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Hockey round-up from the 2016 Rio Olympics: Argentina surprise many with their gold medal

Vishal Bhalla
ANALYST
777   //    22 Aug 2016, 10:00 IST
Argentina hockey team
Argentina won their first gold medal in hockey

Argentina were the surprise package of the tournament, holding the Netherlands to a 3-3 draw in their opening fixture, defeating Spain in the quarters and then humiliating Germany, the defending champions in the semis. They are capable of beating any team on their day and they did the same to Belgium, winning 4-2 in the grand finale.

Argentina's men’s hockey team earned its first Olympic hockey medal and that too a gold in Rio! This will certainly boost men's hockey, not just in Argentina but the whole South American subcontinent which was well known for its much-celebrated women's team.

As a spirited team, they showed how one can defeat higher ranked opponents with a good pressing game of hockey. Their penalty corner exploits have been match-winning. Gonzalo Peillat, the ace drag-flicker of Argentina was also the top scorer of the tournament with 11 goals to his name.

All round prowess of the Red Lions

Belgium, on the other hand, were the form team of the tournament and hence the team to beat. After all, they had advanced to the final by overturning an 80-year-old unbeaten record of the Netherlands against Belgium in any major tournament by winning the game 3-1 to enter their first ever Olympic finals.

They managed to score a massive 21 goals in their group stages and 29 overall including the knockout stages, the highest by any team in the tournament. Not only did they score many field goals but also they had almost everyone on the score sheet. This is heartening to see in modern hockey, where versatility is the key and more so in the age of penalty corners!

Germany wins bronze

In the first semi-final, Argentina humiliated Germany with a score of 5 goals to nil only to be pegged back with 2 goals in the last minutes to make the score 5-2. Ace drag-flicker Gonzalo Peillat scored off the first three penalty corners in the first 30 minutes itself, to make it 3-0 at half time! 

It was good to see Germany regaining their shape and composure to bounce back and win the bronze, against the Dutch who are currently the second best team in the world. They held their nerves to win the penalty shoot-out after the game had ended in a 1-1 draw, thereby defeating them for the second time having done it before in the group stages.

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It also marked the end of Moritz Fürste and Tobias Hauke's playing career, the German legends who has now 2 golds and 1 bronze in his kitty. Both have been perfect ambassadors of not just Germany but for the game of hockey on a whole! Another legend and great of hockey - Jamie Dwyer also bowed out of international hockey. Sadly his team could not give him the perfect farewell with a podium finish. He was the oldest player in the tournament at 38 years.

The curious case of Netherlands

Netherlands did play a good brand of hockey as they always have, only to be outdone by an in-form Belgian side. They really wanted the gold this time round and had been extremely secretive in their preparations leading up to the tournament.

They didn't participate in any other event in the whole of 2016. And not finishing on the podium will hurt them even more. They would perhaps sack their Argentine coach and go in with someone who can rejuvenate the winning mentality in the team, that has been missing off late with no major cup in their bag.

Resurgence of Spanish & ascendance of Irish hockey

For a team that was having doubts to even make it to this tournament and was the last one to confirm its participation, Spain really showed how much of an improved team they are now disregarding their no. 11 rank. They were leading their group in the initial matches. They shocked Australia with a narrow 1-0 victory and then managed to pull off a victory in the dying seconds of the match against Kiwis and in lost only to Belgium.

Moreover, in the absence of the 5-8 place classification places they finished 5th courtesy more points and a higher goal difference o comparison to all losing quarter-finalists.

The Irish team ranked 12th in the world, also gave a tough fight to all its opponents in Group B. They lost 3 of their matches with a close 1 goal margin with an identical score of 2-3 against India, Germany and Argentina. Both these teams would hence improve on their current ranking.

The Kiwis also fought close matches against the other group A opponents. They managed to also shock the in-form team Belgium in their final group match to make it to the quarterfinal at the expense of Britain.

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