Thursday, June 21, 2012

In the Spotlight.... German women

In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. Between now and the Olympic opening ceremony a new team will be featured every 2-3 days. Today we take a closer look at the German women's national team.
The Basics:
Germany are currently ranked third in the world, despite the fact that they have been struggling to finish in the top three in the last few years, finishing fourth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the 2010 FIH World Cup in Rosario as well as the FIH Champions Trophy tournaments in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Their last title came in 2007 when they won the European Championship in Manchester. Their biggest success is the Olympic gold medal they won in Athens 2004.

The Road to London:
Germany qualified for the Olympics as runners-up of the 2011 European Championship held in Mönchengladbach. They defeated Spain 2-1 in the Semifinal to celebrate their London ticket in front of a home crowd at the HockeyPark. Germany lost the Final 0-3 to the Olympic Champions from the Netherlands.
Players to Watch:
Even though she is the oldest player in the squad, 34-year-old Natascha Keller is still the key player in the German team. Keller has played more than 400 (indoor and outdoor) matches for Germany to become the first ever woman to achieve such a feat. The striker from Berlin has scored 203 goals so far. “Taschi” became the fourth member of the Keller dynasty to win a hockey medal in Olympic competition when Germany took the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Keller’s grandfather Erwin won silver in 1936 in Berlin, her father Carsten won gold at Munich in 1972, her older brother Andreas claimed silver in both Los Angeles in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 before winning gold in Barcelona in 1992. Keller’s younger brother Florian won gold in Beijing in 2008. 32-year-old Fanny Rinne is another key player worth watching. Keller and Rinne have announced their retirement after the London Games which will be Keller’s fifth and Rinne’s fourth Olympic appearance.

45-year-old Michael Behrmann has been the head coach of the German women since 2006 when Markus Weise moved over to the men’s program. Before Behrmann was in charge of the U21 women's team. Behrmann was born in Hamburg but his family soon moved to Munich where he started playing hockey, and finished his diploma in Physical Education at TU Munich. In 2000 he moved back to Hamburg. His only title came in 2007 when he won the European Championship in Manchester, his debut year as the senior women’s head coach.
The strength of the German team is that they stick together as a team. Their team is a mixture out of the three remaining 2004 Gold Medallists Natascha Keller, Fanny Rinne, and Mandy Haase, experienced international players such as Christina Schütze, Janne Müller-Wieland, Maike Stöckel, Julia Müller and Nina Hasselmann as well as young talented players like Anke Brockmann, Celine Wilde, Lisa Hahn, Marie Mävers or Kristina Hillmann. Yvonne Frank is an established goalkeeper. The two forwards Eileen Hoffmann and Janine Beermann as well as defender Julia Karwatzky surprisingly didn't make the final cut.

Germany miss a world-class flicker at penalty corners. They generally play a number of variations because the first shot on goal is not their strongest weapon. However, coach Behrmann thinks that Germany are able to surprise with their diversity: “Keller, Rinne or Müller can take the corner. We have also practised many different variations which makes it difficult for opponents to anticipate what we do.” When playing the top teams, Germany often have a slow start, conceding early goals which makes the match an uphill battle.
Crystal Ball:
Germany have been working hard to perform well at the London Olympics, and are on a fitness level they have never reached before. The team's first goal clearly is to reach the Semifinals, and once there, the German ladies will give everything not to finish fourth again. “We know that we attack from an underdog position”, coach Behrmann says.

In the Spotlight.... Spain Men

In the Spotlight is a series that will profile each of the 24 participating teams at the London Olympic Games. It will provide a glimpse of what to expect as each squad begins its London quest. Between now and the Olympic opening ceremony a new team will be featured every 2-3 days. Today, we feature the Spanish men's national team.
The Basics:
Spain’s results took a dip after the 2008 departure of Dutch maestro Maurits Hendriks who during his tenure led the team to an Olympic silver medal and World Cup bronze, as well as 4 Champions Trophy podium finishes including the team’s first ever title. In the post-Hendriks era, Spain have since finished 5th in the World Cup and 2 Champions Trophies, and hit bottom finishing 6th at the 2011 European continental championships – their worst finish within the continent since 1995. A mere 4 months later however, a virtually identical group of players finished second in last December’s Champions Trophy, their first medal-winning finish in a world level event since the 2008 Olympics. The big question will be whether this silver medal is a fluke or heralds a resurgence of Spanish hockey.

The Road to London:
Spain emerged as the lucky loser in the qualification process for London 2012: having missed out on direct qualification with a dismal 6th place finish in Europe’s 2011 continental tournament, they were the highest ranked team in the world not yet qualified when the South African Olympic Committee decided to forego the ticket their men’s team had won in the continental qualifier and send them into the FIH qualification process instead. The open ticket fell to Spain, greatly relieved to be spared a trip to a Qualifier with its dose of uncertainty and extra expenses.
Players to Watch:
Team captain Santi Freixa is not only one of the world’s top players for his stick skills and powerful game, but is also the epitome of leadership with a limitless passion for the game and unwavering faith in the possibility of success. Known for being highly emotional, Freixa leaves it all out on the field, and has the charisma to pull the rest of his team with him, making the Spanish men another one of the teams you should never celebrate a win against until they’re on the bus home. Joining Freixa in the squad’s prime forward line are temperamental and fierce Edi Tubau and lightning fast Pol Amat, who at 34 years old still simply outruns the vast majority of his opponents.

Dani Martin has been the head coach for the Spanish men for close to 4 years now, having taken on the difficult task of following in the footsteps of the successful Dutchman Maurits Hendriks after the Beijing Olympics. Under Hendriks, Martin served as an assistant for years while also coaching one of Spain’s top clubs, Atlètic Terrassa during that time – a club that brought forward some of Spain’s biggest stars of today, including Santi Freixa, Roc Oliva and Sergi Enrique. 
Spain plays a forward-oriented, fast-paced game, geared towards their world class strikers, but can also rely on a strong and experienced defense around Ramón Alegre, Sergi Enrique and goalkeeper Quico Cortes. With a less organized, more creative brand of hockey than some of their counterparts, the Spaniards are more difficult to predict, and have been known to score impossible goals.

Despite being able to hold their own against the world’s best sides, the Spaniards are prone to a certain inconsistency in their results, as evidenced for example in the 2010 World Cup, where the rogue group stage defeat at the hands of ultimately last placed Pakistan cost them a place in the semifinals and saw them finish in 5th place. Also, while Spain has some good penalty corner flickers, they lack the absolute specialist that several of their opponents have.
Crystal Ball:
Spain is a strong contender for the semi-finals, but it won’t be an easy feat, as Dani Martin recognized in a recent interview: “Australia is one of the most powerful in the world, and a clear rival to get to the semis.  Against Great Britain, the matches are always very open, and I am certain that our encounter will be very intense, but we also have the experience like from the World Cup which reminds us that all teams can take points off us. We are at the Games, and you have to work hard to get into the semis.” The stakes are high for Spain, one of the few countries with only one team in the Games, as after their women’s failure to qualify, funding and resources for the next few years may well depend heavily on their final ranking.

Australia win against early start

SYDNEY — The Australian men's field hockey team has won an appeal after the world's number one side was handed three early morning starts in their group matches at the London Olympics.
   Kookaburras coach Ric Charlesworth was furious when the draw gave his team three 8:30am games, which he said would require players to wake up at 5:00am in a major disruption to their daily tournament routine.
   At the same time, main rivals Germany avoided the early timeslot altogether in the opposite group.
   Hockey Australia fired in an official protest and the Federation of International Hockey said Wednesday it has re-scheduled Australia v Pakistan on August 7 from 8:30am to 10:45am.
   South Korea against the Netherlands will be switched to the earlier start.
   "We always expected early games, but not three, and I am pleased it has been rectified," said Charlesworth.
    Hockey Australia chief executive Mark Anderson said it was a matter the organisation, its coaches and players felt "very strongly about".
    "We are pleased that our position has been considered and that an appropriate adjustment has been made," he said.
    Australia have dominated international men's field hockey since Charlesworth took charge of the national team in 2009 and are strongly fancied for the gold medal in London.

Google News

Revington's the choice

CHARTING FORTUNES: South African to be assisted by Selvaraj
SOUTH African Paul Revington and former Malaysian international Arul Selvaraj have been given the task of reviving hockey in the country.
    The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) yesterday held meetings with both the coaches, who are presently in Kuala Lumpur, but the positive outcome is being kept under wraps as MHC president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah wants to make the official announcement in a few days' time.
    Revington and his assistant Arul first teamed up to coach South Africa, and later joined Ireland in 2008 with the target of taking the Irish into the London Olympics.
   However, Ireland lost to South Korea in the Dublin Olympic Qualifier and Revington threw in the towel. He will now helm Malaysia's senior squad.
   An MHC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Our president has met Revington and is happy with the coach's determination and commitment. He (Revington) will chart Malaysia's senior future starting with the Champions Challenge I (in Argentina in November) and then the World Cup Qualifier next year."
    Arul, a former national player, has had stints under German Paul Lissek but then left for South Africa, and then Ireland and is now back in Malaysia with his long-time mentor Revington.
    With South Africa, Revington coached for three years and the South Africans moved up to 10th from 14th in the world rankings, and have now qualified for the London Olympics. South Africa, under Revington, also played in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup.
    As for former national coach Tai Beng Hai, he has been appointed Coaching Director to oversee junior development until 2021.
    "I can't make any comments over the latest developments because I have yet to receive any appointment letter from the MHC. I will wait for the paperwork before commenting," said Beng Hai.
    Beng Hai's resume includes the Invercargill World Cup Qualifier silver as well as the Asian Games silver, but he failed to take Malaysia into the Olympics or the World Cup.
    Arul, when met in Dublin during the Olympic Qualifier, had said: "I have been working in Ireland for the last five years, and if possible, I would like to handle the Malaysian team once more."
    In the past, the Malaysian seniors have been coached by Australian Terry Walsh, Germans Lissek and Volker Knapp and now have a South African.