Sunday, July 25, 2021

Olympic hockey: 10 great matches and finest moments at summer showpiece

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Rod Gilmour
The Hockey Paper's Editor. First covered international hockey at the 2010 Commonwealth Games - no better than a full house watching India play England - and has reported for the Daily Telegraph and other major newspapers ever since. Co-founded THP in 2016.

The Hockey Paper picks out 10 classic Olympic Games matches to remember

1992 men’s bronze: Pakistan prevail at the death
The Dutch were 2-0 up against Pakistan in the men’s bronze medal match. However, smarting from losing to Germany in the semi-finals and being seen somewhat as the ‘people’s favourite’ for the title, Pakistan succeeded with a superb late fightback. Or is that putting it mildly? Pakistan rallied to score four goals in the last 15 minutes – two each from Khalid Bashir and Shahbaz Jr – to cap a sensational fightback, winning 4-3 and showing themselves as a global power still after their poor 11th place at the 1986 Games.

Australia 5 Korea 5: Women’s Pool B match at Seoul 1988
A tight contest where neither team was able to free themselves from the other, ended up in a 10-goal thriller thanks to the exploits of Jacqueline Pereira and Kye-Sook Lim, who both scored hat-tricks for their nations. Five days later, the Hockeyroos bagged Olympic gold for the first time, this time beating the host nation 2-0 in Seoul and ushering in the start of Australian dominance.

1996 men’s final: Bovelander’s brilliant Games
Holland had lost in four previous semi-finals but finally pushed over the line to an Olympic final after seeing off Germany 3-1 in Atlanta. A first gold medal match a step too far? Spain looked like they could be on the way to a surprise title win thanks to a Victor Pujol goal before the great Floris Jan Bovelander struck in the 52nd minute, landed another from a penalty corner and Bram Lomans netted again from a PC. Pure corner power and YMCA at the final whistle for good measure.

1992 women’s final: Spain rule the home roost
Most had written off the Spanish before the tournament, despite being host nation and having the luxury of training on the Terrassa pitch for months prior to the Barcelona Games. Drawing against Germany and carving out a shock 1-0 win over Australia saw Spain then march to the final where Eli Maragall, niece of the Barcelona organising committee chief, netted three minutes in overtime against Germany. One of the great upsets.

South Africa 2 India 4: Tirkey turns the tide
An opening men’s pool match scalp over Argentina in the bag, South Africa pounced early against India as in-form Greg Nicol struck from a PC at Athens 2004. When Craig Fulton doubled the lead, it forced India into attack mode only to be stilted by a stern defence. Step forward Dhanraj Pillay and Dilip Tirkey – coupled with South Africa down to 10 men – the latter stepping up with a minute to go to hand India a 3-2 lead, a fourth added with 20 seconds left to complete a superb fightback.

GB 3 Germany 1, 1988 men’s Final: ‘Where were the Germans?’
The Great Britain team had not beaten the all-powerful Germans in 30 years ahead of the the 1988 Olympic men’s final. But after Sean Kerly’s semi-final heroics, Imran Sherwani’s double and Steve Batchelor’s strike in the final, BBC commentator Barry Davies uttered the infamous line: “Where were the Germans? But, frankly, who cares?” Victory for a team of amateurs, who had either quit their jobs or taken holiday to play in Seoul, propelled the team to celebratory heights on their return to British shores.

Australia 5 Korea 4: Hudson heads Hockeyroos
The Hockeyroos found themselves 4-1 down at half-time with a mountain to climb thanks to three goals in the last eight minutes before the break in this Pool match at Beijing 2008. But the three-time Olympic champs fought back in typically pugnacious style, led by captain Nikki Hudson, Shelly Liddelow’s second and Sarah Young’s equaliser. Jung Hee Kim then deflected past her Korean goalkeeper as Australia successfully completed a fine turnaround.

Argentina 5 Poland 5: Poles apart? Not this time
Back in 2000, it was reported that newcomers Poland had a player base of just 3,500 across both genders and a couple of astros. But with two domestic clubs totalling their squad, the Poles found rhythm and harmony down under as the minnows led Argentina 5-4 in a madcap clash, until Jorge Lombi equalised late on with his third PC strike. Then, in their final pool match and with India 90 seconds away from a semi-final clash with Pakistan, Poland’s Tomas Cichy levelled at 1-1 to send the long-time masters of hockey crashing out of the Sydney Olympics.

Holland 3 GB 3 (GB win shoot-out 0-2): Women’s Final, Rio 2016
The fearsome Dutch hadn’t lost in the Games since the 2004 women’s final, racking up 21 successive wins along the way. Twice GB levelled, their third coming in the final quarter as the match was taken to a shoot-out. It made for a dramatic conclusion after Holland had outplayed GB for large swathes in normal time. Maddie Hinch pulled off some remarkable saves before Hollie Webb (now Pearne-Webb) leaped for joy after finding the backboard. Cue hysteria, with the BBC 10 O’Clock News having been moved back in the UK.

Korea 3 Holland 3 (penalty shoot-out 4-5): Men’s Final, Sydney 2000
In a tournament where seven teams were in with a shout of the semi-finals, Korea advanced to the final to take on the world and defending champions in the golden finale. Picking their squad from a pool of only 200 players, but with a previous best finish of fifth at the 1996 Games, they contrived to score twice very late on to take the final into extra time. With nothing to separate them over 15 minutes, the Dutch then won 5-4 after Song Seung Tae, Korea’s brilliant forward and one of the tournament’s stand outs, pushed his third stroke wide. Hockey’s cruel side was Holland’s gain.

Germany 3 New Zealand 2: Men’s quarter-final, Rio 2016
Two goals down to the Black Sticks and heading out in the last eight, Germany captain Moritz Furste netted a double to level. Yet it was the incredible conclusion to this encounter which will live long in the memory. Awarded a PC with 50 seconds left, Furste flicked into the net to equalise.

Then, with 14 seconds left on the clock and the Kiwis on the German 23m line, a swift turnover saw a three-man move gallop up field. Florian Fuchs was the sole German in the D as a last-gasp slap into the circle was turned in with one second remaining. A truly, truly astonishing Olympic moment summing up the joy and utter dejection of the summer Games in one late, late swoop.

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