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Archive for July 31, 2021

July 31, 2021 — Looking back, looking forward

Pool play has concluded at Tokyo 2020, and we’ve got two knockout brackets which will lead to Olympic champions next week.

What have we learned from pool play? What is likely to happen next week? And who will be atop the medal stand when play finishes at Oi Stadium? Well, we’re going to try to answer some of those questions here.

THE RETURN OF INDIA: As befitting a nation of more than a billion people, India has made a grand return to the Olympics. And not just on the men’s side, but the women’s. The Eves, a side which denied the United States a place in these Olympics, suffered three consecutive defeats in pool play to start, but got two straight wins to finish fourth in its pool, but must play Australia in the quarterfinal round.

TEAM TURMOIL TO TEAM TERRIFIC: Speaking of Australia, the Hockeyroos did have a hard last couple of years. There were appeals from players after being dropped from the side, and resignations of personnel within Hockey Australia because of a bullying scandal. Under head coach Katrina Powell, this side has shown resilience, topping its pool while outscoring its opposition 15-1.

THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN: In 2018, Ireland had a magical run to the FIH World Cup final, winning silver and capturing the imagination of The Green Isle. But with many of the same players, Ireland crashed out of the games, finishing fifth in its pool. The Green Army weren’t blown out in any of their games; it just that the team were only able to score four goals the entire competition.

HARD TIMES FOR THE HOSTS: In this century, no host nation has won gold in field hockey. Japan, despite having some good results over the last two decades, had both their men’s and women’s teams fail to qualify with a combine record of one win and nine defeats in pool play.

HOPE TO HEARTACHE: South Africa was prevented from taking the field at the 2016 Olympics because the South African Olympic Committee kept on throwing up barriers for the team to claim its African berths at Rio. So, when these barriers were removed for Tokyo, there was a certain amount of optimism for the men’s and women’s program coming in. But South Africa’s teams combined for a win, a draw, and eight defeats at Tokyo.

THE QUARTERS: There are a couple of juicy fixtures to keep your eye on for the knockout phase of the tournament, which begins this weekend. At 8:30 EDT this evening, the Germany-Argentina men’s game should be a firecracker. That is followed by the 11 p.m. EDT game between Australia and The Netherlands. On the women’s side, the Monday morning (5:30 a.m. EDT) match between The Netherlands and New Zealand could be a trap game for the Oranje.

GAME TO WATCH: Sunday morning, Team GB plays India. This game wakes up the echoes when India was a British colony, sometimes under very brutal conditions. Interestingly, when Britain was occupying other countries, its military officers brought their athletic pursuits with them. And the colonists were able to learn their lessons well. India has been able to best Great Britain on both the hockey field and on the cricket pitch in the 20th Century after independence.

Though England won the inaugural men’s field hockey competition at the 1908 Olympics, it was India which earned its status as the paragons of the game in the 20th Century. The Men in Blue spun a 30-game winning streak in the Olympics while winning six straight gold medals in the sport, eight overall.