As the Olympics inch closer and closer the 24 participating teams are busy with their last-minute preparations. Most of the teams with long travel to Europe have already departed for the continent or plan on doing so next week – that means a flurry of test game activity covered in this weeks International Hockey Round-Up.
Topping the news from Olympic bound teams is word that Australian star striker Des Abbott has been replaced in the Kookaburras Olympic team due to a knee injury that has failed to improve since selection. Abbott will be replaced in the team by Russell Ford, who was informed yesterday of the change.
In Dublin, Belgium, Ireland and South Africa are playing a Three-Nations tournament. In the opening game South Africa topped Belgium, 3-2; on Wednesday Ireland and South Africa tied and yesterday Belgium picked up its first win with a 5-0 shutout against Ireland.
Next up on the agenda for Belgium is a series against New Zealand on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Before that Three Nations event, the Irish men won the Celtic Cup topping South Africa 4-2 and Scotland, 6-3 and earning a 1-1 tie against Wales. South Africa beat Wales, 5-0 and Scotland, 6-5; but the loss against Ireland was the deciding factor for the Cup.
In a key test series, Germany has travelled to Holland for three games starting today and closing on Monday. The Dutch already had problems with a key test, falling to Olympic host Great Britain last Saturday, 3-1.
The Spanish men got their first taste of the blue pitch in Santander yesterday, playing to a 3-3 draw against India. The two teams meet again on Saturday and Monday.
On the women’s side, after the three-game series against Belgium, Germany will host a women’s Four Nations in Bremen featuring Germany, Belgium, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Dutch women topped South Africa yesterday in a convincing 5-0 showing that included four, second-half goals. A second game between the teams will be played today. South Africa then continues its busy European preparation tour with two games against Great Britain in London on Monday and Tuesday before moving onto the German Four Nations at the end of the week.
In 2016 Olympic news, the Brazilian women are heading to the Netherlands for a training camp and will get valuable experience with games against the first women’s club team in Amhem. Brazil is the host of the 2016 Games and is already preparing for their first-ever Olympic hockey appearance.
Finally, in a farewell ceremony for the Argentinean Olympic delegation at the Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Luciana Aymar received the Argentinean flag which she will be carrying at the Opening Ceremony from the hands of Cristina Kirchner, President of the country. Aymar, a legend in Argentina, has been named the flag bearer for the Olympic opening ceremony, a massive honor for any athlete from any country.
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