The first of two Euro Hockey League Semi Final previews looks at the meeting between England's Reading HC - the 2003 European champions - and Edi Tubau's masterful Madrid-based outfit Club de Campo. The winner will take on Dutch opposition in the tournament final, with Oranje Zwart and host club HGC doing battle in the second Semi Final.
Reading HC (ENG)
2003 European champions Reading became the first English team to reach the EHL Semi Finals thanks to superb performances at KO16 Bloemendaal. However, their journey to EHL Final Four began with a win (v Stroitel Brest) and a loss (v HC Bloemendaal) at Round 1.2 Terrassa, which resulted in a second place finish in Pool A and a tough Round 2 draw against fellow English outfit East Grinstead. Incredibly, Reading produced a stunning display to deservedly reach KO8 before eliminating Belgium’s KHC Dragons thanks to a video umpire referral in a tense penalty shoot-out. Great Britain players Jonty Clarke, Iain Mackay and outstanding goalkeeper Nick Brothers ensure Reading has no shortage of quality, while Olympian siblings Richard and Simon Mantell add genuine class to a very gifted team. They will be determined to push EHL Semi Final opponents Club de Campo all the way when they meet on Saturday.
EHL 2010-11 Results
Pool A v Stroitel Brest (BLR) 7:2 (5:0)
Pool A v HC Bloemendaal (NED) 3:5 (0:2)
KO16 v East Grinstead (ENG) 5:3 (2:0)
KO8 v KHC Dragons (BEL) 2:2 (1:1) 2:1 PSO
Players to Watch - Richard & Simon Mantell
Positions: Richard – Defender / Simon – Forward
Richard and Simon Mantell are the most well-known siblings in England and two of the country’s finest players.
29-year-old Richard joined Reading HC from Canterbury HC at the start of the 2002-2003 season, and quickly established himself as a top class defender and a dangerous weapon in penalty corner situations thanks to his ferocious flicking ability. His brilliance was soon on show in the 2003 EuroHockey Club Champions Cup (the forerunner to EHL), being a central figure in the Reading team that lifted the trophy. Since then, his stature in the game has risen considerably, with his outstanding performances for England and Great Britain earning him a reputation as one of the world’s best defenders thanks to his committed tackles and stunningly accurate long range passes. His finest moment to date at international level came in the Final of the 2009 EuroHockey Nations Championships, where he scored two blistering penalty corners to help England win the title against Germany. A horrific ankle dislocation cut short his participation in last year’s FIH World Cup in New Delhi, but thankfully he has since made a full recovery and is back representing both club and country.
In terms of playing style, younger brother and striker Simon is a completely different creature to Richard. He possesses all the qualities that defenders have nightmares about – speed, skill and total unpredictability. His cavalier approach has earned him a regular place in Jason Lee’s England and GB set-up since 2005, and at 27 it is clear that he has many more years of top level hockey ahead of him. Simon joined his brother at Reading in 2005 before enjoying a hugely successful season with fellow EHL Final Four qualifiers and tournament hosts HGC in 2009-10. He was also a part of the England team that lifted the EuroHockey Nations Championship in 2009, and represented Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics alongside his brother.
Both Richard and Simon are expected to be central figures for Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, where their target is nothing less than the Gold medal. However, this weekend their focus will be solely on one thing - winning the Euro Hockey League with Reading HC.
Club de Campo (ESP)
Nobody can say that Club de Campo’s first adventure in the EHL has not been dramatic. The Madrid-based team blasted into action in Round 1.1 Eindhoven by crushing Belgium’s Racing Club Bruxelles before holding Germany’s all-star Rot-Weiss Köln side to a draw to seal top spot in Pool B. At Easter, Campo produced the largest ever winning margin in the Knock-Out stages with an 11-0 result against Ireland’s Pembroke Wanderers. Their Quarter Final meeting with countrymen Atlétic Terrassa was a much closer affair, with ace goalkeeper Xavi Trenches proving his team’s hero in the penalty shoot-out. Spanish international legend Eduard Tubau is the heartbeat of a team that has few weaknesses, while all-time EHL top scorer Willy Schickendantz (20 goals) will be aiming to fire Campo to the European title this weekend. Reading will provide a stern test for Campo on Saturday, but the Spaniards will very much fancy their chances of reaching Sunday's Euro Hockey League Final.
Club de Campo (ESP)
2010-11 - Results
Pool B v RC Bruxelles (BEL) 6:3 (3:1)
Pool B v Rot-Weiss Köln (GER) 2:2 (1:1)
KO16 v Pembroke Wanderers (IRL) 11:0 (6:0)
KO8 v Atlétic Terrassa (ESP)1:1 (0:1) 2:0 PSO
Player to Watch - Edi Tubau
Position: Midfielder / Forward
A true icon of the Spanish game, Edi Tubau has earned a reputation as one of hockey’s most enigmatic players.
Tubau was the driving force behind Club Egara’s surge to the Euro Hockey League Semi Finals in 2007-08, scoring a number of sensational goals to be shortlisted as one of the players of the tournament. In 2009, Tubau left his home town club to join Club de Campo, and immediately had a big impact as the Madrid-based team qualified for their first ever appearance in the Euro Hockey League. He was in sparkling form both in Round 1 and the recent KO16 Bloemendaal events, where his brilliance inspired his team to wonderful results against Racing Club Bruxelles (BEL – 6-3), Rot-Weiss Köln (GER – 2-2) and Pembroke Wanderers (11-0) before a penalty shoot-out success over countrymen Atlétic Terrassa booked a place in the EHL Semi Finals.
On the international stage, Tubau has delivered top class performances for a decade. The outrageously gifted attacker has always risen to the occasion, helping Spain to some of their finest ever achievements including an Olympic Silver medal at Beijing 2008. Tubau’s biggest contribution to that success arrived in the Semi Final against reigning Olympic champions Australia, when he scored twice in five second half minutes to cancel out a 2-0 deficit before strike partner Santi Freixa killed off the game in the dying moments of the match.
Few would bet against Tubau producing more magic as his team aim to become the first Spanish winners of the Euro Hockey League here at HGC this weekend.
More information about the Euro Hockey League can be found on www.ehlhockey.tv .
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