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September 28, 2000
Shoot out the shoot-out: Walsh
Jaideep Singh in Sydney
The penalty shoot-out, says Australian coach and former captain Terry Walsh, is a crass way to mark the climax of any crux encounter.
Walsh, devastated after his team's loss to reigning champions Holland in the Olympic Games men's hockey semi-finals, said losing a semi-final on penalties is a catastrophic way to bow out, and suggested that the format be reviewed.
"It's tragic to see a team that's performed so well go out in this manner," Walsh said, after the 4-5 semi-final loss saw Australia's hopes of a first men's Olympic title go down the drain.
"It's not the best way to decide the outcome of any match and the rule on the tie-breaker needs a fresh appraisal.
"The best way would be to try a format we had in practice in Australia's national league for some years, in which players firom both teams are reduced gradually to come to a reasonable result."
The rule Walsh was talking about has been on trial Down Under and one player is taken off from each team after a specific time gap to open up the match and create space in the field for a goal to be scored. This approach doesn't bring the penalty shoot-out into the picture.
"This rule has been tried in our domestic competition and I feel this could be one way to go." said Walsh.
The Aussies fell apart in the semi-finals with no scope for recovery as Brent Livermore muffed the last of their five penalty flicks to ease Holland's passage into the final after coming back into the reckoning from the brink of ouster.
"There will be no individualization…not before or after this match," Walsh said, referring to Livermore's missed penalty stroke.
"It was team representative and not an individual taking the stroke.
"Brent was obviously devastated and you'd expect anyone to be in that position so the team tried to rally around him quickly," the coach said, explaining what made the Aussies surround Livermore immediately after Livermore went down on the turf in despair.
"That's a hard aspect of any player's development. It's a difficult thing to face, but it hardens you as a player."
Australia continued to live up to the tag of 'chokers' after yet again failing in their professed goal of winning the Olympic title. Since they beat India in the semi-finals of the 1968 Mexico Olympics, the Aussies have been among the frontrunners in world hockey but only to lose track within close proximity of every title.
Notwithstanding their formidable teams for the past three decades, the only title the Aussies still have to show for their efforts is winning the 1986 World Cup in Willesden (London), where they held forth against a resurgent England to take the top slot.
The Aussies remain the biggest enigma of modern hockey, failing to convert their potential into title triumphs. Between 1968 and 2000, they have lost the Olympic final thrice besides being the semi-finalists of every major event (Olympics and World Cups) since 1976.
"The character of this team is very strong," said Walsh. "Notwithstanding the result (of this match) there's a lot of pride for the team. I'm personally very proud of this group of players."
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