Naomi van As faces an opponent from Azerbaijan
Naomi van As faces an opponent from Azerbaijan
(Photo: FIH / Frank Uijlenbroek)

Day 1 of the EuroHockey Championships brought no surprises with all matches producing results in line with the teams' world rankings: in the women's tournament, all teams came into action, and all matches produced shut-outs, as Spain handed a 4-0 defeat to Italy, the Dutch inflicted an 8-0 victory on Azerbaijan, Germany moved past Ireland and England overcame Belgium. On the men's side, Germany defeated Belgium 3-1, and and the Spanish men cruised past Russia.

The day started off with the encounter between the women's teams of Spain and Italy, with world number 11 Spain a big favorite over 21st ranked Italy. The Italian hopes for a surprise upset took a big blow early, as a mistake by their goalkeeper allowed Berta Bonastre to push the ball over the line. As time progressed, Spain took charge of the match more and more, increasing the pressure on their struggling Italian counterparts, while the girls in blue could not make use of the few chances they had, not even a penalty stroke. Late in the first half, Barbara Malda hit the ball into the net, finishing off some good combination play, to set the halftime score at 2-0. 12 minutes from the end, Spain sealed the win with a quick double hit through Silvia Muñoz and Barbara Malda for a 4-0 win and 3 valuable points in their opener.

Tournament favorites in the women's competition, the Netherlands started their campaign with a clean 8-0 victory against a team from Azerbaijan that could never quite get their feet on the ground against the world number 2. The Dutch played a high pressure game from the first sound of the whistle, forcing their way onto the scoreboard for the first time in the third minute, as Maartje Paumen sunk a penalty corner drag flick. The Oranjes never looked back, dominating the game from start to finish and adding 7 more goals, 2 more by Paumen, a Kim Lammers hattrick and one each by Willemijn Bos and Ellen Hoog.

Next up were the German and Belgian men in a re-match of the well-remembered decider game that sent the then World Champions into Olympic qualification in 2007. Belgium went into the match highly motivated, and enthusiastically supported by large numbers of Belgian supporters that outnumbered the local crowd. Belgium were the better team in an entertaining and open first half without being able to capitalize on their advantage, but Germany displayed their trademark efficiency and forced their way back into the game in the second half with field goals by Thilo Stralkowski and Florian Fuchs before the Belgians were able to get on the scoreboard. Jérôme Dekeyser's cracking drag flick goal in the 55th minute eventually proved to be a consolation goal only, as Germany packed on their third in the form of a penalty corner converted by Jan-Marco Montag for a 3-1 win.

The German women followed their men's good start up with a win of their own, controlling the game against Ireland well and building their way up to a 3-0 lead over the 70 minutes. A field goal by the energetic Natascha Keller paved the way in the second minute, Fanny Rinne added a penalty stroke conversion in the middle of the first half, and Julia Müller sunk a penalty corner to finalize the 3-0 final score, handing Germany a valuable three points in pool B's race for the semi-final spots.

England women started off their campaign against the tournament's dark horse, the newly promoted Belgian team, who previously had not competed in top flight European hockey since 1999, when the European Championships still counted 12 participating nations. Supported by the still enthusiastic Belgian fans, the Belgians delivered a solid performance, but eventually could not find a way to keep up with a disciplined and clinical English side who step by step moved up to a 4-0 lead through goals by Alex Danson, Chloe Rogers, Crista Cullen, and Kate Walsh.

The day concluded with the day's second men's match, between Spain and Russia, once more a clear affair as the world number 5 swept past the world number 22 with a 5-0 win. Pau Quemada set his team on track with a hattrick of penalty corners in the first half, while Roc Oliva and Manel Terraza added a fourth and fifth after the break. Russia made a valiant effort to keep up with the Spaniards, and showed glimpses of individual brilliance on a handful of occasions, but in the end had to accept the Iberians' superiority which could have resulted in a higher final tally.

At the end of day 1, this sees the Netherlands clearly top the women's pool A, with Spain in second place, and Italy and Azerbaijan trailing the big two. In the women's pool B, England lead the pool, ahead of Germany by one goal, followed by the two defeated teams of today, Ireland and Belgium. In the men's competition, only pool A has seen action, with Spain assuming first place, thanks to the bigger win, ahead of Germany, followed by Belgium and Russia.

For more information on this event, please visit the EHF website www.eurohockey.org.

The EuroHockey Championships in Mönchengladbach, which started today and end next week Sunday, will confirm 5 more participants in the 2012 Olympic hockey tournament in addition to the already qualified Great Britain men and women, Pakistan men and China and Korea women: the highest ranked three men's and two women's teams, excluding England, will secure their ticket to London.

Women
Spain - Italy 4:0 (2:0)
B. Bonastre, Barbara Malda 2, Silvia Muñoz

Netherlands - Azerbaijan 8:0 (5:0)
Maartje Paumen 3, Willemijn Bos, Kim Lammers 3, Ellen Hoog

Germany - Ireland 3:0 (2:0)
Natascha Keller, Fanny Rinne, Julia Müller

England - Belgium 4:0 (2:0)
Alex Danson, Chloe Rogers, Crista Cullen, Kate Walsh

Men
Germany - Belgium 3:1 (0:0)
Thilo Stralkowski, Florian Fuchs, Jan-Marco Montag; Jérôme Dekeyser

Spain - Russia 5:0 (3:0)
Pau Quemada 3, Roc Oliva, Manel Terraza