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There is no question that the game of hockey has changed and improved tremendously in the past two decades - especially in the following areas:
At the same time, there is a concern that the game has not improved as much as it should have, in some key areas such as:
Before we analyse the results of the 2011 Champions Trophy, let's look at a few statistics that emerged out of the tournament.
I. Goals Scored per Match - 5.17
II. Most Goals Conceded - South Korea (26)
III. Total Goals Scored - 124
IV. Total Field Goals Scored - 89
WHAT DOES NOT WORK WELL
Indoor style tackling in an outdoor hockey game does not work well. This stance forces the defenders to glue their heals on the turf, while diminishing their mobility. Instead, if they tackle while being on their toes, this allows them to react and cover in a dynamic game situation. More importantly, it propels the defensive situation into a quick offensive counter, leaving virtually very little time for the opponents to cover.
An example of the above was demonstrated in the Australia vs. Netherlands semi-final match in the Champions Trophy.
During the second half of the semi-final, the Dutch left winger received a ball near the opponent's left side 23 m line. He was challenged by the Australian defender Matthew Swann (2011 FIH Young Male Player of the Year). Matthew applied the poke-and-lunge tackle, while faking to commit, but not doing so. This enticed the Dutch forward to attempt to dodge Matthew, which was what Matthew any way.
This resulted in Matthew stealing the ball, who then passed it first time to his right-half while still on his toes. The right-half made a 40 m aerial pass to the right side, just before the 23 meters line. This tricked Taeke Taekema, the Dutch deep defender and penalty corner specialist to take the bait - miss-trapping the aerial ball.
Jamie Dwyer pounced on the loose ball like a fox, with ample time and space to exploit and enter the Dutch D. He made no mistake in scoring his team's 4th goal, thus taking the game even further out of the Dutch reach.
This goal also increased Jamie's tally of field goals to 7, giving him the honor of scoring the highest number of field goals in the Champions Trophy. At an awards ceremony during the Champioins Trophy tournament, Jamie was also announced as the FIH Male Player of the Year. A well deserved honour, indeed.
WHAT WORKS WELL
New Zealand vs. South Korea in 2011 Champions Trophy
What works well are goals that don't involve so much of brute force, as much as they involve grace, class, creativity and fine touches.
Take the example of the first field goal scored by New Zealand in their pool match against South Korea in the 2011 Champions Trophy. Please refer to the sequence of photographs above.
The play maker for this goal was Steen Edwards of New Zealand (nos. 31), who received a pass on the run from his left half and brought it to his right side with a soft one touch, leaving his Korean marker (captain Cha Bok) flat-footed. Steen ran with the ball at an optimum speed, scanned his passing options, and made a well connected pass to his teammate Shea Mcaleese (nos. 25).
While Steen was surveying the field for options, Shea took a double lead off the ball, near the opponents D, in order to receive the pass from Steen on his open stick. Shea deflected it softly to the optimum spot in the goal with a low upper body and a short back swing and follow through. The goal was scored at a lightning speed, yet so gently and softly that the Koreans did not know what hit them.
These are the type of goals which leave ever lasting memories. We need more goals like these to excite the fans.
WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED UPON
International hockey is one of the most recorded sports in the world. Every top national team has video analysts, whose job is to provide detailed information on every aspect of the opponent's game to the coaching staff. Following are some questions for introspection and reflection:
Analysing the various inputs streamed by the video analysts to optimize their team's performance is something that can be improved upon.
For a case study, let's analyse the Champions Trophy pool match between Australia and Pakistan, where Australia hammered 6 goals against Pakistan, 5 of which were field goals. A progressive analysis of the way the Australians scored their 6 goals is given below, with minimal change of tactics from the Pakistani side in preventing simple, recurring errors:
|Goal Nos. 1 (Field Goal)|
|Goal Nos. 2 (Field Goal)|
|Goal Nos. 3 (Penalty Corner)|
|Goal Nos. 4 (Field Goal)|
|Goal Nos. 5 (Field Goal)|
|Goal Nos. 6 (Field Goal)|
|Pakistan's Lone Goal|
When one is competing in a prestigious tournament like the Champions Trophy, the playing standard and decision making ability have to be of the highest calibre. There is zero margin for error. Teams like Australia, Netherlands and Germany will simply pounce on any rookie mistakes that their opponents make. One cannot afford to make school boy mistakes at this level.
Australia has won the last 4 Champions Trophy titles (2008, 09, 10, 11). Australia has won the 2010 World Cup. Australia has won the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Can the mighty Australians be conquered in the 2012 London Olympics?
London is a lucky city for Charlesworth the player - he was the captain of the Australian team that won its first ever World Cup (in 1986). Will London prove lucky to Charlesworth the coach? How about the home team Great Britain, which won the silver medal the one time the World Cup was held in London (1986). Only time will tell which team will win the London 2012 Olympic hockey gold.
Sincere thanks to Live FIH.tv for covering the Champions trophy - the action photographs in this article are courtesy of this site. If you have any questions about this article, please contact Shiv at firstname.lastname@example.org.