(5th-6th) Spain vs. Belgium: 2-5 (half-time: 1-4)
Both teams were probably not expecting to be playing for 5th place a couple of days into the competition. Spain had a remarkable recovery after a calamitous start, defeated heavily by Australia (0-5) and losing their captain Santiago Freixa and Pol Amat on injury. Lowly ranked Belgium also had two losses before pulling up their socks.
Playing without pressure, Belgium were quick off the block and stunned Spain in the opening minutes by Jerome Dekeyser, on hand at the far post to deflect in goal a hard pass from John-John Dohmen. Spain equalized by Ramon Alegre deflecting a perfect pass from Roc Oliva on a penalty-corner, but Belgium replied immediately by Tom Boon with a straight shot on penalty-corner. The goal fest was not over, and Belgium offered another spectacular goal to the crowd, Florent Van Aubel diving full stretch to deflect in goal a hard shot by Jerome Dekeyser.
The Spaniards seemed at a loss to figure how to stop the twirling Belgians, Tom Boon added another goal, picking up the rebound from his initial shot on a penalty-corner, and Belgium went into the half-time break with a commanding 3-goal lead.
Beginning of 2nd period saw end-to-end exciting hockey and the two goalkeepers were called into action often on running forwards. Thomas Briels managed to sneak behind the Spanish defense to add a 5th goal for Belgium and Francisco Cortes in the Spanish goal saved his team from further damage with a series of decisive saves.
Eduard Tubau pounced on a ball mishandled by the Belgian defense to limit their deficit to 3 goals, then Belgium cruised to spectacular 5-2 victory. They finished 5th of this Olympic competition, 6 spots higher than their entry ranking, an amazing progression. Spain finished 6th, one spot below their entry ranking, a relief for them after their rocky start in this competition.
For more information on ESP v BEL, click here.
(11th-12th) South Africa vs. India: 3-2 (half-time: 2-1)
South Africa went ahead in the 8th minute of play and never relinquished the lead, pushing back India into last place of the competition.
South Africa opened the scoring early by Andrew Cronje, finding the ball in a wild goalmouth scramble in front of PR Sreejesh in goal for India today, before Sandeep Singh equalized on penalty-corner, only his second goal of the tournament. His weak performance on the set-play, India’s most potent weapon in recent past, has certainly contributed to the Indian poor results in this competition.
Play was balanced and lively for the remainder of the period, with both teams launching spectacular runs with the ball. Sardar Singh gave glimpses of his immense class and Danish Mujtaba twice shot from close range, but Erasmus Pieterse was up to the task in the South African goal. It was finally Timothy Drummond who managed to break the deadlock, shovelling the ball under the Indian keeper in the final minute of the period to give South Africa a one-goal lead, and momentum, going into the halftime break.
Play resumed as animated in second period. Indian keeper PR Sreejesh had to clean-up a few times behind his permeable defense while Erasmus Pieterse was having a phenomenal match for South Africa, saving huge shots from SV Sunil and Dharamvir Singh. The match switched to overdrive in the final minutes, with goals from Lloyd Norris-Jones, receiving a gem ball from Wade Paton and slamming it in goal, before a goal by Dharamvir Singh reduced the gap to one goal.
India had a late desperate surge, but it was too little and certainly too late and they finished this competition with the wooden spoon, a far cry from their pre-Games expectation, when Captain Bharat Chetri was optimistically talking about a semi-final berth. South Africa finished 11th, one spot higher than their entry ranking. They will take away some strong performances against Great Britain (2-2), Spain (2-3) and Pakistan (4-5).
For more information on RSA v IND, click here.
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