Friday, July 1, 2022

Olympics Hockey: Australia gold contenders as Argentina wilt

TOKYO — Australia men are already assured of the Olympic quarter-finals – only this time they look anything but the team which exited to Argentina at the same stage five years ago.

After three games, the Kookaburras have amassed 17 goals as they seek retribution for missing the Rio podium for the first time since 1988.

After a turnaround victory against hosts Japan, 5-3, a 7-1 victory against India was backed up with a 5-2 defeat of the current Olympic champions, who welcomed back Lucas Rossi after his one-match suspension.

Renowned for fast tournament play starts, it was Argentina who took the lead after Jose Leandro Tolini’s corner flick.

From then on, Australia tightened and let loose. Little wonder, Lachlan Sharp afterwards: “We’ve got the best penalty corner defence in the world so we’re happy with whatever they throw at us. If they’ve got the best flickers, we’ll run them down.”

After Blake Govers levelled, he notched another double as Australia summoned three goals in four minutes before the break to take control of the match and the Pool.

Their 24 circle penetrations to Argentina’s seven provided the tail at the Oi Stadium, Jeremy Hayward noticing a fifth before a late consolation.

“I think it’s just playing our own game for longer periods of time,” said Govers. “When we’re at our best we’re pretty confident so we just need to play longer minutes at our best.”

India 3 Spain 0

India recorded the perfect response to their 7-1 defeat at the hands of Australia, bouncing back in style to remain on-track for a quarter-final berth with six points.

India scored twice in the opening period with Simranjeet Singh scoring from open play before Rupinder Pal Singh guiding home a penalty corner to put his team firmly in control. The eight times Olympic gold medallists had to wait until the fourth quarter for their third goal, with Rupinder Pal Singh again on target from a penalty corner. 

Defeat keeps Spain outside of the top four places in the pool, something which they will need to rectify in their final two pool matches if they are to progress into the knock-out phase of the competition. 

“Yesterday was a bad day and today we bounced back”, said India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. “That’s most important because if you can forget the past match and bounce back to play a better game, that’s most important for a game like at the Olympic Games.”

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