Saturday, July 21, 2012

In the Spotlight.... Germany 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 men's national team of Germany.

The Basics:
Germany is currently the #2 team in the world with 1988 points, 200 points behind the current World Champion from Australia. But the Germans have Olympic bragging rights over the Aussies as the reigning Olympic gold medallists after topping Spain 1-0 in Beijing’s Final. Germany has collected six Olympic medals, two Gold (2008, 1992), one Silver (1936) and three Bronze (2004, 1956, 1928). West Germany claimed one Gold (1972) and two Silver (1988, 1984) medals. On top of the Olympic glory, Germany was the World Champion in 2002 and 2006.

The Road to London:
Germany qualified for the London Olympics as the European champion. They won the EuroHockey Championship 2011 on home turf in Monchengladbach, defeating the Netherlands 4-2 in the Final. It was arguably the toughest continental championship to earn the direct qualification to the Games.
Players to Watch:
Midfielder Moritz Fürste plays a key role on the team. The 27-year-old returned from a knee injury in March and captained his club UHC Hamburg to its third Euro Hockey League title in just five years. Fürste is Olympic, World and European Champion.
With 356 caps, striker Matthias Witthaus holds the German record. It will be the fourth Olympics for the storied veteran. Defender Timo Wess made his comeback at the 2011 Champions Trophy in Auckland. The 30-year-old took a break after he captained Germany to the gold medal in Beijing. Although Wess is now back, Müller will be the team captain. 

Markus Weise has served as a coach in two Olympics, both with a golden result. In 2004, he led the German women to Olympic Gold before he claimed Gold with the men’s team in Beijing. The 49-year-old is the first coach to win an Olympic Gold medal with a men’s and a women’s hockey team. Weise moved over to the men’s program in November 2006. Born in Mannheim, he started playing hockey at TSV Mannheim. He now lives in Hamburg. 
Germany sends a very experienced team to London, including ten gold medallists from Beijing. The Germans have world-class players at all positions, including Max Weinhold in goal, the defenders Max Müller, Martin Häner, Philipp Zeller and Timo Wess, Benjamin Wess , Moritz Fürste, Tobias Hauke and Oliver Korn in midfield and Matthias Witthaus, Christopher Zeller, Florian Fuchs and Thilo Stralkowski in the attacking line. Coach Weise said: "The fact that we can fill several positions doubly, with almost equivalent players, says a lot about the high quality that we have in this squad.“ Germany plays a well-structured game with dangerous attacks, a strong defence and a strong fitness level.

The danger of the first penalty corner shot is a weakness. Flicker Christopher Zeller suffered several injuries recently. After his recovering from a foot injury he suffered a broken finger at the Test Event in May. It will be interesting to see if Zeller is ready for London. “We are actually not at full strength with our first shot. If your shot is not at 100 percent, this limits your options suffer because if the opponents do not fear the first shot, they can defend more easily”, Weise said. Leading up to the games, Germany will focus on its first penalty corner shot.
Crystal Ball:
As the defending gold medallists and #2 team in the world, Germany is clearly a favourite to win in London. In the past they have produced their best performance in key matches. Most recently, they went unbeaten at the 2011 European championship and won the London Test Event in May defeating top-ranked Australia twice. With the Netherlands, New Zealand, Korea, Belgium and India as their preliminary round opponents, it would be a surprise if Germany fails to grab a Semi Final spot.

Olympic hockey stats...

By J.K. Russell

Olympic field hockey in London this summer will create at least a bit of new history for itself: these are the first Summer Games that field hockey will be played on a blue pitch. Riverbank Arena, the temporary venue set in Olympic Park, will host equal numbers of men's and women's teams in 2012. For many years, however, field hockey at the Olympics was a decidedly unequal affair.

As with any subject, however, understanding comes easiest with a little background.

1908: Men's hockey is contested for the first time at the London Games; six teams competed and the medalists were all teams from Great Britain (Great Britain-England - gold, Ireland - silver, Scotland - bronze, Wales - bronze).

1920: After a 12-year hiatus (including the 1916 Olympics, which were disrupted by World War I), Great Britain took gold once again, with Denmark and host Belgium taking silver and bronze, respectively. Only four teams were involved in Antwerp, a drop of two from London in 1908.

1928: In 1924, hockey was left out of the Olympics for the last time. The 1928 Olympics were held in Amsterdam, and India (most of the great field hockey teams hail from nations that are or were a part of the British Empire) starts an impressive run of dominance by winning their first gold medal. Netherlands takes silver, and Germany was the third best of the nine participants.

1932: India wins the second of an unprecedented six straight gold medals in Los Angeles. Japan was the silver medal winner, and the United States made a rare field hockey podium appearance by winning bronze (mostly explained by the fact that there were only three teams competing; the USA. was trounced in both of its matches).

1936: India wins gold again, then Germany, with Netherlands claiming bronze. Sadly ironic, Berlin played host to the final Summer Olympics until 1948, as World War II caused the next two scheduled Olympiads to be cancelled. Eleven teams took part in the competition.

1948: War proves to be the only thing that can interrupt the dominance of the Indian squad, as they are victors once again. London's pitch plays host to 13 teams, a record high at the time. Great Britain was second on home soil, with Netherlands again third.

1952: Helsinki, Finland hosted 12 teams, as India was first, with Netherlands stepping up to claim silver, and Great Britain taking home bronze.

1956: The Olympic Games were jointly held in Melbourne and Stockholm in 1956 (hockey was played in Melbourne). This was the first time that the Games had taken place in the southern hemisphere; also the latest ever that they have been contested, as closing ceremonies were held on Dec. 8. The late season no deterrent, India was champion again, with Pakistan finishing second, and a Unified German team third. For the first time, the same number of teams received invitations for a second Olympics in a row, with 12 again composing the field.

1960: A field of 16 teams would contest hockey in Rome, as Pakistan ended the run of Indian dominance dating to 1928. India did claim silver, with Spain coming in third.

1964: Tokyo was the setting as India showed that it was still among the world's best by retaking the top spot on the podium. Pakistan took home silver, and Australia earned bronze. The field dropped slightly to 15 in 1964.

1968: The high altitude of Mexico City would wreak havoc on some Olympic events and records, maybe explaining why India finished "only" third. Pakistan claimed gold, and Australia won silver. Sixteen teams competed, the same number as the field four years later in 1972.

1972: The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) won gold in Munich, with Pakistan second and India repeating their bronze medal performance from four years earlier. These Olympics were marred by the vicious "Black September" terror group attacks.

1976: Montreal hosted 11 teams in the last Olympic hockey competition to exclude women. New Zealand exploded onto the scene with a gold-medal performance, Australia claimed silver, and Pakistan rounded out the medalists. India was notably absent from the podium for the first time in over 50 years.

1980: These games were heavily boycotted, which took some shine off of the inaugural women's Olympic hockey event. Late-entering Zimbabwe claimed the first women's gold, with Czechoslovakia earning silver, and USSR bronze. Moscow was also the last hurrah for the Indian men's hockey team, as they won gold for the last time (the switch from real grass which was slower to artificial surfaces in the 1970's marked the end of Indian dominance). Spain finished second, and USSR's men took bronze as well. Only 12 teams (six men's and six women's) competed.

1984: Los Angeles played host to 12 men's and six women's teams, with Pakistan, West Germany and Great Britain the top three on the men's side of the bracket. The women's gold was snared by Netherlands, with West Germany claiming silver, and the United States earning bronze.

1988: Seoul was the setting as Australia's women took gold, Republic of Korea silver, and Netherlands bronze. Great Britain won gold on the men's side, followed by West Germany and Netherlands. Brackets composed of 12 men's and eight women's teams would constitute the standard from 1988-96.

1992: The Olympics in Barcelona are free of boycotting countries for the first time in 20 years. A post-Berlin Wall Germany is unified, and takes men's gold and women's silver. Australia takes men's silver, and Pakistan bronze. Women's gold is won by host Spain, and Great Britain took home bronze.

1996: Another Olympics was marked by terror when a bomb exploded in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park area. Netherlands topped the men's podium, with Spain and Australia rounding out the top three. On the women's side, the order of finish was: Australia, Republic of (South) Korea, and Netherlands.

2000: Sydney provided a chance for Australia to showcase its field hockey teams at home. The women took gold and the men bronze, with Argentina scoring women's silver, followed by Netherlands. Netherlands brought home men's gold, and Republic of Korea garnered silver. For 2000-04, the field included 12 men's and 10 women's teams.

2004: The Olympic Games returned to Athens, site of the ancient Olympics. Men's hockey was won by Australia, silver was taken by Netherlands, and Germany rounded out the top spots. Women's gold was earned by Germany, with Netherlands and Argentina following.

2008: For the first time, the men's and women's fields were equal. Twelve teams competed on each side, the same format for London 2012. Beijing witnessed Germany taking gold on the men's side, followed by Spain and Australia. Netherlands, China and Argentina were the top three in the women's bracket.

A life-long sports fan, player, coach and official, the author became hooked on the Olympic competition and spectacle during the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He has looked forward to the games each Olympiad since, with London 2012 no exception.

Top facts of London Olympics hockey

Pink-and-blue turf: The Riverbank Arena will give a special identity to the London Games. And of course, there will be the yellow ball for the spectators to spot from a distance. Aerial views of hockey matches this year will be a treat to watch.
Treble in waiting for two teams: The Kookaburras (Australian men's team) and Las Leonas (Argentine women's team) are coming to the Olympics with two current crowns, namely, the World Cup and Champions Trophy. Both teams, considered top favourites in their respective disciplines, have a great chance to complete a rare triple.

Olympic hockey back at home: Hockey was first introduced in the Olympics way back in 1908. Only a few teams, most of which were from the United Kingdom apart from Germany and France, had participated at the Games. The sport has covered a long journey since then. The Big Dribble, a hockey roadshow which was arranged a few months ago to get the people into an Olympic spirit, was a huge success. Every ticket has been sold and the Riverbank Arena is looking forward to an electrifying atmosphere during the Games.

London adds that extra edge: The facts that one of the hockey powerhouses is organising the Games this time and the hockey stadium is located close to the main press centre will ensure that the sport will catch quite a few headlines. Some prominent faces among the spectators including those from the Royal family will make it all the more special.

New qualifier after the Games: London will be the last Olympics with qualifying tournaments preceding it. The men's qualification tournament held at Kakamiaghara in Japan in May, which was won by South Africa, was the last such tournament. The FIH World League, which would be held after the London Games, will serve as the qualifying tournament for both major events like the Olympics and World Cup hereafter.

Taking the hard route: South Africa, despite qualifying for both the men's and women's sections in the Games directly after winning the Africa Cup, decided that it was not enough saying the level of African hockey was not up to the mark. Both the teams were asked to take part in the qualifying rounds and they took up the challenge and qualified for the Olympics. While the South African men won in Japan, the women made it in India. Both defeated the home teams in the finals.

First time in the Games: The Belgian women's team (Belgian Panthers) will make its debut at the Olympics this year. They stunned top teams like Ireland and Spain at the Antwerp qualifying competition to earn the prized berth. They will be lowest-ranked (16) team at the London Games.

Weighty opponents: The US women's team, ranked 10th in the world, earned their Olympic berth after defeating one of the top favourites Argentina in the Pan American Games. The US had won a bronze in the 1984 Games in quite a bizarre way and finished eighth in the 2008 Games. London will give the sport a fresh boost in the US. In the men's section, India will be a team which will look to prove a point or two after they had failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, quite unthinkable by the standard of hockey they had once displayed at the top level.

Nations with two teams: Australia, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Belgium, Korea, New Zealand and the hosts, Great Britain, will be represented by both their men's and women's team. This year. India, Japan, China, Pakistan, US and Spain have one teams each.

Last Olympics: London Olympics could be the final Olympics for several stars. Luciana Aymar, Jamie Dwyer, Teun de Nooijer, Fu Baorong, Kate Walsh, Sohail Abbas, Ignace Tirkey are to name some of the few.

Family connection: Jill Boon and Tom Boon will represent the Belgium women's and men's hockey teams at the London Games. This is the only brother-sister duo taking part at this year's hockey tournament. Another player with a glorious family connection will be Germany's Natascha Keller. The 34-year-old star player's grandfather Erwin Keller had won the silver in the 1936 Games while her father Carsten Keller had won gold at the 1972 Munich Games. Natascha's elder brother Andreas won silver at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Games before grabbing the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Her younger brother Florian won gold at the Beijing Games in 2008.

OneIndia News

(Note: There are several other family connections at the games. To mention a few the Harrison sisters Charlotte and Samantha will play for New Zealand, The Reinprecht sisters Julia and Katie will represent USA and a quarter of the Argentinian men's team is made up of the Vila family with brothers and cousins. The Boon's are the only brother/sister act)

Pakistan plan in quiet Cannock

KARACHI: Time away from the hustle bustle of London has proven beneficial for Pakistan hockey team’s prospects at the Olympics, coach Khawaja Junaid has claimed.
    Pakistan are currently based in Cannock, a little-known town in the West Midlands region of England, and Junaid believes its relative isolation from activity surrounding the London Games has given his players a chance to focus on their game.
    “We couldn’t have asked for a better venue for our final pre-Olympic camp,” Junaid, told The News from Cannock.
    “It’s a small town with great training and playing facilities and the boys are working really, really hard away from the hustle and bustle of city life,” added Junaid, a former Olympian.
    While most participating nations headed directly to the Olympic Village after arriving in London, Pakistan headed straight for Cannock, opting to train and play several warm-up games over there.
    “We are having two training sessions daily,” said Junaid.
    “Our primary focus is on hockey tactics and physical fitness and I must say that everything is going perfectly smoothly as the boys get ready for London 2012.”
    Captained by ace drag-flicker Sohail Abbas, Pakistan will begin the Games largely as underdogs much behind fellow Pool A contestants Australia, Great Britain and Spain.
     But according to their coach, Abbas’ men have a single-minded focus on their biggest challenge this year.
    “The good thing is that the team’s morale is high and the boys are training confidently for the Olympics,” he said.
    “They are doing extensive training aimed at enhancing speed, strength and endurance. All of them are itching to take the field in London and are ready to give their best in the Olympics. I’m sure they’ll give a forceful show there.”
    Pakistan arrive in London on July 22 and will subsequently play a couple of warm-up matches.
    They will take on Spain on July 30 on the newly-laid pitch at the Riverbank Arena at the Olympic Park.


Spain beat India 2-1 in tri-nation

SANTANDER: India lost 1-2 to host Spain in the final league match of the Tri-Nation invitational hockey tournament, the final warm-up event ahead of the Olympic Games.
     India started well and thwarted the home team several times in the first half during the match held here late Wednesday.
    India goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh pulled off a good save, sweeping the ball off the goal-line after having initially parried a David Alegre hit.
    After being locked 0-0 at half time, Spain took advantage of Sardar Singh's injury - he was off the field for nearly 20 minutes - and gained the lead in the 42nd minute through a penalty corner converted by David Alegre.
    Miquel Delas scored another penalty corner goal for Spain in the 61st minute. India reduced the margin in the 64th minute with the penalty corner converted by V.R. Raghunath.
    Great Britain won the tournament with two victories while Spain finished second. The Indian team will leave Spain Friday for the Olympic Games in London.

The Times of India

YNS throw in towel, again...

LAST season Yayasan Negri Sembilan (YNS) made a return  to the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) after a 15-year hiatus,  but they have disappeared from the radar again.
     YNS, the former double champions, will not compete in the  MHL which starts on Sept 1 as it is too costly, and they do not  have local talent to form a team.
    “Yes, YNS will not be fielding a side in the MHL as not only  is the league too short (about 40 days), but also the cost is too  high,” said Negri Sembilan HA secretary P, Tamilselvan.
    Tamilselvan was not willing to reveal the amount YNS  spent last season, but a rough estimate should be around  RM500,000 as they hired 11 foreign players in their come back bid.
    “The other reason is that the state does not have quality  senior players to form a decent side for the Premier Division  or the Division One of the MHL.
    “The standard of play, especially in the Premier Division, is  just too high as we got mauled even with foreign help last  season,” said Tamilselvan.
     Tamilselvan was the assistant team manager for YNS last  season, and they started off well by beating Maybank 4-1, but  then lost 2-1 to UniKL and 6-3 to Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club  (KLHC) and their downhill slide continued and they ended  sixth on the League standings.
    In the two-leg knock-out TNB Cup quarter-finals, YNS  were hammered 5-1 and 4-1 by Tenaga Nasional.
     “We do have three teams in the Junior Hockey League  (Datuk Taha, Tengku Besar Secondary School and NSHA) but  they boys are too young to be exposed in the MHL and also,  most of them will all be involved in examinations during the  MHL period this season,” said Tamilselvan.
     YNS were the double champions in 1996, and have seen  India’s best Pargat Singh, Jude Felix and N. Mukesh Kumar  donning their colours at their height.
     This year, the Premier Division is expected to be a six team  affair with KL Hockey Club, Sapura, UniKL, Maybank, Tena ga Nasional and possibly Nur Insafi making up the numbers.