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Greece's Olympics hockey hopes take a beating
Our Correspondent | February 19, 2004 19:37 IST
Last Updated: February 19, 2004 20:24 IST
Greece's hopes of winning a place in the Athens Olympics men's hockey tournament suffered a setback after they were thrashed 7-1 by Canada in the first match in the best-of-three play-off in Madrid on Wednesday.
Ranjeev Deol was the start of the big victory, scoring three goals.
On a cold, cloudy afternoon at the Madrid Club de Campo, it was Greece who drew first blood early in the match. Following a long hit, they forced a penalty-corner and Alexander Terzis scored from a drag flick past goalkeeper Mike Mahood.
Canada came back forcefully and restored parity within four minutes through Ranjeev Deol, who was put through by Ken Pereira.
Deol scored again in the 14th minute as Canada called the shots before going into the breather up 2-1.
In the second half, Canada outplayed the game's minnows and went on a scoring spree, with goals from Ravi Kahlon (41st minute- penalty corner), Mike Oliver (45th), Ranjeev Deol (47th) and Connor Grimes (58th, 68th).
The second match will be played on Thursday and the third, if needed, on February 21.
For the first time in Olympic hockey history the hosts are being made to pre-qualify. That is because the nation, which will host the 2004 quadrennial Games, has no lineage in the sport.
Greece, ranked 50th in the world list of 69 nations, could have qualified for the Games automatically had they made it among the last 12 of the European Nations Cup in 2003. They did not and are now forced to play the lowest-ranked team in the Olympic qualifiers, Canada.
If Greece wins this qualifying play-off, the number of qualifiers from the upcoming qualifying tournament, also in Madrid, from March 2 to 13, will be reduced from seven to six.
The only nations guaranteed a place at Athens in August are the most recent winners of their respective continental championships. They are Germany (European Nations Cup), Korea (Asian Games), Argentina (Pan-American Games), Australia (Oceania Cup) and Egypt (All Africa Games).
The March Olympic qualifier will see 12 teams vying for seven places, if Greece does not make it. They are defending Olympic champions The Netherlands, Great Britain, Spain, Japan, South Africa and Poland have been drawn in Pool A, with Pakistan, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Belgium and Canada in Pool B.
Canada benefited from Cuba's late withdrawal.