed at the last minute from the roster on injury, India tried different combinations on penalty-corners, wasting quite a few before V.R. RAGHUNATH scored one in convincing manner in the 54th minute.
Indian Coach Joaquim CARVALHO was happy with his team performance, admitting that they were worried before the game because they knew very little of their opponent of the day. He added that it was important for the forwards to score to raise their confidence. “It doesn’t matter who you score against, it is important for a forward to score goals!”. Indian Captain Prabodh TIRKEY expressed his satisfaction with new pitch, which he found even and fast, and well suited to the Indian style of play.
Game 3 – Chile v. Austria: 3-4 (half-time: 1-2)
It didn’t take long for host Chile to stake their claim on the last game of the day, which was supposed to be more balanced than the previous ones, with only a narrow gap in the World Rankings (20th for Chile, 25th for Austria). After hardly a minute of play, Chilean Captain Felipe MONTEGU was at the conclusion of a fast combination, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. Austria recovered quickly and the game settled in an entertaining contest, flowing quickly back and forth. Austria had a few good opportunities, the most dangerous when Michael KORPER penetrated the circle and delivered an excellent ball to Benjamin STANZL unmarked in front of goal, forcing Chilean Goalkeeper Matias ANWANDTER to do a strong save.
Austria came back in the game in the 20th minute when Georg JELINEK celebrated his birthday in style with a hard hit from the top of the circle that beat the goalkeeper and tied the game. Chile seemed unsettled by this turn of event and committed a number of unforced errors, which the young Austrian team was too pleased to use. After a stolen ball in midfield and a decisive run along the back line, Tobias HÜBNER received the ball alone in front of the empty goal and didn’t miss the chance to give the lead to his team. That triggered a strong Chilean reaction, but it was too late and halftime was reached with Austria deservingly in the lead.
Things were definitively not going according to plan for Chile, with Austria adding two quick goals early in the second period, first by Elmar STREMITZER then on penalty-corner by Benjamin STANZL! This was too much for the host and they immediately replied with a superb penalty corner by Felipe MONTEGU, his second goal of the evening. The game suddenly became wide opened, with both teams turning up the intensity of their play.
Austria missed the opportunity to re-establish their three goal lead on a penalty-stroke expertly saved by Matias ANWANDTER. With the Austrian team fading physically after their fast start, Chile increased their pressure and Felipe MONTEGU had the opportunity to complete his hat-trick on yet another penalty-corner. With the gap reduced to one goal and the clock ticking down, the emotion was high in the stadium and tempers flared on both sides. The Chilean kept pushing but the Austrians held desperately onto their narrow lead until the end, celebrating wildly their spectacular upset of the home team.
The WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier continues tomorrow in Santiago when Great Britain meet Russia, Austria take on India, and Mexico conclude the day against host Chile.
WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, Men – Santiago, Chile
Results day 1: Saturday 1 March 2008
Great Britain - Mexico 11:0 (2:0)
13mn Simon Mantell (FG) 1:0
23mn Richard Mantell (PC) 2:0
47mn Stephen Dick (FG) 3:0
50mn Richard Alexander (FG) 4:0
51mn Simon Mantell (FG) 5:0
54mn Barry Middleton (FG) 6:0
57mn Matt Daly (FG) 7:0
61mn Rob Moore (FG) 8:0
63mn Ashley Jackson (FG) 9:0
68mn Matt Daly (FG) 10:0
70mn James Tindall (FG) 11:0
India - Russia 8:0 (4:0)
14mn Dilip Tirkey (PC) 1:0
19mn Prabhjot Singh (FG) 2:0
29mn Prabhjot Singh (FG) 3:0
30mn Shivendra Singh (FG) 4:0
36mn Tushar Khandekar (FG) 5:0
45mn Sardar Singh (FG) 6:0
54mn V.R. Raghunath (PC) 7:0
65mn Prabhjot Singh (FG) 8:0
Chile - Austria 3:4 (1:2)
1mn Felipe Montegu (FG) 1-0
20mn Georg Jelinek (FG) 1-1
32mn Tobias Hübner (FG) 1-2
42mn Elmar Stremitzer (FG) 1-3
44mn Benjamin Stanzl (PC) 1-4
46mn Felipe Montegu (PC) 2-4
64mn Felipe Montegu (PC) 3-4
Standings: 1) Great Britain 2) India 3) Austria 4) Chile 5) Russia 6) Mexico
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