Spain's flair versus Teutonic efficiency in Olympic hockey final

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Beijing, Aug 22 (UNI) It is going to Spainish flair versus World Champion Germany's efficiency as the two teams take on each other for the Olympic Men's Hockey Gold medal here tomorrow.

Before the start of the tournament, the experts were predicting that two teams from one pool would reach the final, by that they were hinting at pool B and Australia and Holland and not pool A's Spain and Germany.

But the latter two upset the best laid plans of the Aussies and the Dutch, and in the end, the much talked about repeat of the 2004 Athens Olympics final did not happen here.

Instead, Spain and Germany staged dramatic rallies to notch up spectacular wins and set-up a contest for the top two positions at the podium, leaving Australia and the Netherlands to slug it out between themselves for the bronze.

The other two matches scheduled for the day are classification games, between South Korea and Great Britain for the 5-6 spots and between South Africa and China for the 11-12 positions.

With their hopes of regaining the gold having evaporated, the Dutch would surely be keen to at least win a medal here for the sake of its trio of quadruple Olympians - Guus Vogels, Teun de Nooijer and skipper Jeroen Delmee, for it surely is their Games swan song.

Holland and Australia had played out a 2-2 draw in the league, with all four goals coming in the last 20 minutes. This time round, with the incentive of a medal up for grabs, both are going to go all out, making it a really competitive affair.

However, all eyes will be on the final which will witness Spanish flair and untiring spirit up against the famed Teutonic efficiency and super athleticism of the Germans.

Both sides boast of some really sparkling talents, Pol Amat, Santiago Freixa, Xavier Ribas and Eduardo Tubao featuring in Spanish colours while Christopher Zeller, Matthias Witthaus, Carlos Nevado and Tibor Weissenborn in the German black and white.

In the league, when Germany's campaign seemed to have been on the edge of derailment, Spain had provided it with a lifeline by going down 1-0. But with the gold - its first at the Games in what is going to be a third opportunity after 1980 and 1996, would Spain be third time lucky? It has been threatening to achieve big since 1996 but save for the one Champions Trophy title in 2004 at Lahore, Spain has not really accomplished much.

In beating Australia in the semis after being down by two goals, Spain demonstrated it has skill-set, depth in talent and mental strength. It would have to showcase similar qualities once again to grab the gold against the reigning world champions.

For its part, Germany's defence is almost water tight but it is the lack of spark and goal scoring touch that nearly saw it eliminated against Holland before it equalised and won on penalties. Germany would be hoping that Zeller provides them the same sort of double punch that he did in the 2006 World Cup final to take them soaring to a victory.

That match though was two years ago, and at Monchengladbach where the home crowd gave it the additional spur.

In sight of its third Olympic title after 1972 and 1992, Germany though is capable of lifting its game to counter the Spanish challenge. Whatever, it remains a contest to watch.

UNI HSB AB RK1700

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