The men got underway today in front of some high profile guests with both current and former IOC Presidents Jacques Rogge (Belgium) and Juan Antonio Samaranch (Spain) supporting their countries along with HRH Willem-Alexander Prince of the Netherland and his wife, HRH Princess Maxima.
On the pitch, hosts China caused World Champions Germany a few problems but eventually secured a 4-1 win. Great Britain had a great start against Pakistan, and New Zealand produced the first major upset of the men’s competition, winning over a Korean team that is six places above them in the world rankings.
Spain had a promising start defeating Belgium, and both Australia and the Netherlands had no difficulties in their games against Canada and South Africa respectively.
In the first match of the men’s tournament, Germany faced China for the very first time and had a slow start against the lowest ranked team. A stunning Na Yubo goal sent the crowd into a frenzy early on. Christopher Zeller’s roofed flick equalised to see it level at the break.
China continued to bug the Germans, who had a lot more possession in the second period, and Tibor Weissenborn picked up a yellow card. But they weathered it out as Florian Keller sank two goals and Carlos Nevado’s reverse with two minutes left sealed the deal.
GB got their first win over Pakistan in eight years after a lightning-fast start to the game. James Tindall netted the first attack of the game, Rob Moore added a reverse and Ashley Jackson made it 3-0 by the break.
Pakistan were slightly more organised in the second half with Shakeel Abbasi tapping a pin-point cross from Muhammad Zubair in and Muhammad Waqas took full advantage of a mistake by Ben Marsden to get Pakistan within striking distance. But Matt Daly soon moved them into the safety zone with a slap into the net off a penalty corner rebound to end the game 4-2.
Well-fancied Korea came unstuck against New Zealand 3-1 despite the Asian champs leading through Jong Hyan Jang’s corner. But a lack of sharpness in front of goal gave the Blacksticks a sniff which they took thanks to three Hayden Shaw drag-flicks.
Australia had an easy outing against Canada, winning 6-1, Des Abbott’s hat-trick doing the damage. They will, however, be concerned about Jamie Dwyer’s injury as he was carried off on a stretcher after a collision. At the end of the game, though, he was back on his feet and shaking hands with the opposition so hopefully we’ll see him in action again.
Belgium were brushed aside by an Spanish outfit bang in form. It took just eight minutes for Spain to take the lead, when Pol Amat scored from open play, with Santi Freixa getting goal number two in the 20th minute.
Belgium pulled a goal back from Jerome Truyens but Spain moved into a 3-1 lead when Xavier Ribas scored a trademark penalty corner in the 41st minute, with Victor Sojo making it four for Spain before Belgium got a consolation, 4-2.
In the final game, the Netherlands defeated South Africa 5-0, with the game all but over after Taeke Taekema’s two first-half drags. The Dutch accelerated sporadically, scoring three more field goals by Laurence Docherty, Jeroen Hertzberger and Matthijs Brouwer while former Pembroke player Ian Symons took the pitch for South Africa.
Day Two trivia –
* Two men’s hockey players were flag-bearers at last Friday’s opening ceremony with Holland’s Jeroen Delmee getting to hold the red, white and blue in honour of his 390 international caps while the other, Pakistan’s captain Zeeshan Ashraf, will reach 300 caps during the tournament.
* Former Dutch and current Spain coach Maurits Hendriks has tipped Australia as the team to watch. “Australia is the absolute favorite“, Hendriks said in a recent interview. To see why, click here (the FIH has recently added all of their WorldHockey monthly magazines)
* Everything you ever wanted to know about Olympic hockey: click here for 136 pages worth of hockey statistics