Australia's aggressive hockey
M M Somaya
too much for Holland
Europe's hockey supremacy was put to the test by other continents in each of the two
World Cup semi-finals in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Only Germany rode the challenge, eking out
the narrowest of wins -- 3-2 -- against Korea.
Later, defending champions the Netherlands crumbled
pathetically, 1-4, to a resurgent Australia. The contrast in
playing styles of continents was evident only in the
Netherlands versus Australia match, and quite naturally the spills
and thrills were reserved for this semi-final.
Ultimately, the open, aggressive hockey of Australia proved
too superior for the regimented approach of the Netherlands.
Australia opted for the 2-4-4 system, with Jeremy Hiskins
and Jamie Dwyer playing the roving strikers up front. It
was their enterprise that prised open the normally impregnable
Youngster Jamie Dwyer emphasised the importance of
all-round ability by getting everything right. A brace of
goals by him capped some splendid off-the-ball movement and
even more splendid skills while on the ball.
Australia's tactic to nullify Teun de Nooijer, the hub of
the Netherlands team, paid rich dividends and they were able
to wrest the initiative for long spells.
The ability of their own mid-fielders to quickly switch
into attack gave the strikers adequate support and options
during the rapier-like counter attacks.
Brent Livermore, in the centre of mid-field, played a
pivotal role as always and it was his strong presence and
composure that gave leadership to the Australians.
The goal keeping of Lachlan Dreher was of an extremely
high standard, particularly in defending penalty-corners. Never
in recent hockey history have we heard of the Netherlands
forcing as many as 13 penalty-corners and scoring from just
However, it was as much their inept conversions as it was
Dreher's goal keeping that kept them off the scoreboard for
most of the match.
Poor stopping of the inbound push and wayward efforts by
Lomans and Taekama punctuated the Netherlands display. From
the land of Litjens, Kruize, Bouvelander and Bowman, this
performance was unbelievable.
In contrast, Australia forced only one penalty-corner and
instead relied on field goals to get all four goals. The quick
overlap by their attacking mid-fielders gave them time and
space to execute shots with precision.
It appeared though on many occasions that the Netherlands
defenders were caught ball watching. Australia's third goal
by Mathew Smith was the peach of the lot.
Receiving a pass near the 25-yard line, Smith entered the
circle on the left and after steering clear of two challenges,
reverse scooped the ball into the net from a narrow angle.
This exquisite effort stood out among the other goals, where
thumping drives gave Guus Vogels in goal little chance.
In the earlier semi-final, Korea matched bookmakers'
favourite Germany in all respects, even playing the 3-3-3-1
formation just as well. It was a dour German defence and some
questionable umpiring that ultimately laid them low.
Amid some appalling calls, Irish umpire Raymond O'Connor
disallowed what appeared a clean penalty-corner conversion by
Korea for faulty stopping. It could have been the equaliser
and could have taken the game into extra-time.
Germany's two goals off normal field play typified the
trend these days. Two long hits finding superb deflections
into goal. Christoph Bechmann scoring from a right side cross
and Matthias Witthaus doing the same from a left side strike.
The goal of this match was, however, the second goal by
Korea. A quick bout of passing down the right eventually
resulted in Kim Kyung-Seok overlapping from right mid-field to
strike home. The quick recognition of the overlap holding the
key as much as the sharpness of the finish.
India, sponsored by Castrol, who had run Australia close in
their last pool match, registered a very impressive 3-0 win
against Spain in a match for minor rankings.
Coach C R Kumar, who has netted three wins in four matches after his elevation from assistant coach, would be eager to
end the tournament by finishing with a win and a ninth
M M Somaya was a member of the Indian hockey team at the Olympics of 1980, '84 and '88.
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