On the final day of the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago, Great Britain deservingly earned their ticket to Beijing against India. Earlier in the day, Russia had surprised Austria to take an unexpected 3rd place and Chile had disposed of Mexico for the 5th place.
1st-2nd place – Great Britain v. India : 2-0 (half-time: 2-0)
As widely expected, the Olympic qualification would come down to a final showdown between Great Britain and India, the two highest ranked teams in the competition. The result of the pool game (narrow win 3-2 for Great Britain) didn’t mean anything any more, only the 70 minutes of this Final in the scorching heat of the Chilean summer. This important game was umpired by Henrik EHLERS of Denmark and John WRIGHT of South Africa.
Great Britain started the game with more purpose in their play, immediately pushing India on their heels. In the 4th minute, Barry MIDDLETON received a great pass from Ashley JACKSON and didn’t miss the opportunity to open the scoring. India seemed to have trouble reacting and did not threaten the British defense for a while. On a penalty-corner earned after a decisive run by James TINDALL, Richard MANTELL increased the scoring with a direct flick.
Great Britain was controlling the midfield, forcing the Indians to start their run from far away or to rely on deep balls easily intercepted by the British defense. Momentum started to shift halfway through the period and Alistair McGREGOR in the British goal was called into action. With the Indian increasing their pace, the game also became rougher and the umpires had to use their cards to try and cool down the tempers. Great Britain were stretched at time but held their defensive structure well, efficiently thwarting all the Indian attempts to get close enough for a shot at goal.
In the last ten minutes of the half, despite been reduced to ten players when Sardar SINGH received a yellow card, India kept besieging the English circle but only had one dangerous attempt at goal on a penalty corner by V.R. RAGHUNATH, well deflected by Alistair McGREGOR. Great Britain were obviously careful to maintain their cohesive defense and did not try to exploit their numerical advantage, except on a fast counter-attack by Rob MOORE when Baljit SINGH in the Indian goal had a miraculous save to prevent the gap to widen and keep his team in the game.
Tension was high in second half, maintained by the Indian drums in the stands. Great Britain had a superb chance to make the break in the early stages of the period when a run by Richard ALEXANDER created a 3 on 2 situation, but Jonty CLARKE could not control the bouncing ball in front of the open goal. India were reduced again to ten players when Prabhjot SINGH was penalized for a reckless back tackle, giving some more space to the British players to develop their build-up. Great Britain created another golden opportunity when Jonty CLARKE cleanly beat the Indian goal-keeper one on one but saw his shot hit the post!
Great Britain were playing cautiously to avoid exposing themselves to the runs of Sardar SINGH and Rajpal SINGH. Meanwhile, with the clock ticking down, there was more urgency in the Indian ranks, their nervousness showing on a series of penalty-corners which they badly spoiled.
In the last minutes of the game, the Indian attempts became more disorganized, as if they had already accepted that they would not break through the British defense, the drums in the stands became silent in mourning of the first non-qualification of an Indian team for the Olympic games and the British could cruise to a deserved victory that earns them a berth in the Beijing Olympic Games.
3rd-4th place – Austria v. Russia : 3-6 (half-time: 1-4)
Russia started slowly in this competition, allegedly because they were called at the last minute after the withdrawal of Bangladesh and had just finished their indoor season. After two clean defeats at the hands of India (0-8) and Great Britain (0-8), they picked up speed, giving a hard time to Austria in the pool game (4-5) then winning against Chile and Mexico. Austria on the other hand started extremely well, shocking host Chile on opening day (4-3) but seemed to fade over the week.
The momentum was in favor of Russia at the beginning of this final game, and they were quickly up by two goals, first by Alexander PLATONOV (in the first minute of play!) then by Dmitry AZAROV on penalty-stroke. This took some wind out the Austrian’s sails, and they struggled to come back in the game. They only closed the gap in the 18th minute, when Peter PROKSCH was at the conclusion of some good work by Fabian RINGLER. But their come-back was short lived, Alexander PLATONOV adding two more goals to his tally to complete a hat-trick before half-time, reached on the score of 4-1.
Austria tried hard to come back early in second period, but only managed to pull back one goal by Robert BUCHTA in the 49th minute before Alexander KOROLEV and Alexander PLATONOV widened the gap again. With a 4-goal difference and the afternoon heat, the intensity of the game declined and Russia could celebrate a final win (6-3) that reversed the result of the pool game, gave them the third place of the competition and showed that they are much better than their low World Ranking of 45th.
5th-6th place – Chile v. Mexico : 9-3 (half-time: 5-2)
Chile were certainly disappointed to play in this game to avoid the last place in the competition, when a week ago they were hoping to challenge the top teams and earn a berth in the Final. They logically lost to Great Britain (1-4) and India (1-4) but under-performed against lower ranked teams Austria (3-4) and Russia (1-2). Mexico came here with a young team to gain experience and have certainly held their own well, despite losing all their games so far.
The game was played at 1:00pm and the pace suffered from the scorching heat. The first scoring opportunity was for Mexico on a penalty-corner, but Oscar GALVAN NIEVES missed the rebound in front of an open net. The game suddenly opened up with two goals in quick succession, first by Chilean Captain Felipe MONTEGU then by Francisco AGUILAR MONTOYA concluding himself a clever penetration through the Chilean defense.
Play was going back and forth from one goal to the other, without much build-up in midfield, and Chile scored 4 more goals by Felipe CASANOVA, Felipe MONTEGU (twice) and Esteban KRAINZ, while Mexico had chances on a number of penalty-corners where they tried a variety of interesting variations. They finally scored by Edgar Allan BORQUEZ SILVA concluding in style with only seconds left on the clock a swift attack that went the whole length of the field.
Game stayed lively in second period, the umpires even having to hand out a few cards to cool down the tempers. Despite some more outstanding goalkeeping by Moises VARGAS GARCIA in the Mexican goal, Chile scored 4 more goals, to push the score to 9-3. Captain Felipe MONTEGU score 4 goals himself, pushing his tournament total to 11. Chile finished on a positive note but it will probably not alter their overall disappointment in this competition.
Individual awards of the tournament went to Austria (Fair Play), Prabhjot SINGH (Best Player), Moises Alejandro VARGAS GARCIA (Best Goalkeeper) and Felipe MONTEGU (Top scorer).
This concludes the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Santiago, adding Great Britain to the list of countries qualified for the 2008 Olympic competition in Beijing. Only one berth remains available, for the winner of the third WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, to be played in Kakamigahara, Japan, April 5-13.
WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, Men – Santiago, Chile
Results day 6: Sunday 8 March 2008
Great Britain - India 2:0 (2:0)
4mn Barry Middleton (FG) 1:0
10mn Richard Mantell (PC) 2:0
Austria - Russia 3:6 (1:4)
1mn Alexander Platonov (FG) 0:1
6mn Dmitry Azarov (PS) 0:2
18mn Peter Proksch (FG) 1:2
23mn Alexander Platonov (FG) 1:3
31mn Alexander Platonov (FG) 1:4
49mn Robert Buchta (PC) 2:4
58mn Alexander Korolev (PC) 2:5
61mn Alexander Platonov (FG) 2:6
65mn Benjamin Stanzl (FG) 3:6
Chile - Mexico 9:3 (5:2)
9mn Felipe Montegu (FG) 1:0
10mn Francisco Aguilar Montoya (FG) 1:1
14mn Felipe Casanova (FG) 2:1
16mn Felipe Montegu (PC) 3:1
21mn Esteban Krainz (PC) 4:1
28mn Felipe Montegu (PS) 5:1
35mn Edgar Allan Borquez Silva (FG) 5:2
38mn Alan Stein (FG) 6:2
49mn Esteban Krainz (PC) 7:2
52mn Thomas Krussig (FG) 8:2
58mn Felipe Montegu (PS) 9:2
67mn Francisco Aguilar Montoya (FG) 9:3
Final Standings: 1) Great Britain 2) India 3) Russia 4) Austria 5) Chile 6) Mexico
Great Britain qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing,
Best Player: Prabhjot SINGH, India
Best Goalkeeper: Moises Alejandro VARGAS GARCIA, Mexico
Top Scorer: Felipe MONTEGU, Chile, 11 goals
Fair Play: AUSTRIA
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