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.

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