On day 1 in Rotterdam, Australia sailed past Korea, the Netherlands booked three points with a great performance against Spain, and Argentina held World Champions and Champions Trophy title holders Germany to a draw.
The Kookaburras started the day at the WorldHockey Champions Trophy in Rotterdam, defeating Korea after a fiercely disputed match for their fourth consecutive win in a Champions Trophy opener. Argentina and Germany were up next, surprisingly splitting points. The Netherlands and Spain wrapped up the day, with the Oranjes dominating the proceedings with a display of excellence.
Australia defeat Korea 5:3 (2:1)
The Kookaburras swept past the Korean team today, using their counter-attacking chances well while Korea found themselves unable to capitalize often enough on a good possession percentage and a number of great opportunities.
The Australians had the better start into the match with Eli Matheson scoring in his Champions Trophy debut after less than four minutes, but soon found themselves faced with a Korean side building momentum as time passed. The Asians took charge and had several good opportunities, but failed once and again in the face of the steadfast Kookaburra defense under the lead of Bevan George.
Against the run of play, it was the Aussies who scored the next goal though as David Guest put away a penalty corner with a deft dragflick. Woon Kon Yeo managed to still get Korea on the scoreboard before half-time but after letting Australia get away to a two goal lead, Korea would be chasing their opponents throughout the match, never quite able to catch up.
Shortly after the break, Jamie Dwyer restored Australia's two goal lead, tapping in a nice ball across from Andrew Smith. Two minutes later, Smith took the honors himself, netting a bouncy ball for a 4:1 lead for Australia. Korea got closer once more in the 47th minute when penalty corner specialist Jong Hyun Jang sunk one for his team, but immediately, Australia retaliated through Liam de Young to maintain a three goal advantage.
Nam Yong Lee scored the last goal of the match, tipping in a pass from Hyo Sik You, but could not do more than reduce the lead by one goal. Korea had a good game, looking extremely dangerous in attack, but at the cost of leaving themselves exposed at the back - a shortcoming Australia ruthlessly exploited, scoring the majority of their goals from counter-attacks.
Germany draw Argentina 2:2 (1:1)
The South Americans, the only team in this tournament not qualified for the Beijing Olympic Games, were in for a difficult start into the tournament, taking on the current World Champions and Champions Trophy title holders in their opening game. But the white-and-blue have nothing to lose in this event, no expectations to meet, and play to build self-confidence and a new team, and they came out with an enthusiasm the Germans could never quite muster today.
Germany played their usual steady game, going through the motions stoically and at their own pace. They were the better team in the first half, holding the bigger part of ball possession, and went up early with a penalty corner conversion by Florian Keller, but the fiery Argentineans always looked dangerous on the counter-attack, one of which brought about the equalizer in the 26th minute as Mati Paredes drilled a Facundo Callioni pass into the sideboard.
When the teams came back after the break, the often frantic pace of the first half subsided somewhat, giving way to a midfield lockdown which Argentina eventually broke in the 55th minute, with Rodri Vila taking advantage of a greta run and pass by little brother Lucas to get the Argentineans ahead.
A goal down against a much lower ranked team, the Germans started to show more urgency but needed the better part of the remaining quarter of an hour to finally get past the opponents' defense - and past Juan Manuel Vivaldi, Argentina's man in the goal, who made a substantial contribution to Argentina managing a draw with a number of outstanding saves throughout the match.
With less than two minutes on the clock, the Argentineans caved in to the mounting pressure, conceding a penalty corner which German captain Timo Wess made good use of, hitting a cracking ball at the goal that passed the diving Vivaldi.
To hold Germany to a draw can be considered a good start for Argentina, even though they will be disappointed to have come so close and missed out. Germany won't be happy about the many chances wasted but scoring in the final two minutes to avoid the loss shows why they are considered a strong tournament performing team.
Netherlands defeat Spain 3:1 (2:0)
In this encounter of European rivals Spain and the Netherlands, the two teams who know each other inside out started cautiously, playing around the back much, careful to not to give the other team any room, and constantly looking for an opening for a break.
It was a clash of equal opponents in the first half, but while Spain had difficulty making anything off their opportunities, the Oranjes proved clinical in their finishing, taking full advantage of the chances they had.
In the 10th minute, it was three time WorldHockey Player of the Year Teun de Nooijer who got the home team on the scoreboard first, with a great deflection off a fabulous Matthijs Brouwer reverse stick cross from the far left. Ten minutes later, Ronald Brouwer finished of a quick counter-attack, netting for the two goal lead.
After the break, Scot-gone-Dutch Laurence Docherty added another goal for Holland in his Champions Trophy debut before Spain could finally get past Dutch last man Guus Vogels for the first time when Xavi Ribas' dragflick on a penalty corner broke the shutout with less than 10 minutes to go. At the very end of time, Ronald Brouwer crashed a cracking reverse stick shot into the backboard, but the horn had sounded with the ball on its way, and no goal was given.
Despite having the better possession of the ball in the later stages of the match, it was too little too late for Spain. They generated some chances but were not dangerous enough to endanger the Dutch and the lead they had built, to see the hosts walk away with three points and join Australia at the top of the table. The Netherlands played extremely well throughout the came, looking sharp and compact, and have pronounced themselves tournament favorites with the outstanding day 1 performance.
For more information on the tournament, including action photos, live commentary from ongoing matches and previews for upcoming matches, please visit the dedicated tournament site.
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