South Africa has found the going tough in the hockey competition at the Olympic Games, with both their men and women’s teams losing their opening matches.
The men suffered a comprehensive 6-0 defeat against world champions Australia on Monday, while the women lost 7-1 to Argentina on Sunday and 4-1 to New Zealand on Tuesday to go bottom of the log in Pool B.
In the men’s competition, Australia and the hosts Great Britain went to the top of Pool A, while South Korea and the Netherlands recorded victories to go to the top of Pool B.
In the women’s competition, Great Britain, China and the Netherlands recorded victories in Pool A, while the early pace setters in Pool B are Argentina, Germany and New Zealand.
In the Men’s Pool A, the world champions Australia underlined their favourites tag with a resounding 6-0 victory against South Africa, after leading 2-0 at the break. Australian captain Jamie Dwyer scored a hattrick as Australia maintained their recent dominance over South Africa.
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing they beat South Africa 10-0 and at the 2010 Hockey World Cup in New Delhi two years later, they won 12-0.
South Africa tried hard to penetrate Australia’s defence but seldom troubled the experienced Aussies’ defence which was excellently marshalled by Glenn Turner.
Australia on the other hand bided their time and were clinical in their finishing, as they often caught South Africa off guard with quick counterattacks.
The match marked Andrew Cronje’s 100th appearance for South Africa, but it was one that he would rather forget.
Dwyer said it was a good start but that they still needed to improve.
“We knew that South Africa would take a long time to wear down but we had to be relentless for the full 70 minutes and keep the pressure on their backs and hopefully they got tired. It opened up a little bit in the second half and we capitalised with a few goals. Overall it was a pretty good result but we weren’t thorough enough in a lot of areas and we need to improve,” he said.
Great Britain got off to a great start in the men’s Pool A with a fine 4-1 victory against Argentina on Monday evening.
Spurred on by a capacity 16 000-crowd, they gradually broke down Argentina’s resistance to win the match in style.
Their captain Barry Middleton scored two goals with the others coming from Dan Fox and Richard Smith, while Argentina scored a late consolation goal by Pedro Ibarra.
It was an excellent match played in a great atmosphere and their midfielder Robert Moore acknowledged that the crowd’s support had been fantastic.
“It was incredible. It was something you don’t get very often as hockey players and certainly not as hockey players in this country, and for us it is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
In other men’s matches, the defending Olympic champions Germany faced strong opposition from Belgium before emerging 2-1 victors; the Netherlands beat India 3-2; South Korea beat New Zealand 2-0; and Spain and Pakistan drew 1-1.
In the Women’s Pool A competition, the defending Olympic champions the Netherlands got off to a convincing start with a 3-0 victory against Belgium who were making their debut at the Olympic Games.
China beat South Korea 4-0, while Great Britain also beat Japan 4-0. It was the first time since 1988 that Great Britain had won their opening match at the Olympics and it was wildly celebrated by the capacity crowd.
Japan’s Akemi Kato meanwhile became the oldest female player in Olympics history at the age of 41 years and 210 days.
In Pool B, Argentina beat South Africa 7-1, to equal the record for the biggest winning margin in women’s Olympic hockey. Argentina led 5-1 at halftime and cruised to a comfortable victory with captain Luciana Aymar scoring two goals.
New Zealand created history by beating Australia for the first time at the Olympic Games, with a 1-0 victory. Cathryn Finlayson scored the winning goal after only three minutes.
Germany got off to a winning start, beating the United States 2-1. In the process, Germany’s Natascha Keller became the first woman in history to play hockey at five Olympic Games.
On Tuesday morning, South Africa’s women lost their second match in a row, going down 4-1 after trailing 3-0 at halftime.
South African striker Pietie Coetzee, who scored their solitary goal from the penalty spot, created history by winning her 250th cap, but she said it was disappointing to lose the match.
“It was nice to achieve the 250th cap at the Olympic games, however it would have been nicer if we had a positive result but thats how it goes,” she said.