WL Super Final: Day 1
June 13, 2012 1 Comment
This game was somewhat disappointing in that it was a one-sided match. Australia was in the game until the middle of the first quarter when the score was 2-all. From then on Croatia completely dominated finishing the second and third periods 9:4 and 13:6 respectively. In the last quarter the Croatian players clearly lost interest in the game allowing the opponents to score 5 goals to 1 for a 14:11 final result.
There was a noticeable difference between the two teams’ physique and individual skills in favour of the Europeans. As well, tactically, Australia’s defensive actions did not create any problems for the Croatians who were able to feed their centre-forwards easily for numerous exclusions and penalties most of which they were converting without much difficulty. Normally, Australia’s weapon against more skilful but heavier opponents is quick counter-attacks. But the Croatians were ready for this and did not give the Australians any opportunities to use their speed by covering their shots and coming back on time.
Some possible explanations for Australia’s unimpressive start to the WL Super Final are:
the team spent the previous week in Bangkok (apparently to reduce the effects of jet-lag as there is only two hours difference with Almaty) training hard and were not purposefully tapering for this tournament;
experienced Gavin Woods and Rhys Howden did not play in this game due to the facial cuts they sustained during training in Thailand – they should be OK in the next 2-3 days;
the team did not play against such a high-level opponent (from the top 8 teams in the World) for the last six months and needs the time to adjust to that level of skills.
However, Croatia also has been in a heavy training phase in the previous several weeks:
they were in the United States at the end of May playing in an exhibition tournament with the participation of hosts and Hungary followed by a hard two weeks training camp in the Adriatic Croatian city, Rijeka.
they would be more jet-lag disadvantaged coming to Kazakhstan directly from Croatia (4 hours difference).
From the stand-point of preparation for the Olympic games, this tournament is a good preamble. Nevertheless, it was still a rather demoralizing outcome for Australia as both teams are drawn in the same preliminary group ‘A’. There are still six weeks before the start of the Olympiad and it will be interesting to see in what shape the teams will arrive in London. It will be clear then if today’s result was indicative of the real strength ratio between these teams.
The World League’s quarter-final matches will be played on 15 June. If Australia beats Spain who is also in the preliminary Olympic group ‘A’, it will finish at least second in its group thus making it more likely to progress to the semi-final. Their match is on 14 June. If Australia comes third in the preliminary round, it will be playing either USA or Italy in the quarter-final match which makes the outcome more uncertain.
X-man: CRO 12/8 (67%), AUS 10/4 (40%)
Penalty: CRO 1/0, AUS 2/3
Referees: Sadekov (Russia) and Gomez (Italy)
– Ratko Rudic, Croatia’s Head Coach:
I am happy with how we played for three quarters. In the last my players stopped concentrating allowing the opponents to reduce the score.
– Gavin Woods, Australian centre-forward:
It was our first match in the last six months against a world-class team. We were very rusty today. However, the team’s fight back in the last quarter was a positive. We can only improve from now on.
– Igor Milanovic, Two Times Olympic Champion (1984 and 1988) for Yugoslavia:
In today’s match I would name Miho Boskovic, Sandro Sukno and in particular strong Croatian centre-forwards, Igor Hinic and Niksa Dobud.
To me, it looked that Australia used the tactics that were played 25 years ago, in particular in defence. You cannot win with such play nowadays.
Whether it was Italy’s lack of motivation or fatigue factor from continuous heavy training that contributed to Italy’s lacklustre performance is the question for its Head Coach, Alessandro Campagna. But the China’s team did well in this match and pushed the current world champions all the way until the last minutes of the match as the final score indicates.
However, with due respect to the Asian team’s effort, at this stage, it is more important how they perform against more equal opponents. I am sure, their new Head Coach, Ricardo Azevedo, is going to emphasize this point in their upcoming matches. One such test will be China’s match against their ‘arch-enemies’, Kazakhstan, who beat them both at the world championships in Shanghai and, more importantly, at the Asian Olympic Qualification tournament in Japan last January. It promises to be an interesting match between these two teams on 14 June.
X-man: Italy 5/3 (60%), China 4/2 (50%)
Penalty: Italy 3/3, China 1/1
Referees: Fernandez (Spain), Koganov (Azerbaijan)
– Ricardo Azevedo, China’s Head Coach:
I am pleased with my team’s perfromance today. We played well in defense making it difficult for the Italians to use their strong centre-forwards. Our goal-keeper was good and made several good saves which boosted the team’s confidence.
– Alessandro Campagna, Italy’s Head Coach:
We did not play well at all. The players are fatigued from the hard training we have been doing.
– Pietro Figlioli, World Champion, Italy:
At the moment we are very tiered due to heavy training. In addition to the matches we continue to do weights as well as swimming that would be anything between 3-4 kilometers.
There were no surprises in this match. As always, Brazil played with a lot of enthusiasm and flair but the difference in class between these teams is too big. Spain did not look its best as, obviously, like the other teams, they are not in top form yet. Ivan Perez did not play and it will be interesting to see how the Spaniards will look if he plays in the next matches against stronger opponents, Croatia and Australia.
X-man: Brazil 2/1 (50%), Spain 9/3 (33%)
Referees: Balfanbayev (Kazakhstan) and Rotsart
Until the beginning of the second quarter it was a goal-for-goal match when the score was 4-all. Then USA switched on a higher gear and finished the third period with a healthy margin of 5:10. In the last period, they preserved the lead to finish the match 8:11.
America’s best player was Tony Azevedo whose lethal shooting netted them 3 goals. He was supported by a left-hander, Peter Varellas, who also scored 3 times. Overall, USA’s team will be one of the more experienced in London. They recently achieved good results at the friendly tournament staged at home in which they beat Croatia once and Hungary twice. A more interesting match will be played on 14 June when they meet Italy.
X-man: KAZ 8/4 (50%), USA 12/5 (42%)
Penalty: KAZ 1/1, USA 0
Referees: Ni Shiwei (China) and Paris (Croatia)