Australia deserves every bit of it

Published : Mar 25, 2010 00:00 IST

Edward Ockenden is all set to score the first goal for Australia against Germany in the final.-RAJEEV BHATT
Edward Ockenden is all set to score the first goal for Australia against Germany in the final.-RAJEEV BHATT

Edward Ockenden is all set to score the first goal for Australia against Germany in the final.-RAJEEV BHATT

The Athens Olympics champion, Australia, looked to have sorted out the young German squad, as it recorded its third triumph over the team in the last three meetings. Kamesh Srinivasan reports.

It was a stunning start, and a fairytale finish for Australia. The team went down 2-3 to the European champion England on the opening day, but pulled itself together to finish ahead of its nemesis, Germany, 2-1 in the final.

It was Australia’s second triumph in the hockey World Cup. The team won in 1986, and then lost successive finals in the last two editions to Germany. So beating the World and Olympic champion Germany 2-1 in the final at the vibrant arena, the refurbished Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi, should have been quite satisfying for the Aussies.

The Australian coach Ric Charlesworth was sure that history would not weigh in on his strong team.

“This team is making its own history,” Charlesworth had said before the final. That was what Australia did. It was clinical execution.

The Athens Olympics champion, Australia, looked to have sorted out the young German team, as it recorded its third triumph over the team in the last three meetings, which included the final in the recent Champions Trophy.

It was indeed a super fit and fast team that exploded off the blocks by constantly firing shots at the opponent’s goals. The team slammed a record 12 goals against South Africa, and did not concede more than one goal to any team except two to India, after losing the first match to England. It was perhaps some consolation for the host, India, which had to settle for the eighth place.

It was an irony that India had failed to utilise the capability of coach Charlesworth when he genuinely tried to help the National team after it had failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. More disappointing was that the system did not subsequently provide adequate support to the Spanish coach Jose Brasa in his venture to mould the team.

India’s loss was Australia’s gain, as Charlesworth was able to tune the team into an explosive unit, capable of playing solid in the crucial phase of the tournament. The team showed excellence in defence, thanks possibly to the services of German coach Paul Lissek, even as it retained its attacking streak.

It was a superb performance from the much decorated Jamie Dwyer and his men, especially Luke Doerner, who top-scored in the tournament along with Taeke Taekema of Holland, with eight goals. The penalty corner specialist Doerner played a pivotal role, especially in the final. His carpet drive clinched the match-winner for Austrlia.

Glenn Turner was the hero in the semifinal, as he scored the clincher against the Netherlands. The team won 2-1.

Charlesworth, who became only the second person after Hans Jorritsma of Holland to be part of World Cup winning teams both as a player and a coach, said that Australia was capable of playing much better.

“I hope the team keeps improving and wins the Olympics,” he said.

Dwyer summed up Charlesworth’s efficacy by acknowledging the fact that the 57-year-old coach had “done a great job.” In his illustrious coaching stint, the multifaceted Charlesworth had guided the Australian women’s team to the gold in 1994 and 1998 World Cups.

“It is the players who do it on the field. My job is to help them realise their potential,” Charlesworth stressed.

German coach Markus Weise accepted that Australia was slightly better on the day than his young team. But he was confident that his team has a great future. Germany which was 0-2 down in its first match against Korea bounced back and levelled the scores. The German coach was happy that the team showed fortitude even though it was down by two goals.

The team did explode against England in the semifinals with a 4-1 triumph, after topping its pool with an undefeated record, the only team to do so. The squad was without some of its key players who had opted out of the championship to focus on their education.

“They had to decide between this and the Olympics,” Weise revealed.

The Dutch had to depend on a penalty stroke conversion by the evergreen Taeke Taekema against Australia in the semifinal. To be fair, the penalty corner exponent, Taekema, was not on the field when the team forced the first of its three penalty corners. On the second, the ball was not stopped, as the pitch tended to become bouncy when dry, and on the third occasion Taekema’s firm drag earned a ‘stroke’ that was decided after a long deliberation by the television umpire.

Holland showed its class by bouncing back from being 1-3 against England in the match for the bronze medal, to prevail 4-3.

“After the loss against Australia, it was important to fight back and show mental flexibility,” said the Dutch coach Michel van den Heuver, who had asked his players at the interval, “to stop thinking and start playing.”

While it was a fourth World Cup medal for Dutch skipper Teun de Nooijer, everyone was happy that the team could win a medal as a fitting farewell for goalkeeper Guus Vogels, who had announced his retirement.

“We are absolutely devastated with the defeat,” said the English captain Ben Hawes.

The English coach Jason Lee felt that the defeat should hurt and drive the team forward. He observed that injuries, particularly to Richard Mantell, had taken the sting out of his team.

Olympic silver medallist Spain finished fifth, thanks to a double strike by the towering Pol Amat, who scored the fastest goal of the tournament in 17 seconds. Korea, which made the semifinals of the previous two editions, could not digest its sixth position.

The team had played so well as to draw 2-2 with Germany and beat the Dutch 2-1, but blotted its record by losing 1-2 to New Zealand.

“You prepare for teams like Germany and Holland, not New Zealand,” conceded a dejected coach, Seok Kyo Shin.

India, to the jubilation of the entire nation, began with a 4-1 victory over Pakistan in the opener, but failed to get its act together thereafter against Australia (2-5), Spain (2-5), England (2-3) and South Africa (3-3).

The team did show fighting qualities against England and South Africa, but failed to finish smart, as it lost tamely to Argentina, 1-4, in the seventh place match. Conceding three goals in the space of five minutes after drawing parity at 1-1 — thanks to a penalty stroke conversion by Sandeep Singh — showed the team’s limitations.

Inability to convert the penalty corners, lack of finish, and the general indecisive approach showed that India did not belong to the big league.

Coach Brasa said that more training and matches against the top teams of the world would be the only way to improve the team which has limited resources in terms of talent pool.

With the sponsors Hero Honda and SAIL pumping in so much money and the crowds converging in thousands, supporting the host, India had missed a golden chance to show its mettle, though there was a marginal improvement to No. 8 from No. 10 in Monchengladbach in 2006.

The Indian players had lost focus in the build-up period when they went on strike demanding compensation for representing the country, and the coach did not get the technical support required to match the best in the business.

Four-time champion Pakistan played well in patches, and even managed to beat Spain, but eventually took the wooden spoon by finishing 12th and last. All the Pakistan players announced their retirements to express their feelings of disappointment.

While 199 goals were scored in 38 matches, with only one spilling into the tie-break, the game was slowed so often, with the teams pressing the ‘referral’ button and forcing the issue with the television umpire.

A classic case was when a super goal by India against South Africa had to be reverted as an earlier infringement was referred successfully, albeit very late!

The consensus, however, was that it was a good system, that needed a bit of tuning, as the appeals were mostly successful leading to correct decisions.

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