Saturday, August 11, 2012

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.

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