Sure, everyone remembers the golden Olympic moments from the Dutch women and the German men, but there were 14 full days of hockey action that might seem like a blur to most people. To help refresh the memories of hockey fans worldwide, the FIH has compiled a list of some of the biggest moments and highlights from each day.
New Zealand began the tournament with a bang as Cathryn Finlayson netted three minutes into their tie against Australia, a result that ultimately saw her side edge out their Oceania neighbours.
On the men’s opening day, Spain’s bid to repeat their 2008 final appearance was put on the back foot straightaway as captain Santi Freixa broke his arm in their opening day 1-1 draw with Pakistan. It left them and the Pakistanis playing catch-up as all the big guns made statements of intent, the world’s top four men’s sides all winning. India pushed the Netherlands the whole way but fell 3-2 in what ultimately proved their best performance of the campaign.
Belgium’s women made history, earning their first ever Olympic point when they played out a scoreless draw with China in their second game of Pool A. USA repeated their Pan-Am final victory over Argentina to burst Pool B wide open.
South Africa’s men came close to a major shock as the tournament low-ranked side led hosts Great Britain 2-1 with less than two minutes before Ashley Jackson salvaged a draw. Spain’s woes got worse as Pol Amat also left the tournament injured as Australia compounded their misery with a 5-0 win to establish the world number ones as firm favourites.
In the women’s jockeying for positions, Korea picked off their first win of the campaign, keeping Japan without a point from three outings while Great Britain and the Netherlands established Group A dominance with third wins. In Pool B, the day ended with four teams locked on six points as Australia bounced back from opening day defeat, nabbing an eye-catching 3-1 win over Germany.
In men’s Pool B, Belgium’s first win – a 2-1 success over Korea –kick-started their campaign which ended with a fifth place finish, going unbeaten in their final four games. In turn, it pushed the Netherlands and Germany to the brink of semi-final qualification with third successive wins each. Argentina revealed chinks in Australia’s armoury when they bounced back to draw 2-2 from being 2-0 down.
China spoiled Great Britain’s party to set up a potentially huge round five in women’s Pool A, ending the hosts perfect run after three earlier wins, as they the Asian champions sucker-punched twice in the second half. The Netherlands became the first side to confirm their semi-final berth with a 3-2 win over Korea.
Pakistan played their way back into men’s Pool A contention with a stunning 5-4 win over South Africa who continued to play fast and free hockey. At the end of the day’s play, GB’s comeback from 3-0 to tie with Australia and Spain’s 3-1 win over Argentina – all the goals coming in the last quarter – set up an amazing final day’s action with two sides on eight points and two on seven. Pool B was more clear-cut. Teun de Nooijer scored on his 450th cap in a 3-1 over Germany to guarantee the Dutch a semi-final place. Only Korea were left in a position to deny Germany second place.
On a manic final day of women’s pool play, New Zealand eliminated Germany with a 0-0 draw, making it through to the semi-finals for the first time. South Africa amazingly outdid the five-goal margin they needed to escape the bottom rung of Pool B with a 7-0 win over the US. Japan did GB a huge favour, beating China to allow the hosts to go through. Argentina completed the semi-final line-up with a scoreless draw to end Australia’s hopes in the final game of the preliminary phases.
Korea’s men’s semi-final dreams went up in smoke with a 4-2 loss to the Dutch, concluding the key issues in Pool B. Australia took the third final four spot when they hammered Pakistan 7-0 in the second game of the day. It left Spain and GB to battle for the final place and, despite a tumultuous closing ten minutes, the hosts held on for a 1-1 draw to sneak through. Belgium nudged into third place in Pool B as they condemned India to last place. New Zealand were well set to complete pool play with the result of the competition, leading 5-2 against Germany, before Christopher Zeller inspired a comeback to tie 5-5 in a stunning game. Earlier, Argentina claimed their only win of the competition with a 6-3 success against South Africa.
Already guaranteed a best ever finish, New Zealand’s women pushed the Netherlands all the way in the first semi-final. But for a couple of Maartje Paumen’s penalty corners – her first of the tournament – they could have nabbed the tie in normal time. But the Dutch experience held and they won out on penalties, Joyce Sombroek saving three times. Argentina set up a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final as they edged out Great Britain 2-1, leading from start to finish courtesy of Noel Barrionuevo and Carla Rebecchi’s first half goals. By reaching the final, Luciana Aymar was guaranteed a fourth Olympic medal, a record for any Argentinean female sports person.
Men’s semi-final day served up two vastly contrasting ties as Pool B qualifiers outdid their Pool A counterparts. Germany produced a tactically superb second half to undo Australia and keep their title retention hopes alive and kicking, Matthias Witthaus, Timo Wess and Florian Fuchs firing their 4-2 comeback. The second semi-final proved no contest as GB’s wait for a first gold medal since 1988 blew up early on, falling 4-1 at half-time and eventually 9-2 to the Dutch juggernaut, their sixth successive victory.
In the curtain raiser to the women’s main event, Great Britain picked off their first medal since 1992 as their corner prowess undid New Zealand 3-1. Their fourth place was the kiwis best ever Olympic placement. And the Dutch painted the Riverbank orange in the final winning their fourth gold medal. Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Paumen scored second half goals to get the better of Argentina 2-0 with a superbly controlled performance. It earned back-to-back titles for the Dutch. For Argentina, it was a fourth successive medal but the ultimate prize continues to elude them.
Jan-Philipp Rabente made himself an instant German hero as he emerged from the shadows to score twice to hand his side the men’s gold medal with a 2-1 win over the Netherlands. Prior to the game, no outfielder in the German squad had scored less international goals than the midfielder but he popped up at the back post to guide the winner in with under five minutes to go, ensuring the Olympic men’s title would stay in Germany for another four years. Australia had too much strength for hosts Great Britain, claiming a medal for a sixth successive Games but relinquished their world number one ranking to the Germans due to their third place finish. South Africa’s first Olympic men’s win, a 3-2 success against India, was their first in the competition since 2004, netting them 11th place overall. Belgium followed up with a 5-2 win over Spain to take fifth, their best finish since 1928.
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