Men’s London-2012 Olympic draw – Australia’s perspective
May 9, 2012 2 Comments
The Australian Olympic men’s team was drawn in group ‘A’ with 2011 world championships medallists, Italy (Gold) and Croatia (Bronze). The other teams comprising group ‘A’ are Spain and Kazakhstan who finished, correspondingly, 5th and 13th in Shanghai-2011. The sixth team to make this group is Greece who earned their Olympic licence having to go through the ‘meat-grinder’ of the recently held Qualification Tournament in Edmonton, Canada. For that matter, Australia finished 9th at the world championships in Shanghai-2011.
Group A: Italy, Croatia, Spain, Australia, Greece and Kazakhstan
Group B: Serbia, Hungary, the USA, Montenegro, Romania and Great Britain.
Judging from what I saw at the world championships in Shanghai last July, it is very possible that Australia can achieve a good result in its group after the preliminary rounds.
In the matches against Italy and Croatia, Australia would be considered as an underdog. However, given the current level of skill and experience of the Australian squad and with a bit of luck, Australia can achieve a desirable result against both Italy and Croatia. The Italian and Croatian teams are discussed in the previous posts ‘Squadra Azzura – World Champion!’, ‘USA vs AUS January 4 at Bondi Icebergs’ and ‘2003 world championships lessons’.
Australia’s chances of winning are significantly better against Spain and Greece, and should win against Kazakhstan.
Although very experienced, in Shanghai the Spaniards were not at their best. The team looked a bit tired. Its leaders, Guillermo Molina and Felipe Perrone, did not have their best tournament. Two aspects of the team’s performance were noticeable in Shanghai:
In attack the team relied a lot upon the veteran, Ivan Perez, who, despite his age, was still able to cause a lot of damage to the opposition. Take Perez out of that team and at least 35% of its attacking capability is gone;
Unlike in the past when Spain won Olympic and world championships titles, when they had a great goalie in Jesus Rolan, their keeper, Inaki Aguilar, was not as reliable. In Shanghai, Australia was able to come within one goal of defeat, losing 8:9, primarily due to Aguilar’s lack of confidence in goals. This was highlighted in the second half when Australia scored 5 goals to 2 in the last two periods – the Spaniard’s were leading comfortably 7:3 at half time before Australia’s fight back.
The resurgent Greek team comprises a lot of experienced players. Coach, Dragan Andric, brought back several veterans who made a positive difference during the Qualification tournament, in particular in the crucial match against a very talented young Canadian team, beating them 10:6. Most noticeable were centre-forward, Georgios Afroudakis and his younger brother (the team’s play-maker) Christos Afroudakis, and Argyris Theodoropoulos.
From the Australia’s perspective, however, Greece’s results at that tournament and the recently held European championships tell us that Australia has a good chance in its upcoming match with them at the Olympiad in London.
Although Kazakhstan has been making a lot of effort in recent years to restore its former quality, at this stage, based upon the last years results, Australia can be considered as a favourite in the upcoming Olympic clash between these two nations.
In spite of the above comments and the teams’ evaluations, many things could have changed during the time after the last world championships. More changes will have occurred in the remaining weeks prior to the Olympiad as the teams are ‘fine-tuning’ themselves.
One recent example is the women’s Spanish team who emerged as one of the favourites by eliminating the current world champions Greece and convincingly winning the Olympic Qualification tournament.
Objectively, I believe, Australia can finish at least third, if not second, in group A. Even finishing fourth would enable Australia to make at least a top eight result at the Olympic games, with the possiblity of progressing to a higher position from then on. If it does, it is likely to face either Hungary (4th in Shanghai), Serbia (2nd), the USA (6th), or Montenegro (7th) in a quarter-final match. At the Olympic games in Beijing-2008 the US team was able to not only get through those stages but make it to the final and win an Olympic silver medal.
From the mid-nineties, Australia has consistently come higher than the USA at the Junior world championships. Hopefully, Australia will be able to emulate America’s performance at the senior level and make it to the finals stage for the first time in the nation’s history. There is no doubt it has the capacity to do so!
We wish the team well in London!