(Photo: © FIH / Vino John)

Germany, Malaysia and Japan were all winners on Day 1 of the final Olympic Qualifier, being played in Kakamigahara, Japan. Germany – who top the table thanks to their superior goal difference – were deserving victors against Italy, winning the match 8-0 despite a slow start from the World Champions. Malaysia came from behind to beat hard working Poland 2-1, with Japan doing exactly the same thing to get the better of Switzerland.

 

Match 1 – Germany V Italy: 8-0

Germany men produced a solid performance to defeat a spirited Italian side 8-0 in match 1. Christopher ZELLER helped himself to three goals, with other strikes coming from Sebastian DRAGUHN (2), Mattius Witthaus (2) and Benjamin WESS.

Germany began the match extremely slowly, and were almost punished by Luca PITZARLIS, who should have done better with a shot that sailed over the crossbar. Germany took the lead through Sebastian DRAGUHN’s 11th minute strike, with Christopher ZELLER adding a second with a powerful drag flick in the 24th minute. One minute later, ZELLER scored a second with a tap-in, and DRAGUHN also scored his second five minutes before half time with a field goal. ZELLER completed his hat-trick in the 38th minute with stunning flick into the top left hand corner of the goal, moments before Mattias WITTHAUS scored from another Germany penalty corner. WITHAUS then scored a great field goal in the 55th minute, with Benjamin WESS completing the scoring with a brilliant deflected effort.

Despite being the first game of the tournament, Germany should be top of the table overnight thanks to their impressive goal difference. Germany will face Switzerland in the first game on Sunday, with Italy hoping for a better result in their match against Malaysia.

Match 2 – Malaysia V Poland: 2-1

Malaysia came back from being a goal down in an entertaining encounter with Poland. The Europeans took the lead through Dariusz RACHWALSKI in the first half, but two goals from Tengku Tajuddin TG ABDUL JALIL gave victory to Malaysia.

Like the first match, it started very slowly, with both teams taking the cautious approach. Dariusz RACHWALSKI had the first genuine opportunity of the game in the 6th minute, but his shot was wide of the target. However, it was RACHWALSKI who opened the scoring when he deflected a shot that went high into the net, giving Kumar SUBRAMANIAM little chance of saving. The goal brought the match to life, and Malaysia went in search of an equaliser. Kuhan SHANMUGANATHAN almost got the goal that his team needed, but his penalty corner drag flick was saved on the line by a defender with the keeper well beaten. Malaysia got their equaliser just four minutes into the second half, with Tengku Tajuddin TG ABDUL JALIL scoring from open play. Seven minutes later, Malaysia were awarded a penalty stroke, but Polish goalkeeper Arkadiusz MATUSZAK produced an excellent save with his legs to deny Kuhan SHANMUGANATHAN. Malaysia were the dominant side in the second half, and eventually took the lead thanks to a second strike from Tengku Tajuddin TG ABDUL JALIL, who deflected a penalty corner effort from Kuhan SHANMUGANATHAN into the net. Poland rallied hard near the end, but Malaysia held on to secure the three points.

Match 3 – Switzerland V Japan: 1-2

The final match of the day saw Switzerland take on Japan. A large crowd came to support the host nation, and witnessed a highly entertaining, closely fought match between two very different teams. Japan won the contest 2-1, and the match was as close as the score-line suggests.

There were no goals in the first half, but the game was nevertheless extremely entertaining, with both teams missing good opportunities. The opening goal of the match arrived in the 40th minute, when Michael KLOTER slammed the lose ball into the net following the failure of the Japan defence to clear a penalty corner. The equaliser came just two minutes later, when a piecing move down the right ripped open the Switzerland defence before Kenichi KATAYAMA tapped the ball in from close range. Japan scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 61st minute thanks to a terrific drag flick from Takahiko YAMABORI. Hi effort flew into the roof of the net at high speed, delighting the home supporters who feared that the game was heading for a draw. Although Switzerland gave everything they could to get back into the game, Japan never looked likely to lose the lead and claimed the victory.

Tomorrow sees Switzerland taking on Germany in the opening match of the day, while Japan will be looking for victory against Poland. In the final match of the day, Italy will be looking for the chance to put today’s defeat against Germany behind them as they take on Malaysia.

 

GOALS: 

Germany V Italy: 8-0

GER - Sebastian DRAGUHN, FG 11m

GER – Christopher ZELLER, PC 24m

GER – Christopher ZELLER, FG 25m

GER – Sebastian DRAGUHN, FG 30m

GER – Christopher ZELLER, PC 38m

GER – Mattias WITTHAUS, PC 40m

GER – Mattias WITTHAUS, FG 55m

GER – Benjamin WESS, FG 8m

Malaysia V Poland: 2-1

POL - Dariusz RACHWALSKI FG 20m

MAS - T T TG ABDUL JALIL FG 39m

MAS - T T TG ABDUL JALIL PC 58m

Switzerland V Japan: 1-2

SUI – Michael KLOTER PC 40m

JPN – Kenichi KATAYAMA FG 42m

JPN – Takahiko YAMABORI PC 61m