Thursday, August 9, 2012

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.

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