Field Hockey is one of the most entertaining disciplines in the sports’ grandest stage, the Summer Olympics. Introduced at the 1908 London Olympics, the men’s event has been a regular since then, with India having bagged the most gold medals.
At the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, 12 teams will fight it out for the top honours at the Oi Hockey Stadium from July 24 to August 6. While Japan automatically qualified as the hosts, the five continental champions from five confederations received an automatic berth.
Since Japan emerged as the 2018 Asian Games champions, a seventh berth was added in addition to the existing six Olympic qualification events. With just a few months left before the ball gets rolling, let's take a look at all the 12 teams and how they secured their Tokyo Olympics berth.
#1 Japan (Hosts)
Japan qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as the hosts and also as champions of the 2018 Asian Games. In the final, Japan were tied 6-6 with Malaysia at the end of regulation time. The Siegfried Aikman-coached side won 3-1 on penalties to take the trophy.
However, since Japan are the hosts and winners of the continental event, the Olympic qualification quota was added to the FIH Olympic Qualifiers and not to the runners-up of the tournament.
Defending champions Argentina made it to their 12th Summer Olympics when they defeated Canada 5-2 in the finals of the 2019 PAN American Games. The 2016 Rio Olympic champions were the hot favourites going into the tournament and lived up to the billing as they topped Pool A with an all-win record.
In the quarterfinals, Argentina dismantled hosts Peru 14-1 before routing USA 5-0 in the semifinals. Argentina will play India on April 11 and 12. The teams will also play four practice games as a part of their preparation for Tokyo Olympics.
#3 South Africa
South Africa netted as many as 87 goals in five games enroute to their Tokyo Olympics qualification. Touted as the favoutires in the 2019 Men's African Olympic Qualifier, the Tim Drummond-led side demolished everyone that came their way. A 9-0 drubbing of Zimbabwe and a 9-1 thrashing of Ghana were their two highest-scoring matches in the competition.
World Champions Belgium booked their ticket to Tokyo as winners of the 2019 EuroHockey Nations Championship held in Antwerp. The tournament served as a direct qualifier for Tokyo Olympics. It was also Belgium’s maiden European title, which they won beating Spain 5-0 in the summit clash.
Coming into the tournament after a World Cup triumph the previous year, Belgium were on the money from the word go. The Red Machines went into the knockouts unbeaten in the group stage. In the semifinals, Belgium won 4-2 over Germany before thrashing the Spanish Armada in the final.
World No.2 Australia made the Tokyo Olympics by topping the pool stage over New Zealand (only other team in the competition) in the 2019 Oceania Cup in Rockhampton. The Kangaroos started on a thumping note, winning the first game 4-0. New Zealand provided some resistance, drawing the second game 2-2, but Australia came back strongly in the final game, winning it 3-0 to seal their Tokyo berth.
The duel between Canada and Ireland was something to watch out for in the Olympic Qualifiers. After their 3-5 loss against Ireland in the first leg, the Canadians played some outstanding hockey to oust the Irishmen 3-1 in the second, forcing a penalty shootout.
Like the two legs, the penalty shootout was no short of excitement and full drama. Ireland were 3-1 up at one stage. James Wallace and Adam Froese converted the last two Canadian shots while David Carter denied the last two Irish shots to take the encounter to sudden death.
Gordon Johnston (CAN) and Eugene Magee (IRE) converted their respective shots before Froese put Canada ahead. But a brilliant save from Carte, denying John McKee, gave Canada their much-awaited ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.
Like the Netherlands, Germany too were unable to book their Tokyo Olympics berth through the 2019 EuroHockey Nations Championship. Up against lower-ranked Austria in the FIH Qualifiers, the Mats Grambusch-led Germany took the upper hand by winning the first leg 5-0.
With the Tokyo Olympics berth almost sealed, Germany once again showed why they are one of the best in the world, scoring another five in the second leg. Austria tried to come back into the match with three penalty corner conversions – all from the stick of Michael Korper. But it was too late by then as Germany kept their quest for a 12th Olympic medal alive.
#8 Great Britain
Alan Forsyth and Sam Ward played a crucial role in Great Britain’s qualification to the Tokyo Olympics. Out of the nine goals that Great Britain scored against Malaysia in two legs, Forsyth and Ward together accounted for seven.
With a 4-1 advantage from the first leg, Great Britain were well on course for yet another Olympic appearance. Forsyth put the icing on the cake with a brilliant hat-trick coupled with Ward’s two goals that sealed Great Britain 5-2 victory against Malaysia to round up a 9-3 aggregate win.
The Indians were always favorites to win against a lower-ranked Russia in the FIH Qualifiers. With a full house to cheer them at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, the Manpreet Singh-led India thrashed the Russians 4-2 in the first leg.
The eight-time Olympic champions came out with even more vigour in the second leg, demolishing the opposition 7-1 to book their Olympic ticket.
#9 The Netherlands
After a shock 3-4 loss to Spain in the 2019 EuroHockey Nations Championship, the Netherlands were determined to make the Tokyo Olympics cut in the FIH Qualifiers. Against one of the most decorated sides (Pakistan have won three Olympic gold medals), the Dutch put up a strong performance to draw 4-4 in the first game.
The Billy Baker-led Orange came out all guns blazing in the do-or-die second game to rout Pakistan 6-1 to win 10-5 on aggregate and book their ticket to Tokyo at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen. Mink van der Weerden was the star of the Dutch side, scoring four of the 10.
#11 New Zealand
The Black Sticks were optimistic despite their narrow 3-2 win in the first leg against South Korea. After failing to win the 2019 Oceania Cup against Australia, which served as direct qualification for Tokyo Olympics, the Blair Tarrant-led New Zealand were determined to make the cut.
A strike each from Stephen Jenness, Sam Lane and Russell Kane in the second leg helped the 1976 Olympic champions book their Tokyo Olympics berth at the Taranaki Hockey Club. It will be New Zealand’s 13th Olympic appearance.
Spain had a tough time putting France out of their way enroute to the Tokyo Olympics. The first leg ended in a 3-3 draw with the winners taking it all in the second leg. Gaspard Baumgarten gave France an early lead before Spain struck with two back-to-back goals in the second quarter.
France drew level through Francois Goyet in the 39th minute but a Xavi Lleonart stroke in the next minute ensured the Spanish Armada to book their Tokyo Olympics berth 6-5 on aggregate.