Saturday, May 18, 2024

Olympics Hockey: Australia men set up Belgium final in style

“Well, I think the hockey fans are in for a real treat, aren’t they?”

That was Kookaburras coach Colin Batch’s assertion after Australia outwitted and outclassed Germany to reach their first Olympic hockey final since 2004.

Germany were locked in Australia’s defensive zone throughout the second half but even with 20 circle penetrations to Australia’s 10, the European runners-up only had Lukas Windfeder’s goal in the first quarter.

Instead, Australia ramped up the pressure, repelled the German threat and stole a march into their fifth Olympic final.

Tim Brand, a contender for player of the tournament, gave Australia a 1-0 lead with his fifth in Tokyo, driving a bouncing ball high into the net after Flynn Ogilvie brought down a looping aerial from Blake Govers and smashed it Brand’s way on the half volley. Classic Kookaburra fare.

A penalty corner goal from Govers, his seventh, then gave Australia a 2-1 lead and, after absorbing a huge amount of pressure, with Germany replacing goalkeeper Alexander Stadler, Lachlan Sharp made it 3-1 with a final minute tap in.

Australia now meet Belgium – who beat India 5-2 – in Thursday’s final (11am UK) in a potentially explosive gold medal match.

“Both teams have fought their way through some difficult matches to get to the final, and it’s not easy these days, there’s a lot of good teams around,” said Batch. “They would’ve been pleased I think with their win against India, so I think it’ll be a great game and two very good teams.”

Tim Brand celebrates after scoring during their shoot-out win in last 8 PIC: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Playing his 200th match, Aran Zalewski said: “They came at us really hard, so I think the boys have a really strong defence and some really big moments from some of our players at the back. Great tackling, great intercepting.

“So I think we did really well to hold them out at the end – I don’t know if it was set plays or just them getting a lot of momentum and us having to break that down.”

For Germany, a bronze medal match with India awaits as they attempt to leave Tokyo with third place in successive Olympics.

“We need to be more clinical, more efficient,” said Germany coach Kais Al Saadi. “It’s not the time to analyse now, it’s time to be sad. OK, if you throw all your heart at it, in the game, then you have a good to fair chance that it might break. That’s what happened tonight, and we will put it back together from tomorrow.”

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