Saturday, August 11, 2012

Germany vs Netherlands, Olympics 2012 Men's Hockey Gold medal match

After almost two weeks of competition, the final game for the gold and silver medals in the Men's Hockey tournament at the London Olympics 2012 comes down to a match between Germany and Netherlands.

These teams have faced each other many times before but not in recent major hockey finals. Coming into this game, Germany are ranked third in the world and Netherlands second. Despite only collecting the bronze medal, Australia stay at number one in the world.

The last time these two sides met in a major final was the 2006 Champions Trophy held in Terrassa, Spain. On that day, Netherlands won the match 2-1 and that was the last major tournament where Netherlands not only won beat Germany, but the last time they featured in the final of a major tournament.

Germany has been much more successful. They won the 2006 Hockey World Cup, the 2007 Champions Trophy  and are the reigning Olympic champions. They have also won more silver and bronze medals than Netherlands so are the team with the most experience in big games. Tonight, that experience will be put to the test.

These teams last met in the group phase where Netherlands ran out 3-1 winners. Throughout the group phase, Netherlands were unbeaten but not necessarily untouchable. India and Korea put them under pressure while Belgium and Germany had their chances. In the semi-finals, however, Netherlands were imperious.

They crushed Great Britain 9-2 and could have scored more. They have one of the most potent penalty corner attacks in world hockey and have to start as firm favourites to end their long drought for a major trophy. If they needed any extra impetus to go for gold, it will have been watching their Women's team win gold last night.

Germany, by comparison, had a sticky group phase and dropped points to both Netherlands and New Zealand. In the semi-finals, however, they comfortably beat Australia 4-2 and that will give them confidence that they are peaking at just the right time.

Key players to watch tonight will be De Nooijer, Ven Der Weerden and Weusthof for Netherlands. Each of these players is capable of turning a game while at the back, Stockmann in the goal is one of the hardest goalkeepers to beat in hockey.

Germany will be expecting masterclasses from the Zeller brothers, Fuerste and their captain, Mueller. They will be looking to control the game early on, nullify the Netherlands midfield and get an early lead. If they sit back and invite Netherlands on to them, this game could slip away from them before it has begun.

Whoever wins this game tonight, they will have come through a tough tournament and be rightly crowned the best in the world.

First Half
Tentative first minute from Netherlands and the give the ball away to Germany who come forward but play a wasteful ball across the D.

Netherlands have their first attempt inside the German 23m and they get into the D but Muller gets the ball away and sends 23 up the right sideline and into the Netherlands D where he loses the ball. Germany have it back again but cannot make anything of it.

De Nooijer to Hofman but the attack is snuffed out off of the pads of Weinhold. Germany get the ball clear but Netherlands into the D, and there's the shot from Hofman. Weinhold just gets to it then stumbles but Netherlands cannot get to the rebound.

Deecke wins the hit inside the 23m zone. Wesley runs up the back line but can't get the ball out onto the P spot and a German stick. Germany get another chance to get into the D but it is soon stopped.

The temperature has dropped around the stadium and there is now a cool breeze blowing. That will be of some relief to the players who are already dripping with sweat out there.

Germany bring the ball away from their 23m and Netherlands are committing some needless fouls. Sticks are beginning to flash. This could get tasty.

Germany drive the ball in but Witthaus can't do anything with it and gives up possession for obstruction. Interesting attacking option for Netherlands with just one high forward. AS they come forward, more players are making runs but they are not getting the room they have enjoyed in other games. Both defenses are doing man to man marking of the high forward and that means goals will have to be created the hard way.

After twelve minutes it is fairly even. Germany have had the more attacks but Netherlands look the more dangerous on the ball.

The advantage of defenders picking up the high attacker is that it is opening up the midfield. Both teams are able to make good ground when they have the ball.

Fuchs wins the free hit but Germany lose possession to Netherlands and Evers puts a ball into the D but it is too hard and the ball goes off the back line. In the first fifteen minutes we have almost 30 substitutions. That shows just how hard these two teams are working.

Zeller into the Netherlands D and the ball is just put off the side. The ball into the D from Furste misses everyone and ends up in the back of the net.

A number of players have slipped over already on this surface. It looks very wet out there but they've had two weeks to sort their footwear out.

Netherlands now on the attack but they have to take the ball all the way back into their own half. Great run by Baart, ball into the D, shot by Bakker and Weinhold is forced to come for it and close the angle down. Makes the save and Germany can breathe again. Germany go right up the other end and force the save from Stockmann. Both sides have had time to feel each other out and now we are seeing an injection of pace and attacking intent from both sides.

Fantastic play by Fuchs who went through three players, showed some great 3D skills and then puts the ball just wide of Stockmann's post.

Just how did Weinhold kept that ball out from Bakker? It looked for all the world that Netherlands were going to take the lead. Fantastic goalkeeping but the Germany defense was just a little exposed there. Netherlands come back again at the German defense and Verga roll the ball onto the foot of Wess.

Zeller closes down the drag flick and although Weusthof gets the rebound on target it is saved and the umpires award the hit to Germany for a dangerous ball at the penalty corner. Netherlands now applying the pressure and it results in Stralkowski being sent off for two minutes.

With just five minutes to go, Netherlands will look to take advantage of their extra man and take the lead. Germany have other ideas and Witthaus drives down the right but there is nobody in the D.

Ever's thought he had a chance there and pats Weinhold on the head after being forced over the back line. Histrionics from Weinhold for no reason whatsoever. This is just silliness and the umpire tells them both to calm down. Good advice.

Fantastic play by Rabente. He drives into the Netherlands D through three players and as he falls to the ground he gets the ball up and past Stockmann. Brilliant piece of hockey.

Germany 1 Netherlands 0

Netherlands go right back at the German goal but are forced away. That goal came against the run of play but shows just how fast this game can turn around. Long ball in from Jolie goes over the back line.

De Nooijer almost created something there but that's the hooter and it's half time.

Second Half
With the second half about to get underway, we can expect fireworks from Netherlands as they look to equalise. They are not used to being under pressure in this tournament, and now we will begin to see the measure of their teamwork.

Right away, Netherlands look to get a player unmarked around the back of Germany but the aerial ball comes off the foot.

Netherlands playing possession hockey, probing for the opening and throwing the ball over the top. Germany are now sitting back but that could be a problem for them. Now Germany come forward but are forced to go backwards. The ball into the D almost comes to Fuchs but Van Der Weerden gets the ball clear from just in front of Stockmann.

Germany seem to realise that they can't just sit back and invite the pressure. They are now making some moves of their own and Stralkowski just fails to get to the ball. That was almost 2-0.

Netherlands are resorting to the long pass because they cannot find a free man for the pass. Players have to work harder than this and make themselves available.

Bakker and Haener are having quite a tussle out there, Haener is defending well and that is starting to frustrate Bakker.

Bart runs into Mueller and Bart comes off worst. Wess clears the ball out to the side but Netherlands have it in the D but cannot get it onto a stick. This is what Germany must be careful of. Netherlands players are starting to get into the D and walk through tackles.

Fuchs and Wesley into the D. Wesley tries to flick it past Stockmann but he puts the big glove on it and sends the ball out to the side. Nice demonstration of goalkeeping technique.

Fantastic strike from Zeller and it comes off the post with Stockmann beaten. Germany are not applying the pressure on Netherlands. They are not over committing at the moment in order to prevent Netherlands getting space in behind.

Now its Netherlands turn to apply some sustained pressure and they are beginning to win free hits and drive at the D. Germany lucky to avoid the penalty corner there. Kempermann arguing with the umpire and is told to calm down. Now there is some silly pushing going on. Ball in bobbles around but Netherlands just cannot get a shot on goal. Germany struggle to get that clear, narrowly avoiding a penalty corner or worse.

Another free hit for a challenge outside the D. Germany are living dangerously and could get someone sent off if they do not calm down. The Netherlands finally get a penalty corner for the body check by Mueller on De Wijn just outside the D. This could have happened at least two minutes ago.

Good running from Haener, ball off his leg and that's another penalty corner. Germany trying to disrupt Netherlands routines and it is working.

Germany 1 Netherlands 1

That was a fantastic flick from Van Der Weerden. Germany just couldn't hold out any longer and Weinhold was well beaten. But this isn't over. A quick restart and drive into the Netherlands D and the ball comes off the foot of Jolie. Penalty corner Germany.

Haener gets the flick away but the big left hand of Stockmann gets the ball clear. Right from the restart, Germany lose Wesley to a green card. Advantage Netherlands for the next two minutes, if they can take it.

As in the first half, as soon as Germany have a player off the field, they go on the attack to try and nullify the extra man advantage. This is a good tactic and one that we should see creeping into club sides. Normally, people sit back and try and hold on.

Netherlands attack into the D and Weinhold comes, stands up and plays the ball off the back using his chest. In case you think it wasn't possible, the pace of this game has just gone up a notch.

Deecke gets the ball across the face of the goal but Stralkowski cannot take advantage. Shot by Zeller is saved by Stockmann. Hard to believe there are not more goals in this game. 

Ball fired into the D by Zeller and its off the foot of Van Der Weerden for a penalty corner. Shot comes off Jolie as he rushes out and the umpire gives a penalty corner. Netherlands ask for a review and the decision is overturned.

Netherlands on the attack but the final ball from De Voogd runs away for a German restart.

We are down to five minutes and Stockmann makes a fantastic save from Rabente. Rabente runs around the back of the goal, unmarked and when the ball is played in, he was in the right place to score.

Germany 2 Netherlands 1

Weinhold saves from Bakker and Germany are just trying to cling on now. Under four minutes of this match and Germany come away with the ball. Fuchs patsies a ball into Stockmann who just pats the ball back to a defender.

Netherlands fire a hopeful ball into the D looking for a deflection but the ball runs away harmlessly.

A huge hit from De Nooijer sees Wess take the ball on the back of the calf. Play stopped while they get him off the pitch. Two minutes on the clock when we restart. Netherlands hit and they just keep coming. Long corner and there are a lot of whistles from the umpires. Ball off the back and Germany can hit it long and eat up some time.

Inside the last 50 seconds and Germany has the ball. Netherlands have it back with 25 seconds but cannot use it. 10 seconds to go and Germany has caused the upset and beaten Netherlands. Once again the experience of Germany in the big games has come to the fore.

What a good first half. It was a little tentative for the first couple of minutes but then it became end-to-end hockey. The ball speed of both these teams has been superb. The control, close passing and looking up to find a player are the things we need to make sure that, as coaches, we teach to juniors.

Netherlands had the greater pressure during that half and for periods had the Germany goal under siege. When the green card was issues to Stralkowski, Netherlands must have believed that this was their moment. Instead, they made a rookie mistake and failed to deal with the breakaway.

Take nothing away from Rabente. His pickup and drive into the D was fantastic, he beat three players and still had the presence of mind to get the ball into the air and past Stockmann, even as he was falling to the floor.

Netherlands attacked hard at the beginning of the second half and Germany seemed to be willing to sit back and let them come. It didn't last long and Germany decided that they needed to get another goal because one would not be enough and so it proved.

In the 53rd minute, Netherlands struck from a penalty corner taken by Van Der Weerden. Weinhold was never going to make the save and the defender on the post was more worried about self preservation than saving the goal.

With just under five minutes to play, and after some sustained pressure, Germany snatched the winner through a great piece of opportunism from Rabente. Although Netherlands came back at them hard, they just couldn't find the telling ball when it mattered.

There were two big differences for me. The first was the speed and the willingness of the German defenders to run down the barrel of penalty corners. This disrupted Netherlands normally slick routines and kept them to just one goal from three penalty corners. The other difference was the number of shots on goal. 11 by Germany and just 5 by Netherlands.

Germany have retained their Olympic title and Netherlands have failed to be the first country to hold the Men's and Women's Olympic hockey titles at the same time.

Great Britain vs Australia, Olympics 2012 Men's Hockey Bronze medal match

This is the Olympic Bronze medal match in men's hockey. Great Britain face Australia with both teams knowing that this is the last opportunity to leave these Olympic games with a medal. The losers go home with nothing.

The semi-finals were hard for both these teams. After having the best of the first half it was Australia who got the breakthrough against Germany, only to be pegged back five minutes later by Germany. Even after Germany had equalised, Australia continued to press and were unlucky to go in to the half time with the match all square.

The second half started in a similar way to the first half. Australia were making all the ground and eventually got their reward to lead 2-1. This time they held on for twelve minutes but by now, it was Germany making all the running and their pressure eventually paid off and they got the equaliser. Germany kept up the pressure and five minutes later had the lead 2-3 and four minutes after that, it was 2-4. Although Australia tried to fight back it was all over.

 Great Britain were completely overpowered by a dominant Netherlands who all the way through the tournament have looked the side to beat. Great Britain went behind to two goals to the Netherlands but then looked like they might have some fight in them. The got the score back to 2-1 but before the first half ended, Netherlands were 4-1 ahead and Great Britain never really looked like they were in the game.

In the second half, Great Britain tried to be the more aggressive but in chasing the game they left a lot of forward unmarked. Netherlands are masters at the long ball and in a period of seven minutes, they extended their lead from 4-1 to 8-1. Both sides scored again before the end of the match and the final result was 9-2 Netherlands.

The question that has to be asked now, is can Great Britain pull themselves back together and get something from this game?

In the group stage, when these sides met, the final score was 3-3. In that game Australia went 3-0 but took their foot off the accelerator and Great Britain fought their way back into the match.

There are three key players for Great Britain. Hawes, Jackson and Lewers. If these players bring the top game, Great Britain has a real chance at this medal but they need the rest of the team to fire as well. The tactics that failed against Netherlands have to be reversed and that means short balls, ball retention, accurate passes and dominance in the midfield.

Australia will be expecting Dwyer to do what he does best, drive the ball forward and score goals. If great Britain can shut him down, they have a chance. If they can't, he will be man of the match. Alongside Dwyer
Govers and Orchard are the key players who can craft goals from nowhere and all three are capable of turning the game Australia's way.

This promises to be a great game so let's get started.

First Half
The temperature out on the Smurf Turf is hot, very hot. Great Britain get the first free hit of the match but the ball into the circle is easily cut out. The next attack sees Burgers called into action with an easy clearance to the side line.

Great Britain know that this is a match that will be won by the more aggressive side and that's exactly how they have started. Australia are being forced to defend and wait for a chance to break. And now that chance comes through Dwyer. He has a free hit outside the D and Hawes intercepts and clears it off the side. Australia drive into the D but Jackson gets the ball away with Clarke just failing to gather it at the Australian end of the pitch.

Ockenden to Orchard down the left and the ball is injected into the D. Good clearance from Fair to the side line. That was almost a real chance for Australia but Fair gets his pad onto the ball and Great Britain come away on the attack.

This is a very different Great Britain team from the semi-final. They are marking properly, moving the ball quicker, making shorter controlled passes and as a result, are getting possession. In the midfield in particular, they are a more controlled side and that means they are winning the ball and stopping the long runs by attackers.

Great Britain had a sniff of a chance there but couldn't line up a shop and Australia clear.

Long ball forward from Dawes and Great Britain have the free hit in Australia's D. The ball comes back out and around but it is back with Dawes and Mackay wins the free hit which is then wasted. Great Britain forced back into their 23m by the high press from Australia. There is nothing wrong with coming around the back but Great Britain have to be more positive in going forward.

Australia lose the ball in the Great Britain 23m and the ball is fired right up the other end of the pitch and Burgers allows it to run safe.

Sloppy back pass from Fox goes to the stick of Dwyer and Great Britain are lucky to get away with not conceding either a penalty corner or a goal.

Dwyer allowed to run down the left and along the back line. He had Ockenden unmarked in the D but Great Britain get it clear. Australia come again through Carroll but the ball is cut out by Jackson and Great Britain launched their own attack. Middleton gets the ball but fails to make the pass to Clarke who would have had a great chance to score.

This aggression in the midfield is allowing Great Britain to win the ball back in the midfield and that is creating problems for Australia. Great Britain come forward and have a side line hit on their right in Australia's 23m. Ball cleared all the way down the pitch and Fair is out of his D stopping the ball with his stick. Always great to see a goalkeeper that confident.

Dwyer attacks and Great Britain miss their tackles. Dwyer moves the ball off to Orchard who steps into the D and unleashes a shot. Fair gets his glove on it but it was a poor save and Australia have the lead. Great Britain will know that they now have to fight back and not let Australia get away from them.

Great Britain 0 Australia 1

More missed tackling in the 23m from Great Britain and Australia get the ball into the D but it is scrambled away. Once again a poor ball from Great Britain almost lets Australia back in. This is about basic skills and control and Great Britain are being found wanting.

Australia have the free hit on the edge of the D. Ball driven in but the shot from ?? is blocked.

Great run from Wilson is cut out and Australia are really putting Great Britain under a lot of pressure. Time for some short, controlled passing to maintain possession. Fair comes out to make a challenge but it was poor and the ball is eventually cleared with Fair trying to recover.

More Australian pressure through Swann but Jackson is back there making another defensive tackle. Australian attacks coming in wave after wave now and Great Britain are making the mistakes. When they do get the ball away, it is only to an Australian stick and that just results in the ball coming back into the 23m. So far, Great Britain have avoided giving away a penalty corner despite the pressure in the D.

In this heat, the pressure from Australia must start to tell. Martin gathers the ball and drives through three Australian tackles and gets the penalty corner. Time for the equalizer.

Brilliant corner from Great Britain. Jackson hits the ball wide of the post and Lewers comes in with the deflection.

Great Britain 1 Australia 1

Into the last five minutes now and Australia looking for the lead. Great Britain bring the ball away with a brilliant pass from Jackson to Daly but Australia survive. Interception in the middle of the pitch and Australia are on the attack but the ball into the D is knocked away by Wilson. Now Dwyer has a chance but again the ball is knocked clear.

Turner drives into the Great Britain D but the ball just won't drop to a stick for a shot. Great Britain throw the aerial off the end of the pitch to get some relief.

A great run and the ball into the D finds Turner unmarked. Fair gets to it but the rebound hits Lewers and its a penalty corner for Australia. Time for Great Britain to stand firm and see out these last 40 seconds.

Shot from Ciriello and it's saved by Fair who gets his left foot to the ball. Great Britain bring the ball away and that's the end of the half

Second Half
Australia on the attack and they go the full length of the pitch. Only a last minute tackle by Hawes denies a shooting chance.

Great chance in the Australian D from Great Britain but the free hit goes to Australia. Both sides are intent on attacking and this is leaving space behind the defenses. Let's see who can make the most of their chances.

Dwyer on the ball and it's an Australian free hit. Ball into the D from Swann but it just misses the man at the far post.

That was almost the lead from Turner but Fair gets down at his near post and the ball goes clear. Great Britain drive up the pitch through Daly but the ball into the D is too easy for Australia to clear.

Great Britain have the free hit on the left but cannot get a quality shot off. The ball bobbles and goes for a long corner. Yellow card for Wilson for the professional foul. He'd allowed Turner to get behind him and decided to take the card to prevent the risk of a shot on goal. Great Britain now have at least five minutes with just 10 men. 

Dwyer drives from the middle but his final pass is poor and Great Britain are able to get the ball away through Jackson.

Swann to Gohdes and from the free hit looks like it might be a penalty corner. Australia think the same and are asking for the video umpire to award it. They win the review. Hawes breaks early and is sent to the half way line. Great Britain reduced to three plus a goalkeeper. Australia try the slip but Lewers gets a stick on it and the ball goes over the back line. Great Britain survive.

Another free hit to Australia which should have been a penalty corner. Umpire has now missed two in a row. Smith was inside the circle when it came up off his stick and hit his chest. Australia will be looking to get something from their third penalty corner of the match.

Once again Australia complicate it but the ball is eventually off of the helmet of Fair and Dwyer gets the final touch on the ball. Tough on a goalkeeper when that happens

Great Britain 1 Australia 2

Australia right back on the attack and that's another penalty corner cleared by Great Britain but not for long. On the next attack, Australia go back to the video umpire and win a penalty corner that they waste. 

Wilson is back on the pitch for Great Britain and both sides are back to full strength.

The pressure from Australia is relentless and now Tindall is complaining to the umpire that they should have had a free hit. Australia come forward and Fair keeps them in the game.

Tindall to Martin who drives through several players but the drop pass is nowhere near a Great Britain player. Australia can now look to come again and we are down to just over fifteen minutes left.

Shot from Dwyer, saved by Fair but he just pushes it back out to Govers who calmly clips it into the goal. That all came from poor tackling by Great Britain outside the D and unmarked players inside the D. Fair will also know that he should have got more power on that ball.

Great Britain 1 Australia 3

Great Britain cannot score when defending their own D. They need to drive that ball up into the Australian D and get the shot off.

Dwyer is controlling this match for Australia. Once again the ball is into the D but this time Fair comes and kicks the ball clear., Great Britain go down the other end but can't get the ball into the D. Australia are defending with a lot of men. 

Almost a penalty corner there for Great Britain but it came off an Australia stick not a foot.

Great run by Middleton, goes down the back line and the ball across the D is just cut out by Australia.

Great Britain now resorting to a kicking back with just under five minutes to go. This is a risk. Daly gets into the D but the ball goes for a long corner. Great ball across the D but Burgers gets a foot to the ball and although it went high, it was not dangerous. A small period of sustained pressure from Great Britain but the cannot get the shot away or win a penalty corner.

Now Australia have the free hit and are looking for some relief. Great Britain escape and are coming back at Australia but they just can't make anything of it.

Into the last minute and Australia are resorting to deep defending, looking for the break to use up time. The clock is now counting down and Australia take the ball into the corner to eat up the last few seconds.  

That's the final whistle and Australia have the bronze medal.

The first half started with Great Britain being the more aggressive and putting Australia under pressure. They made good yardage and were playing a brand of controlled hockey with short passes, players looking for the ball and strong challenges when their opponents came forward.

Slowly, as Great Britain tired, Australia got into their stride and the game turned. Now it was Australia making all their tackles and winning the 50:50 balls. Great Britain were leaving gaps and Australian players like Dwyer were running into the space and exploiting the chances.

That pressure eventually paid off with a great run from deep by Dwyer, through a few challenges and a pass to Orchard just outside the D. The shot from the top was ferocious and although Fair did get to the ball, he couldn't stop it going into the goal.

Great Britain came back but had to be mindful of leaving room for Australia. After surviving a few chances against them, Great Britain were awarded a penalty corner courtesy of a great drive into the D by Martin. As Australia prepared themselves for the high ball, Jackson slipped the ball to Lewers who scored the deflection.

The last few minutes belonged to Australia who came right back at Great Britain, winning a penalty corner with just a minute to go but the shot was kicked away by Fair.

The second half was a much more frenetic half than the first. Australia came hard at Great Britain and created a lot of chances. Great Britain were put on the back foot and just couldn't relieve the pressure until it was too late.

Australia made very effective use of the video referral to pile the pressure on Great Britain. This game them several penalty corners and they went ahead from one of them but failed to convert several other chances. The winning goal did not come from a penalty corner but from a great open play move. The ball taken down the Australian right, crossed into the D and a snapshot from Dwyer forced the glove save from Fair. The ball came off Fair, into the air and Govers calmly put the ball into the net.

Great Britain were forced to take Fair off and resort to the kicking back with almost five minutes left on the clock. This gave them the opportunity to put pressure on Australia. Time and again they drove to the D but Australia just blocked them out.

Australia were worthy winners of this bronze medal match and although Great Britain clearly came to play, they just didn't have enough left in the tank. Dwyer was a deserved man of the match.

One thing that will rumble on after this tournament, is the use of the video umpire. Australia have been the most effective users of the system so far and in this game they kept Great Britain under pressure by winning several referrals. Yes it slowed the game down a little but it did show that the misses by the on field umpires were worthy of being overturned.

What will have caused more concern at the FIH is the reaction of players when they lose the video referral. There has been a spate of players surrounding the umpire and trying to put additional pressure on them in the same way as we have seen in football. This has to be stamped out now. The worst behaviour was the USA who were asking for players to be carded and the FIH needs to strengthen the rules over undue pressure and questioning of umpires.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Netherlands vs Argentina, Olympics 2012 Women's Hockey Gold medal match

The final of the women's Hockey tournament at the London Olympics 2012 sees the top two ranked nations in the world battle it out for the Gold and Silver medals. A This is the seventh match these two sides will have played in just under two weeks and there will be considerable pressure on both of them.

Earlier, Great Britain and New Zealand played in the Bronze medal match with Great Britain coming out on top 3-1. That game was end to end stuff but all four corners came from penalty corners. Going into the game there was some concern that New Zealand might be a little tired after playing extra time and taking part in the shoot out but there was no evidence of that.

Tonight, we will see two sides who have peaked at the right time. Netherlands come into this game, number one in the world rankings, unbeaten in this tournament and the only side to really push them close to a defeat were New Zealand two days ago in the semi-final. That match went to extra time and eventually to the new shoot out which proved to be extremely entertaining for everyone bar the players and their coaching teams.

Argentina had a very different tournament. They dropped points against Australia, were pushed hard by New Zealand and lost to the USA. In the semi-final against Great Britain, they went through 2-1 at the end of normal time. Tonight they will not get as much time on the ball as Great Britain afforded them and they will find the game running at a much higher pace.

One that may add extra impetus for Argentina is that this is Aymar's birthday and the best player in women's hockey has won everything bar an Olympic medal. What a day it would turn out to be if she fixed that here.

Both sides have key players. For Argentina much will depend on how Aymar in the midfield and Rebecchi up front play. The key for Netherlands will be Paumen in defence and Lammers in attack. the rest of the two sides are fairly evenly matched until we come to penalty corners. Argentina has struggled so far in this tournament but were more successful against Great Britain. Netherlands will expect to score regularly off any penalty corners they are awarded.

First Half
Netherlands get the first long corner of the game and follow that up with a free hit outside the Argentine D. Paumen drives in, gets the ball onto the goalkeeper but Mutio manages to prevent it going in. Netherlands on the attack again and the cut back onto the penalty spot from Van As finds only Argentine players who get the ball clear.

Another Netherlands attack and this time the ball is hit harmlessly off the back line. Argentina are finally getting their tackles in and can now come forward with the ball. Rebecchi can't stop it running off the back line as she gets into the Netherlands 23m.

Van As brings it forward and there is a delightful one-two with Jonker. The ball is in the Argentine D but goes out of play. Argentina to restart. There is a lot of noise in the crowd between the two sets of supporters.

Argentina on the attack now with a free hit outside the Netherlands D. Well defended and its a series of long corners. Argentina try something different and bring the ball around the back. A good run into the D  by Habib and then Merino bring a penalty corner chance for Argentina. Good strike  by Barrionuevo goes just wide.

Netherlands get a hit outside the Argentine D through De Goede. Paumen on the ball, the cross into the D is easily picked up by Aymar and she gets the free hit. Ball played long, but aimlessly, down to the Netherlands end of the pitch.

Nice build up by Netherlands in the midfield. They seem to be winning the ball far too easily in this part of the pitch. the chance is wasted and Argentina are looking for a long ball to an unmarked Cavallero. the ball comes off her foot, however, and Netherlands take the chance to build another attack.

Van As again in the midfield and Hoog has the ball but wastes it. Another wasted long ball by Argentina. Netherlands are reading these long passes and getting in first on the tackle.

Free hit Argentina but the long pass goes through the D. more wasted ball. If Argentina keep doing this they will just keep letting Netherlands off the hook. Paumen takes a lifted ball on the forearm but she is OK.

Argentine defence at sixes and sevens as Netherlands come on the attack but they manage to scramble the ball clear and can now begin to build an attack of their own but the ball is wastefully played over the side line.

Aymar takes the ball too deep into the D and the shot is easily saved by Sombroek. From the long corner, Argentina just can't make anything happen.

The game seems to be settling into a pattern now. End to end attacking but neither side really doing anything to stress the goalkeeper. This time Rebecchi gets into the D but puts the ball wide and high.

Aerial ball gets through to an unmarked Netherlands player but the pass goes to an Argentine stick.

This is a very nervy start from both teams. Some poor decisions, poor passing and lack of real penetration. Another Argentine attack breaks down without a shot on goal.

Van As brings it forward but is easily dispossessed. Netherlands win it back and look to go down the left. Once again, the tackle is all too easy for the Argentine defense. The ball is played deep into the corner but runs off the end of the pitch.

Big hit in from Netherlands but it is easily kicked away by Mutio. Polkamp drives down the side line and wins the long corner. This time the drive into the D is lost and Argentina reset but waste the chance to create an attack. Ball into the Argentine D from Hoog and Scarone has taken a hit in the face from a stick on the follow through. She has a cut just under the eye. Can Argentina use this to spark themselves into action?

Netherlands have a side line hit. Van As drives into the D and wins a penalty corner from a clumsy stick tackle by Rodriguez Perez. Great running from Rodriguez Perez and the penalty corner doesn't even produce a shot on goal.

Aymar trying to start something from the centre of the Argentine midfield. Netherlands just playing the press and Argentina are going nowhere. Van As has the ball, it is move around the pitch and a great ball in is just cut out by an Argentine stick for a long corner. Netherlands can't do anything with the restart and Argentina has the ball back.

Maccari is tripped by Goderie who is given a green card. Can Argentina take advantage of this two minute power play? The long aerial ball goes out and Netherlands will look to keep the ball as much as possible for the next two minutes. Welten goes down the right but runs into the Argentine defense and losses the ball.

Netherlands soon have the ball back and Van Male runs down the right but has no-one in the D to cross to. Van As now tries and gets the ball into the D but the shot is wasted.

Good cross in but nobody could get on the end of that. Argentina starting to pose problems for the Netherlands defense.

Great running by Van As and Van Male but the interception by the Argentine defense is hit onto a foot. Netherlands have a penalty corner and the hooter has gone. This is the last play of the half and Mutio makes a great glove save from De Goede and then a second with her pads as Van As shoots from the rebound.

Second Half
Scarone has been patched up and starts the second half. Argentina has the ball and the Netherlands content to let them move it around in their half of the pitch. Ball forward by Aymar runs off the side. Netherlands can now look to build something but they give it away. Van Geffen is forced away from the D but gets a side line ball.

Lots of missed tackles and the air rings with the clicking of what sounds like giant knitting needles.

Excellent chance for Netherlands but Van Den Heuvel is unable to keep the ball in play. Argentina win a hit for a challenge on Merino and are inside the Netherlands 23m.

Ball comes away with Van As and Hoog but is lost inside the Argentine 23m

This half seems to have started where the first half left off, too many balls lost too easily when in the opponents 23m. Netherlands trying to up the pace but it's not working. Van Male drives to the D but it is brought away by Aymar. So far Aymar is the best player out there but she is not getting the support she needs from the rest of her team.

Netherlands look like they are content to play on the break. This is normally a dangerous option against Argentina but it does seem to be working here. It's denying Argentina the space in which to run and stopping them getting into the Netherlands D.

While Netherlands sitting deep is nullifying the Argentine attack, it is not making for a very attractive game for the spectators. This is a poor game compared to the Bronze medal match where Great Britain and New Zealand went end-to-end, creating chances.

A mistake gives Jonker an opportunity to run at the Argentine defense. This brings a penalty corner and the Argentine players want a video referral for something that happened in the middle of the field which cannot happen under the rules.

Great drag flick from De Goede is met with a good save from Mutio. Unfortunately the ball drops at the feet of Van Den Heuvel who makes no mistake with the rebound.

Netherlands 1 Argentina 0

This should now open up the match as Argentina must come forward and that will create chances for Netherlands.

Argentina win a penalty corner and can strike back quickly. The ball is miss hit and Netherlands quickly push to the other end of the pitch and win a long corner. Ball is cleared by Argentina.

That was a sloppy tackle by Sruoga which give Netherlands another penalty corner. Perhaps a little too intricate from Netherlands but Mutio is up to it and gets the ball clear. Another penalty corner for more sloppy defending.

THAT WAS UNSTOPPABLE. An amazing drag flick from Paumen and there is probably no goalkeeper in the world who could have stopped that.

Netherlands 2 Argentina 0

Argentina need to up the stakes here and Aymar is having to do it all on her own. Argentina need to get into the Netherlands D and force a save from Sombroek. But yet again, the attack breaks down and Netherlands have time to ease the ball out. This time, they make the mistake and Argentina are on the attack.

Great tackle, Netherlands charge forward but the ball is knocked away for a long corner. Just over 12 minutes left to play and Netherlands fancy their chances at getting another goal. They are no longer prepared to sit back and are putting the Argentine defense under pressure. D'Elia picks up a stupid green card at a time when Argentina need everyone on the pitch. Aymar must be furious at her team mates.

With nine minutes left, Argentina are in danger of meltdown if they don't focus on getting back into the game rather than picking arguments with Netherlands and the umpires.

Netherlands in complete control now. When Argentina do get the ball, they lose it too easily or take the wrong option on the pass.

If there were ever any fears that the Netherlands might be tired after their semi-final match against New Zealand, the way they are running and moving at this stage of the game should dispel that. Netherlands come again but cannot control the ball in the D and it is an Argentine hit.

Once again, Argentina get the free hit, bring the ball away and then lose it too easily to Netherlands.Once again, it is Aymar who is trying to make something happen but there is nobody looking for the pass or making themselves available.

There is still time to force two goals and square the match but Argentina don't look like they are going to do that. When they come forward again, the ball is aimlessly hit into the D. The only person who thinks they can do something now is their coach who is urging them on from the side.

Just over one minute, Netherlands have the ball and Argentina are just making up the numbers. The Netherlands supporters in the stadium are applauding their team now. They know the job is done and that's the countdown for the last ten seconds. The Netherlands players are celebrating and rightly so. They were the better not only on the night but throughout the entire tournament.

The first half was a pretty dull affair. Although both teams got into their opponents 23m, the only real quality shots came from Netherlands. Mutio kept Argentina in the match in the first half but nerves seemed to have gotten to both sides. Both sides knew that if they allowed the other to score first, it would be hard to get back into the game.

The second half started very much like the first. Netherlands sat back, invited Argentina forward but picked them off in the midfield and around the edge of the D. The turning point was two penalty corner goals for Netherlands. After the first one, Argentina looked like they were going to come forward and get a goal of their own. But after the second goal went in, Argentine heads went down and it was all over.

Netherlands shut Argentina down and played by far the better hockey. Paumen scored a goal that was worthy of a gold medal match and will probably be player of the match. For Argentina, while Aymar didn't have her best game, it was so much better than the rest of her team who need to take a long hard look at themselves and ask what went wrong

Great Britain vs New Zealand Olympics 2012, Bronze Medal match

Great Britain and New Zealand face off the bronze medal with both knowing that only a medal will be jsut reward for a good campaign.

In the semi finals, Great Britain were well beaten by Argentina while New Zealand were unlucky to lose in the shoot out to Netherlands. How much those matches and losses will have taken out of these two teams is hard to guess but they will both have put the losses behind them and be ready for this game.

Both of the goalkeepers, Storry and Russell have played out of their skins in this tournament and both had two clean sheets in the group phase. Overall, Russell has probably had the better tournament but there is little between them.

Defences have generally performed well and while Great Britain have given away more chances, due mainly to the disruption caused by injuries in their first game.

In the midfield, the battle will be tight with New Zealand playing five across the middle compared to Great Britain's four. Both sides are starting with two players up front but it will be penalty corners that will make the difference. Here Great Britain has the edge with Cullen one of the most prolific scorers in recent years.

Great Britain will be relying on the talismanic Walsh who will again captain this game despite her jaw injury. They will also be looking for big games from Richardson, Danson and Cullen. New Zealand will be hoping Glynn brings her A game and will be hoping that Sharland, Punt and Flynn play as well as they did against Netherlands.

The weather will have an impact. It is very hot out there and both teams will have to use their substitutions effectively.

First Half
New Zealand have first use of the ball but send a long ball off the back of the pitch. Great Britain go on the charge and had a real chance in the D but the bgall wouldn't go to stick. Another Great Britain attack but they can't get past the New Zealand defence.

New Zealand can now work the ball away but only as far as the half way line but they soon get it back. The first aerial ball comes from New Zealand but is easily cut out.

Danson has another attack but again loses out to a great tackle on the edge of the D. Great Britain waste another attack with a long ball off the side.

Danson moving from wing to wing and that is giving her a lot more room. New Zealand seem unable to contain her in the same way Argentina did and that should create more chance for Great Britain.

NEw Zealand find the Great Britain D but the ball is calmly intercepted and cleared. Great Britain can now come again through Walsh and Twigg. The ball is in the New Zealand D but there is no Great Britain player near enough to make anything of it. White and Cooper have a collision in the 23m and the New Zealand player comes off the worst.

Great Britain winning many of the midfield battles but New Zealand are making the key tackles at the back.

With nine minutes gone, Great Britain have started the more positively.

Some basic skill errors there, you need to stop the ball before you can use it. Walsh is very calm at the back and makes an easy interception as New Zealand look to break.

New Zealand come forward again and Great Britain have some defending to do here. The ball break for Forgesson but is wide of Storry's post.

Against Argentina, Great Britain were guilty of panic and trying the long ball rather than build up play. Today, they are making the short passes, coming back to collect the ball and this is giving them more control over this game.

Long ball forward is collected by Danson but Eshuis makes a great tackle. Great Britain hit outside the D but the ball comes all the way back to the halfway before being hit into Rogers who is well marked. New Zealand can clear and begin to build an attack but Bartlett intercepts and forward come Great Britain again. The ball into the D, however, is poor but some persistent work and great dribbling by Macleod in the D forces Russel into a desperate kick which results in a penalty corner for Great Britain.

Cullen shoots, off Russell and just past the prone Macleod who cannot make the rebound. Away come New Zealand but the long ball is deflected for a corner by Great Britain. Free hit on the edge of the D is taken by Cooper and her hit into the D is cleared by Storry.

Another ball in and this time Storry puts it off the back. Punt trying to get this ball in for New Zealand and she wins a free hit. New Zealand move the ball across the field but Walton intercepts and then loses it again.

Great Britain now have the ball on the sideline and win a free hit but the Richardson can't prevent the ball going off the back line.

Great ball into the D from New Zealand but Great Britain get it away and have their own chance at the far end. New Zealand clear the ball and Danson is brought down by Cooper for the penalty corner.

Cullen fired that in like a rocket but a fantastic dive by Russell and she gets her stick on the ball to deny Great Britain. Some great defending by New Zealand to prevent Great Britain getting another chance on goal and New Zealand can bring the ball away but it comes up off a New Zealand stick and Great Britain make three changes.

Sharland is beginning to assert herself in the middle and New Zealand are beginning to win more of the ball. The final balls into the D, however, are still not going to a New Zealand stick and Great Britain are able to clear easily and put the ball long.

As another Great Britain attack breaks down, Macleod is down having taken a knock. She is soon back on her feet and stays on the pitch. New Zealand are now beginning to win many of the 50/50 balls in the middle and that has to be a concern for Great Britain.

Crowd are starting to get behind the home team who respond with a move down the right. It soon breaks down and New Zealand are in the 23m and win a long corner. New Zealand force away and the long ball from Eshuis goes harmlessly into the Great Britain goal. There were two attackers who just couldn't get a stick to that ball.

Poor clearance from Great Britain, a chance for New Zealand and who else to stop them but Walsh. The more Walsh can exude confidence, the more the rest of the team can feed off of it.

New Zealand bring the ball away from their D and into the Great Britain 23m but it comes off of Flynn's foot and Great Britain get some relief. 30 minutes gone and despite the lack of goals, there have been chances and the game has been exciting.

Walsh gives the ball away but there is some great recovery running from Great Britain and Cullen puts in a timely tackle. Neither side will want to concede in this last three minutes.

Great Britain attack, Walton to Rogers but the ball in to the D is poor. Richardson gets it back for Great Britain but this time the ball is too close to Russell who gets it away. A quick break for New Zealand and with one minute left in the half, New Zealand win a penalty corner.

Clock is still running so this is going to be the last action of this half. New Zealand try the deflected ball. Ball fired in by Eshuis but Harrison cannot get the deflection on goal

Second Half
Great Britain on the attack right from the whistle but New Zealand are the first to get a chance. The ball into the D comes off Glynn and through the legs of Storry and hits the post. A diving Storry gets the ball clear. That was the closest we have come so far to a goal.

Great Britain break through Richardson and White but the ball is soon recovered by New Zealand. That last attempt will boost New Zealand while Great Britain need to be careful not to go into their shell.

Long corner New Zealand but Great Britain push them back to the halfway line. New Zealand the quicker to get the ball now but Great Britain are on the attack. A poor long ball is cut out and while Great Britain get it back, they make a mess of it.

New Zealand are really pressuring the Great Britain defence and chances are starting to appear. That time the ball is knocked away but New Zealand come again. A bit of end to end play with neither side making the most of the ball.

New Zealand are pressing the Great Britain defence when they try and move the ball around the back. This is resulting in some long speculative passes that are just not going anywhere.

Twigg takes a big hit on the foot by a ball from Forgesson. That will sting.

Long ball gets through to Danson who drives into the D. The defence converge upon her but she just cannot get the ball back to Richardson but Great Britain get second prize, a penalty corner.

Great strike from Walsh, Danson gets the deflection and it's a GOAL!

Great Britain 1 New Zealand 0

New Zealand right back at Great Britain but cannot get a shot off. 24 minutes left in this game and there will be more goals at this rate.

Macleod wins the ball on the edge of the New Zealand D but it is cleared by Russell. The next ball in is too close to Russell who makes a much better clearance this time. Great Britain again unable to convert pressure in the D due to great defending by New Zealand.

A New Zealand drive into the Great Britain D is iniitally called for a penalty corner but Walsh asked for a video review for dangerous play. Ball came up off of Michelson's stick but was on goal, leaving Walsh to get her hand to it to prevent another ball in the face. Team referral overturned and the penalty corner stands.

Strike stopped by Great Britain who had a three on one but fast recovering New Zealand defenders get it away and we stay at 1-0.

The speed of this game shows no sign of slowing. Players from both sides are now having to roll on and off more frequently. Sharland fires the ball wastefully into the D and it goes off the back.

Great Britain attack with Rogers. Feeds the ball to Bartlett who can't get the ball to the players on the far post but she does win another penalty corner. A real mess by Great Britain at the top of the D allows New Zealand to bring the ball away. The missed tackle count for both sides is rising and too many balls are going to the opposition stick. The short passing game of the first half is being slowly replaced by long, hopeful, balls to no-one in particular.

Good attack by New Zealand but they are beginning to snatch at the ball when inside the D. A little more composure from New Zealand could well see the equaliser. It is far too early for panic.

Danson in the D plays the ball to Twigg. Russell out quickly and closing it down but the ball hits a New Zealand foot and its a penalty corner. Drag flick from Cullen and that's the second goal for Great Britain giving them some measure of control over this game.

Great Britain 2 New Zealand 0

New Zealand try hard to strike back immediately but Great Britain defend well and are now back on the attack. That ball into the D could have gone anywhere. Instead New Zealand get it away and start an attack of their own through Sharland. The aerial ball is cut out by Cullen who wins a free hit.

Great Britain have nine minutes to hold on to a 2-0 lead.

Wasted ball into the D from Sharland. Nobody was going to get on the end of that and it relieves the pressure New Zealand were trying to create. Great Britain charge up the pitch, Macleod drives into the D and it's another penalty corner through poor defending from Eshuis.

Walsh hits the ball wide of the post and Thomas is there with the stick on the ground for the deflection. Classic, text book deflection. Record it and teach it to your junior players.

Great Britain 3 New Zealand 0

Under seven minutes left in this match and it would take a complete collapse by Great Britain to let New Zealand in. White drives the ball down the base line but Danson just cannot deflect it in for a fourth goal.

Danson dances down the left sideline and goes through several New Zealand players, eventually winning the free hit. Great Britain not letting up at all. Any thoughts of defending this lead have been forgotten. Great Britain want more goals and so do the crowd.

New Zealand have a chance to get a goal back. Excellent drive into the D by Michelsen and its a penalty corner for New Zealand. The ball is fired low and to the right of Storry by Eshuis and Michelsen gets the final touch to deflect it into the goal.

Great Britain 3 New Zealand 1

Under two minutes and New Zealand come again but this time Great Britain bring the ballaway down the right with Danson. Ball turned over and Punt tries a quick shot from the top of the D but it is a long way over the bar.

Great Britain have the ball with 30 seconds remaining and will use all the time that they can.

Final whistle
Great Britain 3 New Zealand 1
Bronze for Great Britain

That was a busy first half from both teams. Great Britain came out meaning business and took the game to New Zealand. Good pressure from the midfield resulted in attacks on the New Zealand goal. Russell looked tentative at the beginning of this match but was still able to clear the ball and prevent Great Britain taking the lead.

About 20 minutes in, the game started to change. New Zealand were beginning to win more ball in the middle of the pitch but their final ball into the D has been poor. Right at the end of the half, Harrison should have stolen a goal for New Zealand when she was unmarked from the penalty corner but just couldn't deflect the ball into the net.

Both sides came out for the second half looking to take an early lead. New Zealand should have taken the lead but Glynn was unlucky to see the ball come back off of the post. It was Great Britain who were broke the deadlock from a penalty corner. The ball was struck in by Walsh and it was a diving Danson who deflected it past Russell in the New Zealand goal.

New Zealand were determined not to give up and first Michelsen and then Eshuis were denied before Russell made a good save to deny Walton. By now, Great Britain were beginning to turn the screw and had a penalty corner but failed to use it. Harrison then had a chance to equalise but the shot was blocked and within two minutes, Great Britain had another penalty corner and Cullen buried it in the corner.

Now New Zealand were chasing the game and that game Great Britain space to get the ball up the field and four minutes later it was 3-0 when Walsh fired the ball in from a penalty corner and Thomas got the deflection.

It looked like Great Britain could get more. Danson had a great chance but couldn't control the deflection. By now New Zealand were running out of time and although Michelsen scored a late consolation goal from a penalty corner, it was Great Britain who finished the game with the bronze medal.

This was a fast and hard game with both sides showing enterprise but in the end, it was Great Britain who took their chances from penalty corners who won

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Great Britain vs Netherlands, Olympics 2012 Men's Hockey Semi-Final

This is the second semi-final of the men's competition and on paper this is a real David and Goliath match. These might be the world ranked number one and number four sides, but Netherlands have been on form throughout this competition while Great Britain have, at time, struggled.

Great Britain will have three things in their favour tonight. The first is that no-one really believes that they can do it so the pressure is on Netherlands to deliver the win. The second is home advantage. The crowd in the Riverside Arena will be on their side and if they can hook to that energy, it will give them the equivalent of an extra man. The third advantage is self belief. Jason Lee has built a team that is capable of beating anyone on their day and, for many, there can be no better day than this one.

As far as the teams go, Stockmann has stopped almost everything that has come his way in this tournament and he is one of the most formidable goalkeepers in the world. Fair is no slouch either but has, at times, been beaten just a little easily.

The two defences are evenly matched as is the midfield. The Netherlands strikers are the more experienced but Great Britain are hungrier. This game may well come down to special teams and in particular, the penalty corner specialists. Here, Great Britain have done well throughout this competition but Netherlands are perhaps the finest exponents of this technique in the world today.

First Half
Great Britain get us underway and immediately go on the attack, forcing a long corner but the Netherlands force the play away and Great Britain find themselves back in their D. Lewis is caught in possession but Hawes gets the ball back and Great Britain can now bring the ball away again.

Netherlands have possession and win a long corner through De Nooijer. Great Britain defend well and push forward but Netherlands come right back at them. That final ball from Netherlands should have been better and Great Britain need to be more controlled when they have the ball.

Great Britain up into the Netherlands 23m but lose the ball far too easily. Great Britain have the ball back and move the ball from side to side. Now they are moving forward and a quick ball to Hawes sees him charge into the D but the ball is cleared by Netherlands. It was a great stick clearance by Stockmann.

Netherlands break quickly but the ball was fired in from outside but there was no touch and it runs dead. Netherlands are making very easy yards when they get the ball which will be of concern to Great Britain.

That was a very busy opening five minutes but unlike the earlier semi-final, there have been much fewer changes so far. A collision in the middle of the pitch sees Vermeulen leave the field in what looks like some pain. Speculation at this point of a collar bone injury.

Netherlands on the attack and a good smother tackle by Fair on Verga forces the ball away. Great Britain were very lucky there and that has to serve as a warning call for the defence. More offence from Netherlands and this time the ball is on a foot and it's a penalty corner.

That ball was fired in like a rocket by Weusthof, high and to the left of Fair and that's the first goal to Netherlands

Great Britain 0 Netherlands 1

Great Britain immediately fire back but the shot from Jackson was well saved by Stockmann. Netherlands back on the attack now and they win a free hit. The ball is moved around the back but when it comes into the Great Britain D, it is easily picked off. There was no Netherlands player anywhere near the ball.

The arm wrestle in the midfield is going Netherlands way and this gives them another attack which results in another shot by de Voogd onto the foot of Smith and that's another penalty corner.

A complete mess at the top of the D but Netherlands get to the ball first, the ball is sent in, bobbles around and comes to Weusthof. His shot is right through the feet of Fair.

Great Britain 0 Netherlands 2

We are just 10 minutes in and it's already time for Great Britain to dig deep and prove that they want this match. They might have pulled three goals back against Australia in the group stage but Netherlands are not going to give them the same time.

Good pressure from Great Britain and Martin wins a penalty corner. A chance here to reduce the deficit and put some pressure on Netherlands. Fantastic drag flick by Jackson, just above the back board to Stockmann's right. Those are difficult shots to get to as a goalkeeper.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 2

That goal puts some pressure back on Netherlands who might have already started to think their job was done. A fantastic break by Great Britain, and Daly just fails to deflect the ball past Stockmann. Netherlands resorting to a couple of long balls to relieve the pressure but now they have the break, it's in the D and Fair puts the ball high. A stick above the shoulder means the goal is wiped off but Netherlands have another short corner.

This game is much faster than the earlier game. This time Van Der Weerden puts the ball very low and to the right of Fair. He's a very tall keeper and getting down to those shots is very hard. At this rate, we could see a lot of goals tonight.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 3

Netherlands come forward, the ball goes to the unmarked de Nooijer and Fair gets down and smothers the shot. Great Britain get the ball onto a Netherlands foot and start an attack of their own. Netherlands were lucky to get that ball away as Great Britain drive into their D. But as fast as the play breaks down at one end, the ball ends up back at the other.

Netherlands have a chance, but Great Britain get it away. In the midfield, Great Britain are looking about a yard short of the Netherlands pace and that means losing too many tackles and putting themselves under pressure.

Away come Great Britain with the ball through Lewers. They try moving the ball around the back but pressure from Netherlands brings the long pass which is intercepted. Jolie goes down like a football player and there is no place for amateur dramatics in hockey. Now he's up and running down the pitch.

Ball back in Netherlands 23m and they play it from side to side until they get a chance to throw the long ball to Weusthof and the ensuing shot saved by Fair.

A good drive by Great Britain and Stockmann does just enough to deny Martin. Netherlands now slowing the game down but a quick injection of pace once again leaves a striker unmarked and Great Britain escape again. Ball back down the other end of the pitch and it flies across the Netherlands D but there is no player near enough to make anything of it.

Netherlands get an attack, Weusthof drives into the D, loses the ball and then is a bit silly. That challenge on Jackson earns him a green card and two minutes on the bench.

Both sides now breathing hard and you can see the sweat pouring off these players. Great Britain get an attack through Tindall but he can't get it into the D. This gives Netherlands a chance to bring the ball away and slow the game down just a little. Great Britain win the ball but can't do anything with it. Netherlands collect the ball in the middle of the pitch, drive into the Great Britain D. move it around and the final push is from Bakker.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 4

This is clinical finishing from Netherlands and all possible through well made passes and some poor tackling by Great Britain.

And that's the half time hooter.

This first half has been a lesson for Great Britain in how to control the ball, create movement and score goals. The Netherlands always seem to have players open and when the get into the D, make sure to get a shot off. Great Britain, by comparison, have failed to take some of their chances and that has allowed Netherlands to play with some freedom.

Both goalkeepers have been busy but Stockmann has been the more composed. Fair has been exposed by some poor defending and beaten by some well placed shots. If Great Britain are to get back into this game in the second half, they will need to take every chance that comes their way and build a concrete wall around their D.

The scoring is not yet finished in this match and with a three goal margin, Netherlands will allow themselves the freedom to get creative and that could just, maybe, give Great Britain one or two openings of their own. However, Great Britain are going to be chasing the game and the defence will need to work extra hard to prevent Netherlands exploiting the gaps that will inevitably appear.

Second Half
Great Britain signal their intention with a drive right into Netherlands D and get a penalty corner. This has to be converted if Great Britain want to get back into this match. Drag flick is charged down and the second effort from Jackson is only just wide of the post. Umpire awarded another penalty corner and Netherlands have challenged this but the video referral cannot conclusively prove the decision was wrong so the penalty corner stands.

Netherlands are now getting into a debate with the umpire. This is bad for the image of hockey and players need to respect the decision of the officials. This is where yellow cards should be used.

Penalty corner taken but Netherlands players are so fast, Jackson just cannot get the shot off. Van Der Weerden takes a hard knock on the ankle and is being helped off the pitch. Great Britain have the ball back, drive into the D but just cannot work Stockmann. The shot goes wide.

Great Britain cannot convert their chances and this allows Netherlands to move the ball up the pitch. Tindall has a great chance for a goal but having drawn Stockmann he makes a poor pass to Daly instead of taking the shot. You can't score if you don't work the keeper and the last thing Great Britain needs is strikers getting shy about taking shots on goal.

Almost a great long ball in there but its picked off by a Netherlands stick and away they come with the ball. Only nine minutes gone in this half and the pace is frenetic. Another drive into the D by Netherlands, Fair covers his post, defenders fail to intercept and Bakker takes the pass and scores past a diving Fair.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 5

Another strike from the edge of the D by De Voogd, Fair couldn't stop it completely and De Nooijer pushes the ball into the back of the open goal.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 6

22 minutes left in this game and Great Britain are so intent on chasing the game they are leaving men unmarked at the back. Fair found himself two on one and Evers scores the seventh goal. This is a masterclass in international hockey.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 7

Every goalkeeper will be feeling for Fair at the moment. It will be so hard for him to pick himself up and stay positive for the rest of this game. In two days time he has to face Australia. Just as I say that, Netherlands break and from an acute angle, and Bakker threads the ball past Fair and that's another goal.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 8

Once again, Netherlands break and there are two unmarked men in the Great Britain 23m Fair does superbly well to force the player to turn away and the defence scramble back to get the ball away. This time the bounce just goes against Netherlands and the ball goes out for a long corner.

There is still some fight in Great Britain and they are doing their best down at Netherlands end of the pitch but once again no shot. The last four goals for Netherlands came in a six minute golden period.

Clarke gets the ball into the Netherlands 23m but it well tackled and the Netherlands are just passing the ball around with ease. Great Britain having to chase everything but they get the ball back.

Cross from Great Britain but its picked off by Jolie and another attack is snuffed out.

Great Britain come again but the tackling from Netherlands is positive and the ball is back at the Great Britain end of the pitch. Fair is on the edge of his D forcing the ball away but Netherlands work a penalty corner, their first of this half. Ball comes out to Weusthof and he has all the time in the world to pick his spot for the drag flick.

Great Britain 1 Netherlands 9

Cheers from the crowd as Great Britain finally win a penalty corner. Stockmann will be looking to keep this out but the stadium is full of people willing the ball in. Netherlands break early and the penalty corner is retaken but to no avail. Ball beats Stockmann but hits the post. Great Britain are have wretched luck here this evening.

We are seeing some determined Great Britain possession in the middle of the pitch now. The players faces show that they are still trying, even though they must realise the match has gone. This is about pride now and they will want to try and do something for this crowd who have been magnificent. No boos, no slow hand clapping, just positive support.

The ball is fired into the D and Moore gets a consolation goal for Great Britain. Flags wave around the stadium.

Great Britain 2 Netherlands 9

It looks like a late fightback from Great Britain. They are not giving up and are digging deep. The crowd are singing. Hofman is free and gets the ball but Fair stands up to him and he cannot find a shot and when he tries the pass, it comes off a Great Britain foot for a penalty corner.

Fair denies Weusthof with a great glove save and the ball is cleared by Great Britain. They may have lost this game but they are not going to concede double figures. Lewers gets a green card and there is 90 seconds left to play. Can Great Britain pull another one back. They have a free hit just outside the Netherlands D. Ball is fired across and can only have been millimetres away from the deflection.

Netherlands break with Bakker and Fair denies them again. The crowd are cheering everything Great Britain do. They really have been the 12th man tonight.

Final hooter goes.

This was a dominant a display as you will see at an international level. Great Britain were taken apart by the best in the world but when four goals were scored in a matter of just six minutes, Great Britain were blown away. The more goals Netherlands scored, the more Great Britain had to chase the game and that just exposed the defence.

There will be many who were unhappy with Great Britain reverting to a 5-3-2-1 approach who will say that the tactics and the side were wrong. That is rubbish. This team did the best it could but on the night were faced with a side that were imperious and would have beaten anyone else in this competition. It is worth remembering that Netherlands have not dropped a single point throughout this competition.

Netherlands will now be looking to beat Germany on Saturday in the gold medal game and on this performance, I cannot see Germany relishing the challenge. Great Britain will have to pick themselves up in order to face Australia for the bronze and there will be some significant pressure on them to come away with at least that.

Australia vs Germany, Olympics 2012 Men's Hockey Semi-Final

This first semi-final of the day sees a dominant Australia up against a misfiring Germany. this tournament has been anything but a breeze for both teams. They have both dropped points but both teams have big match experience so don't expect that to matter too much.

Australia had three wins and two draws in their group. The two draws came against Great Britain and Argentina and they could have lost both games. In the Great Britain game, Australia were 3-0 up and were stunned by a Great Britain fightback.

Germany also managed three wins but also had a 5-5 draw with New Zealand and lost 3-1 to group winners Netherlands. It was the nature of the 5-5 draw that caused some concern because Germany seemed unable to stop a side that just refused to be beaten.

Both of these sides will attack from the start and we can expect a lot of fireworks. Penalty corner specialists in both sides will be hoping to take their chances but this is where goalkeepers become heroes. Burgers and Weinhold are experience goalkeepers who, despite the 5 that New Zealand put past Weinhold, are both hard to beat.

Defences could hold a bigger key than attack. The German defence has looked vulnerable when under a lot of pressure and there is no side better than Australia at creating that sustained pressure. If there are cracks, this is where they will be.

In the midfield it should be a real tussle. Both sides will be looking to dominate possession in this part of the field and unlike other teams, they both have expert proponents of the aerial ball. This will mean that it could take less than a second for the game to switch from one end of the pitch to the other.

The forwards will be looking to get themselves into space to take those aerial balls. We can expect to see a lot of balls hit across the goal or just wide of the post for a diving forward to come in and try and deflect past the goalkeepers.

First Half
It's fast and furious right from the start. Both sides moving the ball from side to side and trying the long pass but the ball is just not running easily. The long angled pass to unmarked forwards is coming from Germany while Australia is trying to drive it down the centre and once in the 23m, move the ball out to the wings and hope for the cross.

Both sides are making a lot of quick changes with players doing short shifts as the heat in the Riverside stadium increases. As we get to the end of this game, the side that manages its substitutions the best will have an advantage although the fitness levels of these two sides is extremely high.

There are a lot of balls being fired towards forwards but the keepers are having relatively little to do. Those balls that do get into the D are going wide of the post at the moment with neither side really doing anything to create a goal scoring opportunity.

With 10 minutes gone, we've had no meaningful action on goal and no penalty corners but we have had 19 substitutions.

Australia get into the German 23m area but are forced away and when the ball is fired back in, it goes straight to a German stick. A long ball from Germany is deflected for a long corner but nothing comes from it.

There is a little bit of stalemate at the moment. Neither side is able to dominate, long passes are being wasted and the crowd are waiting for something to happen. Swann is the first player to take an injury and is having some treatment for a bang on the knee. Burgers clears the ball off the side from the top of his D. Good, safe goalkeeping.

Australia now drive down into the German area and the reverse stick shot from Knowles is over hit and the ball goes behind without troubling Weinhold. Germany get the ball away and Australia come again. Lesson here for Great Britain ladies from last night, when Australia drive into the 23m, players come to the ball and provide a route for the ball carrier. Failure to do that cost Great Britain last night.

A great drive into the D by Zeller brings the penalty corner as he goes down under the challenge from Govers. The Australians have gone for the video review as they feel Zeller was already going to ground before he got into the D. The decision is that the offence was outside the D and the penalty corner award is overturned.

Sharp blast by the umpire to warn players to stop pushing in the D. Germany restart the game and get a good deflection in the D which just fails to go to a German attacker. Australia fail to clear it cleanly and this time and there is no objection to the penalty corner.

Germany are 7 goals from 27 penalty corners so far this tournament and fail to convert this one. The flick is low and on Burgers foot. Australia charge down the other end of the field and Weinhold makes the first save from a fearsome strike from Turner but the rebound falls to Govers who makes no mistake, putting the ball through Weinhold's legs.

Australia 1 Germany 0

Another attack by Australia and the ball ends up in front of an open goal but Turner couldn't get to it. Zeller gives away the penalty corner and Australia immediately have an opportunity to extend their lead.

Govers drag flick is well saved off of the glove of Weinhold and Australia are get a shot from the rebound. Ball went safe off of Weinhold.

Penalty corner for Germany now and after a period of stalemate, this game has really come to life. Chances at both ends and Germany know that they must get the equaliser here. Australia are taking a lot of time to get ready for this penalty corner and the umpire has warned Australia.

The ball comes out to Furste who puts it low and to Burgers right. Lots of goals being scored into the bottom right corner here.

Australia 1 Germany 1

The first green card of the game goes against Muller and Australia force the ball into the Germany D and win the penalty corner. The penalty corners are coming thick and fast now.

Once again Weinhold is up to the task and clears the ball from his glove. The speed of rebound take the ball all the way out to the sideline.

Germany get the ball into the Australian half but it is wastefully pushed off the sideline.

Just five minutes to go in this half, can either side go in to the break with a lead?

We are back to the long wasted passes off the back line. This is poor decision making and poor hockey, just the sort of thing coaches try and stop players doing. Germany is making the best use of the ball as we approach the half time break but Australia clear the ball with two minutes to go.

Great 3D hockey skills from Deecke as he drives through the Australian defence but is stopped just before he can get the shot off in the D. Lucky escape for Australia there.

The half ends 1-1 with the match well balanced. Both sides have had chances and both have wasted real opportunities inside the D. There has been far too much use of the long ball which has led to possession being turned over for no gain. Australia have probably just edged this first half in terms of chances but they have also ridden their luck on more than one occasion in defence.

Both goalkeepers have made some excellent saves and kept their teams in the match but they have, at times, been flattered by poor finishing and even poorer decision making by opposition attackers.

Second Half
Germany throw the long ball down to the Australian 23m but the ball is easily taken by a defender and Australia drive down to the German end of the field. Germany pick up the ball and Korn gets off a shot from the edge of the D but it goes wide.

The ease with which some of these players throw the aerial ball is quite amazing. Many a club player, even at national level, will be envious.

Yet another German attack breaks down with a loose pass off the side of the pitch. They have it back again and drive into the D but are easily disposessed by Australia.

Australia get the goal but only after a goalmouth scramble. Turner shot saved, couldn't get the rebound and then he manages to pull it away from Weinhold who is on the floor and flick it into the goal.

Australia 2 Germany 1

Umpires stepping in to defuse some silly pushing and shoving from both sides. Australia are back on the attack but Germany win the ball and have a free hit outside the Australian D. Ball forced backwards by Australia and Germany get it back into the D and that's a snapshot. The ball was just edged over the top of the bar by an Australian defender.

Both sides are tackling hard and getting physical in the midfield and there is a real risk of some yellow cards if players do not calm down. The umpires won't stand for too much more of this silly behaviour which is detracting from the game.

Australian hit just outside the edge of the D. The shot comes in and is put behind by Weinhold. Haener picks up another verbal warning from an umpire for complaining too much.

What an absolutely outstanding goal for Germany. Ball was lifted forward, Deecke too the ball in the air, flicked it over Burgers and into the back of the net. Australia complain that the stick was above the shoulder and it has been chalked off by the video umpire. On the replay, the video umpire is right but Germany are incensed at the decision.

The Germany players are starting to boil now, mobbing the umpire and complaining. It is important that the umpires get control of the players before this gets out of control. But if Germany think shouting at these umpires will achieve anything, they are making a big mistake.

Australia push the ball long but it rolls off the sideline in the German 23m area. The Germans are really putting the squeeze on Australia now forcing them to just hit the ball away. Zeller has drawn a green card for continual backchat to the umpires who have now had enough.

The Germans really are throwing everything at the Australians now who just keep soaking up the pressure. Ball into the D, it falls to Witthaus and there's the equaliser into the bottom corner of the goal.

Australia 2 Germany 2

Germany again have Australia pinned back in their end of the pitch. Zeller drives into the D but Australia get it away and Dwyer drives it into the 23m. Free hit Australia but Germany get it clear and can now attack again.

The last 14 minutes are going to be tough. This is getting to be a game for hard men. Team fitness will now become an issue and I favour Australia over Germany in that respect.

Germany now making the best of their possession and Australia need to get hold of the ball if they are ging to relieve the pressure. Germany win a penalty corner from the video umpire and this is their chance to take the lead for the first time in this match.

The ball comes out and Zeller fakes the drag flick, shifts the ball just to the left onto the stick of Wess and it's in the back of the net. Weinhold only just missed the ball but that's all it takes.

Australia 2 Germany 3

Australia finally have the ball but only in the middle of the pitch. They need to drive it forward if they are to square the score. Ball snapped in from the side and it misses everyone. Germany have the ball back and are again pushing Australia back to their end of the pitch.

Australian move down the right to Dwyer and Australia have the free hit on the left of the German area. Ball in to the feet of an australian attacker but he can't get the shot away. Germany break quickly, catching Australia napping and Fuchs runs half the length of the pitch to dive and get the deflection of the ball, beating Burgers.

Australia 2 Germany 4

Seven minutes left and Australia know they are up against it. They drive into the German D and force two saves from Weinhold but cannot get hold of the rebound. Germany have the ball back and are now looking to just control this game and give Australia no opportunities.

Even when Australia do get the ball, they just can't get into the German D. This is all about possession hockey for the last four minutes. It's clear advantage Germany at the moment and Australia seem to lack any real response.

Australia have gone for the kicking back. This is a last desperate move but Germany are coming forward once more. Two minutes to play and its nail biting time for Australian fans. They win the long corner but play it straight to a German stick.

Australia have the ball back and it's fired into the D. Dwyer gets an edge on the ball but Weinhold gets the foot on it and Germany throw the ball forward. It's down in the Australian end of the pitch now and Germany go through to the gold medal match while Australia only have the bronze medal match to look forward to.

For long periods, the Australians just could not get the ball away from Germany. The Germans pressed and pressed to get the equaliser having gone 2-1 down 7 minutes into the half. After a goal was ruled off for a high stick, Germany calmed down and went to work.

The turning point was three goals in nine minutes for Germany. Australia really struggled to get the ball in the last ten minutes of this match and were comprehensively beaten at the end.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Argentina vs Great Britain, Olympics 2012 Hockey Semi-final

Argentina and Great Britain come into this match, both on good form. Argentina has come through a very tough group in first place but isn't really firing on all cylinders yet. The best ladies hockey player in the world, Luciana Aymer has yet to really play her best in this tournament but even when not at her best, she is still very dangerous.

For Great Britain, the talismanic Kate Walsh will definitely start despite her surgery a week ago. Crista Cullen, the outstanding penalty corner specialist at this tournament will need to be on her very best if she is to beat Laura del Colle in the Argentine goal.

The last time the majority of these players met, was the Champions Trophy 2011 in Argentina. On that day, Argentina beat England and the English players in this team will be looking to avenge that defeat, especially as they now have home advantage

If the first semi-final was tight and end-to-end stuff, this one will be even more so. Both sides will want to win this in normal time and avoid the lottery of golden goal extra time and the new format shoot out. The winners will be the team that can run for the whole 70 minutes and keep their composure under pressure. The two goalkeepers, Laura del Colle and Beth Storry will have a long hard night and neither of them will be looking forward to the thought of the shoot out at the end of a long evening.

First Half
Great Britain got the first attack in, driving the ball down the right hand side and deep into the Argentine 23m. After a few attempts to get the ball in to the D it finally went off the back line, allowing Argentina to relieve the pressure. Great Britain quickly win the ball back and put in another attack but once again it comes to nothing.

After being muscled off the  ball by the USA a few days ago, Argentina started the game with some very physical challenges and were warned by the umpire to calm down. All this with just two minutes of the match gone.

It didn't take long for Argentina to get their first chance at the Great Britain goal. A long ball, fired in that was easily swept away to the sideline. Argentina quickly took the sideline hit, drove into the D and picked up the first penalty corner. on replay, the ball seemed to be lifted but it would have been a hard call to disallow that and it was too early in the game for Great Britain to risk losing its referral to the video umpire

The ball was injected quickly, and Rodriguez Perez had just enough time to get the shot off, just evading the charging Cullen. The ball was low and to the left of Storry in the Great Britain goal and it's  1-0 to Argentina. This was just the start Argentina were looking for. From the restart, Great Britain looked to hit back and although they got the ball down to the Argentine D, they still couldn't do anything with it.

The sticks were beginning to really fly in now and Argentina picked up another warning from the umpires for loose stick play. The ball is back at the Argentine end of the pitch but Great Britain are still unable to get the shot away. Argentina bring the ball away and seem to have plenty of time to play it around the back.  Some really loose passes here from both sides and the game goes a little quiet.

A Rebecchi drive into the Great Britain D almost led to a shot on goal but she was dispossessed just before she could get the shot off. Great Britain come away with the ball and Danson looked for room to run but she is being closely marked by as many as three players at times. Great Britain drove into the 23m area and a push in the back on Danson should have brought a penalty corner.

After all that sustained pressure from Great Britain, Argentina finally got a free hit and a chance to bring the ball away. The ball is moved quickly down the Argentine left to a player who is completely unmarked but Walsh got across quickly to make the tackle but instead gives away a free hit just outside the D. Argentina quickly take the hit but Walsh, looking a little intimidating in her face protection, wins the ball back, fairly this time.

Great Britain move the ball from side to side around the back and then go for the long arial down the right side but the whole move goes nowhere. Argentina took the sideline hit quickly but it runs off the far end of the pitch. Danson gets another chance to drive the ball into the Argentine D and wins a sideline hit. Great Britain move the ball around the back until Walsh tried the long forward pass which goes harmlessly off the end of the pitch.

Cullen went up in support of the attack as Great Britain tried to pin Argentina into their own D. The heavy marking on Danson should be creating much more room for other players. Unfortunately, Great Britain aren't taking advantage of this. A mistake by Great Britain allowed Argentina to launch forward into the Great Britain 23m area. Good defending from Great Britain but the clearance went back to Argentina who win a free hit.

Composure will be the key to this game and at the moment, Argentina look the more composed when on the ball, both in attack and defence.

A spate of missed tackles by Great Britain left them perilously close to the umpires reaching for their green cards. Too many of the Great Britain clearances are now going straight to Argentine sticks. As a result, the ball keeps coming back and back. Great Britain are also slow on the ball, which has allowed Argentina to win the ball in key areas of the pitch.

Not only are Great Britain having a problem clearing the ball from their 23m but Richardson is getting very animated out there, shouting at her own team mates and needs to calm down and keep her head. Thomas came back to collect the ball, drove it forward to the Argentine 23m and then shot it into the D where it was deflected off the back line. Argentina are constantly getting everyone behind the ball to prevent any Great Britain shot and eventually they get a free hit and clear the ball.

Great Britain intercept and drive the ball back in again but they just cannot find a telling ball into the D and get anyone on it. Attack after attack from Great Britain ends in a free hit to Argentina. Great Britain are lucky not to have lost a player to a yellow card when a stick is lifted into the face of Habif. Argentina are quickly back on the attack first down the left, then the right and then back down the left. Finally they get some room on the Great Britain right but Walsh comes away with the ball.

With just over 6 minutes to go, Argentina came forward looking for a second goal but Aymar is denied by some great work from Storry. Although she is able to get the rebound, it goes harmlessly over the bar. Great Britain quickly get the ball to the Argentine end of the pitch and under extreme pressure, Danson manages to manufacture a shot from nothing, which just goes wide of the post.

Argentina's response was to get the ball forward through an arial ball but it goes nowhere and Great Britain turn it around and go back on that attack. The problem is that the ball once again goes to a player who tries to run through the entire Argentine defence giving away the ball in the processes.

Great Britain are now missing tackle after tackle and have allowed Rebecchi to take the ball to the back line and drive into the D. Storry comes to make the tackle but a fabulous bit of skill from Rebecchi moves the ball beyond Storry and then she just rolls it into the goal. 2-0 Argentina. The two recovering Great Britain defenders were just too slow to react and prevent the ball going over the line.

Great Britain players are arguing with umpire Roach about an offence which cannot be reviewed and if they are not careful, somebody is going to be sent off.

From the restart, Great Britain get the ball into the Argentine area but just can't create a scoring opportunity. Argentina bring the ball away and Great Britain just need to see out the last few seconds of this half and get into the changing room and reset their minds.

Despite the possession that Great Britain had in the first half, they were unable to turn it into any meaningful attack or shot on goal. As the half went on, play got more an more animated and composure went out of the window. If Great Britain are to get back into this match, they need to find a quick goal at the start of the second half and then contain Argentina.

Second Half

Great Britain started the second half in the same manner as the first half. Long ball into the Argentine 23m area but it rolls off the back line, allowing Argentina to get it clear. Great Britain intercepted the ball from the restart and moved it across the pitch to Danson who drove in to the D, winning a free hit.

The ball goes into the D and although Great Britain once again failed to get off a decent shot, they did win a penalty corner. Cullen steps up, the ball is injected, stopped and brave running from an Argentine defender forced the ball out of play at the sideline. Danson has taken the hit quickly but made a mess of it, allowing Argentina to take their time and get the ball away.

The relieving ball sails into the crowd and Great Britain have taken the free hit and driven themselves back into the Argentine 23m area. Thomas is once again isolated with the ball and this has happened all too often. Whenever Great Britain have had possession, the Argentine defence has isolated the player on the ball and nobody has made a post run to help them find a route out.

Thomas is winning free hit after free hit but she has nowhere to go, Eventually the ball goes over the back line and Argentina get a chance to put the ball in the Great Britain half. It was a poor clearance and Great Britain have once again driven the ball toward the Argentine D but there is nobody able to get a shot onto the goalkeeper.

The game has now settled into a pattern. Great Britain put Argentina under pressure in their half of the pitch, run out of options and Argentina hit the ball long and off the Great Britain back line. This forces Great Britain to turn around, collect the ball and start again. It might not be pretty hockey but it is effective and it is eating up the time.

Walsh is working very hard, feeding the ball forward to the midfield who are trying to get the ball into Danson or Richardsen but the final balls are just not coming off. Danson gets the ball again, drives through two Argentine players and wins another free hit just outside the D. The hit is taken, the ball fired in but it is easily cleared by the massed Argentine defence. Once again, a Great Britain player has the ball and finds themself surrounded by three Argentine defenders who win the free hit.

So far, this half has seen a huge improvement in effort by Great Britain but they just can't seem to get any reward for all their hard work.

Argentina finally have some respite and have driven the ball into the Great Britain 23m. Solid defending by Great Britain forces Argentina to bring the ball back out to the midfield and after a short exchange of tackles and some misjudged passes by both sides, Great Britain are once again on the attack, Danson has made her way into the Argentine D but the shot is weak, right at the goalkeeper and she takes her time and just kicks it clear to the sideline.

Argentina come away with the ball down their left but it has been put out for a long corner. After some good defending from Great Britain, they win a sideline hit and can once again drive down to the Argentine end of the pitch. Argentina are once again tackling aggressively and eventually win the ball back. Back chat from the Great Britain forwards sees the umpire move the free hit up 10 metres. Great Britain in danger of losing their composure again.

There are just 19 minutes left in this game and both teams have put in a huge amount of running so far and it will soon begin to tell on player fitness. Great Britain have another opportunity in the Argentine D but the attacker is too slow getting the shot off and the defender has time to just steal the ball off of their stick.

Argentina mount a rare attack in this half and it was Walsh, again, doing the hard work at the back to make the tackle and bring the ball forward. Argentina have lost a player to a green card and Great Britain need to take advantage of the power play. They can't. Argentina just stand there, calm, unruffled and refused to be pressured into a mistake.

This is where Argentina's recent experiences in major competitions is paying off. They know they have a comfortable lead and that it is up to Great Britain to do all the work. All they need to do is stand strong and not make any silly mistakes.

A real chance for Great Britain saw the ball fall to Richardsen. She has all the time in the world to get off a shot but snatches at it and top edges the ball. That's the best chance Great Britain has created and it has been wasted. With less than 15 minutes left on the clock, that could be a game changer.

If Great Britain are to get anything out of this game it has to come from Cullen, Danson and Richardson. At the back, Walsh is giving it everything she can while Storry has had nothing to do so far in this half.

Great Britain are now beginning to lose the battle for the 50/50 balls in the centre but the umpires intervene and Argentina have Aymar sent off on a green card. Another two minutes for Great Britain to try and create chances. Argentine defenders put in some fantastic tackles, forcing their opponents to once again go down a blind alley. Any Great Britain player on the ball is finding it increasingly hard to see their team mates.

Argentina bring the ball away and Aymar is now back on the pitch. With seven minutes to go, Argentina are down the Great Britain end of the pitch. Great Britain desperately need to get the ball downt the other end of the pitch and get shots on goal. They've had plenty of possession but not in the D where it counts.

Great Britain win another free hit outside the Argentine D, the ball is fired across and it's tipped into the net by who else but Danson. The score is 2-1 and there is still just enough time for Great Britain to salvage something here.

The goal has woken the crowd up and they are getting behind the home side. Argentina are trying to slow the game down and eventually get a warning off of the umpires about wasting time. Great Britain are mounting more desperate attacks on the Argentine goal but it just isn't happening. A quick break by Argentina and there is a threat to the Great Britain goal but Storry is out and down very quickly to snuff it out.

The hooter goes and Argentina have won this hard fought match 2-1. They were unquestionably the better side on the night although Great Britain have played themselves to a virtual standstill.

All over the pitch, there are Great Britain players on their knees and in tears. On another day, they might have made more of their chances but now they have to pick themselves up and get ready for the bronze medal match against New Zealand in two days time.

For Argentina. this was a competent performance and they will be looking forward to what promises to be a cracking match against Netherlands for the gold medal