Germany vs Belgium 2-1 (1-1, half-time)
Christopher Zeller’s 45th minute touch was just about enough to edge Germany past the post against Belgium in the final game of men’s day one to join Korea and the Netherlands on three points. They were decent value for the spoils but their inability to make more of their chances meant Belgium always had a sniff of a result they nearly nicked in a fractious second period.
Jerome Dekeyser’s beautiful whipped third minute penalty corner capped a brilliant opening for the red lions. Cedric Charlier almost had a second soon after when he pumped goalward and Max Weinhold could only half stop the shot. It bobbled around the goal line before Timo Wess managed to eventually clear before Gauthier Boccard could chip in.
But Germany discovered their mojo as time wore on, levelling at 1-1 when Jan Philipp Rabente stole in down the left baseline, finding Florian Fuchs, evading Vincent Vanasch in the process and rolling home. After a brief lull after a spectacular start, Germany – with Max Mueller exceptional in defence – began to turn the screw but despite chances for Thilo Stralkowski, Oilver Korn and Oskar Deecke, half time concluded 1-1.
The second half followed a similar pattern as Germany had many chances, Rabente miscuing a gilt-edged chance before Zeller finally weighed in. His touch was light enough to be missed initially by the umpires but a referral showed he had redirected past Vanasch. Xavier Reckinger took a Timo Wess drag off the line, too, while more scramble defence denied another corner before Belgium sensed an opportunity to pounce. Especially so when Simon Gougnard was sandwiched by a couple of defenders, allowing Tom Boon – recovered from a nasty first half injury – to have a late corner shot. His effort drew a massive cheer from his fans but had, in fact, slipped inches wide. It was their last chance and saw Germany off and running with all the points.
For more info on GER v BEL, click here
Netherlands vs India 3-2 (2-0 half-time)
Paul van Ass received an early piece of vindication for his decision to drop Taeke Taekema as his penalty corner team recorded a 100% strike rate that ultimately saw them home in their opening game against India. Mink van der Weerden’s rocket past the otherwise immaculate Bharat Kumar Chetri’s glove in the 51st minute stole the laurels, a direct drag-flick to match Roderick Weusthof’s earlier goal. It killed off what was a feisty comeback from the Asian side, recovering from two goals down at half time to level with two close range goals in quick succession.
Dharamvir Singh and Shivendra Singh, though, nipped in for 2-2 but Van Der Weerden’s beautiful effort proved the game’s defining moment. It was a tie made for entertainment as the two methods of attack – India’s direct, hard-running approach contrasted by the finesse of the Dutch’s methodical style – dove-tailing beautifully. Chances came thick and fast as VR Raghunath miscued a corner rebound before, at the opposite end, denying Billy Bakker with a full-length diving tackle. Teun de Nooijer – playing in his fifth Olympics – almost volleyed in an opening goal, a rasping drive brilliantly denied by Chetri’s knee.
During this phase, waves of Dutch attacks set in motion by Roderick Weusthof and Bod de Voogd were wreaking havoc and they eventually went ahead when Rob van der Horst came up from the back and cracked home off his open side in the 22nd minute. Weusthof doubled the lead though despite the best efforts of Manpreet Singh on the line from the Dutch team’s first corner. Rogier Hofman might have killed the game off early in the second half but his sweep-shot was amazingly tipped away by Chetri’s stick.
Four manic minutes, though, saw India back on terms as Jaap Stockmann stepped over what he thought was a harmless cross only for it to hit the inside of the post and Dharamvir Singh duly snapped up the loose ball. With Tushar Khandker and Gurwinder Singh Chandi to the fore, the leveller came soon after; Shivendra Singh nudging home the latter’s smart skills.
Van der Weerden’s riposted was quick in coming and, despite a glut of late drama, the Dutch held firm though they will be concerned by Rob Van Der Horst’s early departure with a leg injury. The match was Ignace Tirkey’s 250th international game while, for the Netherlands, Valentin Verga gained his 50th cap.
For more information on NED vs IND, click here
Korea vs New Zealand 2-0 (2-0 half-time)
The first match of the 2012 Olympic men's tournament promised to be a close contest between two close teams in the FIH world ranking (6th for Korea and 7th for New Zealand) and with similar international experience (average of 155 international Caps for Korea and 150 for New Zealand).
As expected, the match started with an intense battle for possession in the midfield, with neither team giving an inch. The Black Sticks tried to circulate the ball around the Koreans, who were tightly regrouped in defense and only sporadically pushing up with long balls for a high forward.
New Zealand goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex was called into action shortly after when a turn-over in midfield was promptly converted by Lee Nam Yong. Although not rich in goal chances, the intense tactical battle was fascinating and the near capacity crowd in Riverbank Arena watched in awe the display of individual and collective skills. The goal came after a green card to Nicholas Haig: Kang Moon Kyu played the free hit quickly and found You Hyo Sik for an unstoppable deflection in goal.
It took some wind out of the Black Sticks’ sails and the Koreans collectively moved higher on the field, leaving even less space for manoeuver in midfield. They pushed in the final minutes of the period and a hard cross from the left eluded everybody in the circle to find You Hyo Sik left unmarked on the far post for his second goal of the day and a comfortable two-goal lead for Korea going into the break.
Despite the support of the crowd, the New Zealanders seemed lost their initial intensity and the Koreans had the upper hand to open the second period. Pontifex needed to be sharp to fend off the Korean attempts from close range. The Black Sticks had to work hard to avoid conceding additional goals.
New Zealand had another flurry of chances with five minutes left on the clock, but Lee Myung Ho managed to dive left and right to protect the Korean goal. He was again well positioned a few minutes later to deflect a penalty-corner shot by Shea Mcaleese, and Korea could calmly weather the final minutes to end up with the win after a solid and impressive performance.
For more information on KOR vs NZL, click here
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