Samba Sticks comes to an end!

Argentina’s men will leave Rio with their heads held high.

21 August 2016

Rio de Janeiro (18 August, 2016): The Argentines, ranked seventh in the FIH World Rankings, defeated World No 6 and favourites Belgium 4-2 in Thursday’s final at the Olympic Hockey Centre in Deodoro Park.

Tanguy Cosyns gave Belgium the lead but Argentina took control before half-time with goals from Pablo Ibarra, Ignacio Ortiz and Gonzalo Peillat.

Gauthier Boccard brought the Red Lions back into roar but Agustin Mazzilli’s last-minute goal sealed victory for Argentina.

Prior to winning gold in Rio, Argentina had never previously reached the semi-finals of an Olympic tournament. The result is also Belgium’s best finish in men’s hockey at an Olympic Games in 96 years. They last took home bronze in Antwerp in 1920.

Long playing in the shadow of the much-celebrated women’s team, Argentina’s men will leave Rio with their heads held high.

Both teams had beaten the odds in Rio to make their first Olympic final. Belgium eliminated World No 2 the Netherlands 3-1 on Tuesday, hours before Argentina routed defending champions Germany 5-2.

The Germans were reduced to battling it out for third place against the Dutch ahead of the final, with twice gold medallists Germany claiming the bronze after winning a penalty shootout 4-3 following a tense 1-1 draw at full time.

Belgium’s potent attacking game was evident from the start, building on a strong performance in the group stages where they racked up 21 goals, more than any other team in the tournament.

With less than two minutes gone, Cosyns deflected a strike from the top of circle to claim an early lead for Belgium. But the Argentine Lions roared back, scoring from two penalty corners and netting a third before halftime.

As storm clouds gathered, the intensity waned after the break, with neither team able to land a shot before Belgium’s Gauthier Boccard put the ball into the bottom-left corner.

Belgium failed to score from two successive penalty corners deep in the fourth quarter. With their backs against the wall, the Belgians swapped their goalkeeper for an extra man to chase a last-minute equaliser which never came.

With eight seconds left on the clock, an interception allowed Argentina’s Mazzilli to seal the win in style, striking the ball into an open Belgium goal.

At a tournament which has filled seats in Rio, the gold medal showdown also drew a sell-out and boisterous crowd at the Olympic Hockey Centre.

Argentine supporters lined the stands in blue and white, erupting in song as the final whistle blew and stripping off their shirts to cheer their victorious countrymen.

The women’s hockey final between Netherlands and Great Britain will be held on Friday while Germany and New Zealand will play for the bronze medal.

“We’re going to keep our feet on the ground,” said Danny Kerry, whose 11-year tenure as Great Britain coach will be his toughest challenge and greatest opportunity on Friday.

“We’ve got one more big game and we won’t change anything about how we prepare,” said Alexandra Danson, whose two goals in the semi-final against New Zealand took her to joint leading tournament scorer.

Great Britain’s women team won their first ever Olympic hockey gold medal by beating defending champions the Netherlands in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Olympic Hockey Stadium at Deodoro Park on Friday.

The final finished 3-3 in regulation time. The British owed their greatest debt of gratitude, though, to a certain extent to goalkeeper Maddie Hinch for keeping them in the game and the Dutch, the current world champions, could not beat Maddie in the shootout, which Britain won 2-0.

Helen Richardson-Walsh and Hollie Webb scored the decisive penalties to win Britain’s 24th gold at Rio 2016.

“It’s difficult to put into words what this means,” said Helen. “Seventeen years ago, when I started my career, we were so far off this. It has taken so much hard work and it means absolutely everything.”

Hollie’s winning penalty sparked celebrations from the British team, who won the bronze medal four years ago in London, after they survived long periods of pressure at the hands of their reputable opponents.

The Netherlands are ranked No 1 in the world having won gold at the two previous Olympics and are the reigning world champions.

And while they showed their quality for much of the game, they were kept at bay by a spirited British performance, summed up by the heroics of their outstanding goalkeeper.

Maddie saved an early penalty stroke from Maartje Paumen and kept out a number of Dutch penalty corners. Britain led at the end of the first quarter through a Lily Owsley tap-in, before Kitty van de and Maartje put the Dutch in front.

Great Britain then levelled twice to take it to penalties, with Crista Cullen sweeping the ball home to make it 2-2 before Nicola White finished off a goalmouth scramble either side of another Maartje strike.

Not since Seoul 1988 Olympics, when the men prevailed, had a British hockey team stood atop an Olympic podium, and Danny Kerry’s players seemed determined not to let the opportunity slide.

Kerry has wrought a quiet revolution in his 11 years as coach, expunging the memory of Britain’s failure even to qualify for the 2014 Athens Games and turning them here into a world-beating force. En route to this coronation, they have beaten the three highest-ranked teams in the world.

Earlier, Germany beat New Zealand 2-1 to take the bronze medal.


To find out more about the Olympic hockey events there, click here.

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