The Tokyo 2020 Olympic hockey final will be between Australia and Belgium, the numbers 1 and 2 in the world ranking. After Belgium defeated India in the first semi-final (2-5), Australia was too strong for Germany in the second semi-final with 1-3.
The final on Thursday (starting at 11:00 AM BST) promises to be a wonderful battle of the titans. With two teams that can play muscle hockey full throttle, are still unbeaten in this tournament, have a lot of experience and have the top scorers of the tournament in their ranks. Of the two, the Belgian Alexander Hendrickx made the most impression (15 goals in total, of which 3 in the semi-finals), but Blake Govers (7 goals in total, of which 1 in the semi-finals) are also on a roll in the Oi Hockey Stadium.
It is difficult to say in advance which of the two teams is the best. There have been no recent meetings, especially due to the covid pandemic, to get an indication. The two semifinals are also difficult to compare. Belgium had a difficult half with India, but then easily walked over it with the help of Hendrickx.
Australia had a much harder time against Germany in the Japanese evening, when the wind chill was at least ten degrees lower than in the morning game. But everyone has a hard time against this good Germany, just ask the Netherlands.
Colin Batch’s team quickly took the lead with a goal from Tim Brand. With his presence, the final still gets a half Dutchman in the field. Brand grew up in Gorinchem. He moved to Australia at a young age, where he played in the Australian national team. In 2018 Brand played his first tournament with Australia: the Champions Trophy in Breda.
Brand was still a youngster at the time, but has now grown into an experienced force with 51 caps in Batch’s team. He already made an impression against the Netherlands by preparing both Australian goals. Instead of declaring, Brand was the finisher in the semi-final against Germany at the 1-0. He tipped a cross from Flynn Ogilvie with conviction behind Alexander Stadler.
We have been able to analyze many matches from other countries, but they are not oursTim Brand thinks Australia’s lack of friendlies may have been an advantage
‘Today we played better hockey than against the Netherlands. We played too nervous in the quarterfinals. I was there myself when we lost in the semi-finals of the World Cup after shoot-outs from the Netherlands. Many other players of this team were also eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro. You try not to think about that too much, but somehow those defeats played a role when we stepped onto the field’, Brand says in English, while he indicates that the questions can be asked in Dutch.
“The quarterfinals were the first game where the pressure was on. It was not our best match, but the win was proof that we can beat top countries from Europe. Due to COVID-19 we did not know in advance where we stood. We had only practiced against New Zealand. But in retrospect I think that was not a disadvantage, but an advantage for us. We have been able to analyze many matches from other countries, but they have not been able to analyze ours.’
The 1-0 lead after Brand’s goal was justified, as Australia opened stronger. But the Germans, as we are used to from them, got into Olympic form at just the right time. Our eastern neighbors were sharp, have a lot of hockey ability and of course a huge team spirit . No team in this tournament celebrated goals and victories as intensely and with conviction as the Germans.
Even in the first quarter, their German fists were able to hit the ball. Lachlan Sharp fell into a trap by Mats Grambusch and conceded a penalty corner. Lukas Windfeder got the ball nicely in his stick and, via an Australian stick, pushed his sixth goal of this tournament: 1-1.
There was nothing to criticize about that score after the first quarter. The semi-finals continued in the second half. The first chances were for Australia. In free position, Govers went wide, hit the post again and Jacob Wetthon ran into goalie Stadler.
On the other hand, Germany was dangerous with a backhand from Timm Hertzbruch, which was caught by Charter. It was the start of a period of a small siege from the German side, which did not lead to a hit.
The Orange learned a hard lesson in the quarterfinals: if you don’t finish the chances against Australia, the Aussies often have enough to score a goal. Lachlan Sharp found that hole on the back line, Martin Häner uses his arm to stop him and conceded a penalty corner. Blake Govers knew what to do with that: he pushed his seventh goal of the tournament hard against the board, 2-1.
one way street
In the entire second half it became one-way traffic: Germany chased the equalizer. The Germans, as they can, gave absolutely everything. They played the balls hard, soft, high and low in the Australian circle. But the Kookaburras didn’t flinch. They stoically defended each ball with the stick from the circle. The Germans became despondent and irritated. And if they ever got the ball past the defenders, there was always the experienced Charter, who played his 192nd international match.
With the courage of despair, Kais Al Saadi pulled goalkeeper Stadler aside. It did not help. Australia again needed an outbreak to score the 1-3. Heavily frustrated, the Germans retreated. At Oranje they know that feeling.
On Thursday, in the duel of the giants, Belgium is the European team that can try to break down the Australian defensive wall. ‘Scoring is one of Belgium’s greatest qualities. They have a great penalty corner with Hendrickx, but Blake Govers has also scored important goals for us,” said Batch, who was head coach of the Red Lions from 2010 to 2012. “I expect it to be a great game. We haven’t played against Belgium for a long time. The final of the Olympic Games is a wonderful moment to do that again.’
‘7 0-1 Tim Brand
’10 1-1 Windfeder
’27 1-2 Black Govers
’59 1-3 Lachlan Sharp