(Photo: © FIH / Gordon Morrison)

Germany and Spain will meet in the men’s final of the 2008 Olympic hockey tournament following two marvellous semi-finals this evening.

In the first semi-final, World Champions Germany defeated The Netherlands on penalty strokes, with tournament top scorer Taeke TAEKEMA missing the vital effort. The match was full of tension, drama and hockey of the highest quality. The Netherlands looked as though they had won it when Timme HOYNG gave his side a 1:0 lead four minutes from time, but Germany were level two minutes later defender Philipp ZELLER grabbed an equaliser. Extra time finished goal-less, and TAEKEMA’s sudden death penalty miss proved decisive.

The second semi started with a bang. Australia’s Des ABBOTT netted after 30 seconds before his side scored arguably the finest goal of the tournament. A seven pass move ripped open the Spain defence and eliminated the keeper only for Eddie OCKENDEN to tap into an open goal. It looked all over for Spain, but two quick scores set the match alight, with an Eddie TUBAU brace levelling the scores. With two minutes left to play, Santi FREIXA completed the comeback when he slammed home a penalty corner to defeat the reigning Olympic champions. Spain now have the chance to avenge their pool match defeat to Germany in the best way possible – winning Olympic Gold.

Earlier in the day, New Zealand took seventh place with a 4:2 win over Pakistan, while Canada were beaten 3:0 by Belgium in the 9th/10th play-off match.


Classification 9th-10th
Belgium defeat Canada 3:0
(2:0)

Belgium convincingly won this classification match played from start to finish in a torrential downpour.

They were faster in action and stunned the Canadian defense in the 2nd minute when Jerome DEKEYSER deflected from close range a free hit quickly taken. Canada struggled to settle down and Mike MAHOOD was often left on his own; he was finally beaten again in the 23rd minute, this time by John-John DOHMEN on a play that was a carbon-copy of the first goal.

Canada tried to react and take control of play in the second period, but Belgium was seating on a comfortable two-goal lead and could afford to stay regrouped in defense and rely on counter-attacks to threaten the Canadian goal. Canada had multiple good chances but failed to score, including on a penalty-stroke that hit the crossbar.

With the entire Canadian team in attack to try and salvage a consolation goal, Belgium added a last goal by Jerome DEKEYSER in the dying second of the game to seal their 9th place, a standing that equal their best Olympic finish (1968 in Mexico and 1976 in Montreal). Canada finish 10th, just like for their last Olympic participation (2000 in Sydney).


Classification 7th - 8th
New Zealand defeat Pakistan
4:2 (1:0)

New Zealand claimed seventh spot in the men’s hockey competition at Beijing 2008 thanks to a comprehensive victory over Pakistan. Goals from Simon CHILD, Hayden SHAW (2) and Gareth BROOKS ensured the win, with Pakistan finding the net with strikes from Syed Abbas Haider BILGRAMI and Rehan BUTT.

After an evenly contested first 25 minutes, New Zealand started to dominate and took the lead through 20 year old Simon CHILD, who brilliantly deflected a cross from outside the circle beyond the reach of the diving Nasir AHMED in the Pakistan goal.

New Zealand won their first penalty corner in the 39th minute, giving Hayden SHAW his first chance to show his impressive flicking ability in this game. He made no mistake, sending a blistering effort into the roof of the goal before strike a Usain Bolt style pose, pointing at his own image on the big screen inside the stadium.

The best goal of the game arrived in the 43rd minute, when Simon CHILD crossed from the right for the diving Gareth BROOKS to spectacularly deflect the ball high into the net from close range, before Syed Abbas Haider BILGRAMI pulled one back for his team.

Hayden SHAW slammed another penalty corner into the goal in the 53rd minute to make the score 4:1 before the scoring was completed by Rehan BUTT’s close range effort.

It was a great way to finish the tournament for a New Zealand side that came close to reaching the semi-finals, while Pakistan could not hide their disappointment at finishing in eighth place. 


Semi Final 1

Germany defeat Netherlands 1:1 (0:0) 5:4 APS

In an incredibly exciting match, Germany and Netherlands were opponents so equal that it took penalty strokes to separate them, after 85 minutes of the finest this sport has to offer on display.

At the beginning of the match, the World Champions seemed the slightly stronger team, having a few early chances, but as time wore on, the Netherlands found their rhythm to become increasingly dangerous. Both teams were able to create great opportunities in turn but were repelled time and again by the other side to lock each other into a nil all draw at half time.

After the break, the match continued in the same vein, with a stadium filled to capacity enjoying superb technical skills in a high energy game. Just when it looked like the two teams were going to head into extra time, with four minutes left on the clock, Timme Hoyng broke the deadlock on a smart penalty corner variation: blindsiding the Germans who expected Taeke Taekema's trademark flick under the crossbar, Taekema played the ball to the right for Hoyng to deflect, and the variation worked perfectly.

But instead of giving up after what looked very much like the match-winning goal the World Champions showed the kind of determination that makes champions, and levelled the scores again two minutes later with a senastional goal from the lesser known Zeller. A free hit near the circle was taken quickly by Moritz Fuerste, with the shot perfectly aimed and timed, for Phillip Zeller to slide in and slam the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.

In extra time, the game still continued at the highest level, both sides employing the smallest ammount of caution, but never really stopping to play attacking hockey at its best. The best opportunity came five minutes into extra time for Germany, when Benni Wess put a ball on the post, but neither side could force the goal, and the game headed inexorably for the penalty stroke competition.

With Holland taking the first flick, Taeke Taekema, Christopher Zeller and Ronald Brouwer scored before Florian Keller and Rob Reckers failed. Niklas Meinert equalized for the Germans, before Roderick Weusthof and Phillip Zeller missed with near identical shots. Teun de Nooijer then put away the last Dutch stroke, putting all pressure on Tibor Weissenborn, last up for Germany, to make it or break it. Weissenborn coolly scored however, forcing the stroke competition into the sudden death phase.

With Germany now up first, Christopher Zeller scored with a flick to the left side of the goal, and Taeke Taekema stepped up for Holland's turn. Aimed for just under the crossbar, his flick was deflected up and over by German goalkeeper Max Weinhold however, making Germany Beijing 2008 semi-finalists, while the Netherlands must content themselves with the bronze medal game. The defeat came as a huge disappointment for Oranje, especially for team captain Jeroen Delmee, who could not celebrate in his 400th cap - nonetheless an achievement almost beyond comprehension. 


Spain defeat Australia 3:2 (0:1)
The second semi started with a bang. Australia’s Des ABBOTT netted after 30 seconds before his side scored arguably the finest goal of the tournament. A seven pass move ripped open the Spain defence and eliminated the keeper only for Eddie OCKENDEN to tap into an open goal. It looked all over for Spain, but two quick scores set the match alight, with an Eddie TUBAU brace levelling the scores. With two minutes left to play, Santi FREIXA completed the comeback when he slammed home a penalty corner to defeat the reigning Olympic champions. Spain now have the chance to avenge their pool match defeat to Germany in the best way possible – winning Olympic Gold.

2008 Olympic Games, Men – Beijing, China
Results Thursday 21 August

Belgium – Canada 3:0 (2 :0)
BEL  Jerome DEKEYSER (FG) 2mn
BEL  John-John DOHMEN (FG) 23mn
BEL  Jerome DEKEYSER  (FG) 70mn

New Zealand – Pakistan 4:2 (1:0)
NZL Simon CHILD (FG) 26min
NZL Hayden SHAW (PC) 39min
NZL Gareth BROOKS (FG) 43min
PAK Syed Abbas Haider BILGRAMI (FG) 46min
NZL Hayden SHAW (PC) 53min
PAK Rehan BUTT (FG) 56min

Semi Final 1
Germany - Netherlands 1:1 (0:0) 4:5 APS

NED Timme HOYNG (PC) 66min
GER Phillip ZELLER (FG) 68min

Semi Final 2
Spain - Australia 3:2 (0:1)
AUS Desmond ABBOTT (FG) 1min
AUS Eddie OCKENDEN (FG) 37min
ESP Eduard TUBAU (FG) 39min
ESP Eduard TUBAU (PC) 44min
ESP Santi FREIXA (PC) 68min