Germany strikes major blow in hunt for Olympic berth

Edmonton (April 1) - The hunt is on for the final four places at the London Olympic Games and 11 men’s teams are competing for the honour at the Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Edmonton, Canada. In the massive Kinsmen Centre, host to the 1978 Commonwealth Games for aquatics, competition started in earnest with the loss of one team missing. Venezuela was a late withdrawal through travel difficulties, meaning Canada was robbed of its opening-day clash. However, Germany and Romania provided the best competition of the day in the tough Group A. There is much hype over who will flow through to the Olympics with Group A containing many top contenders.

Germany seemed to have control of much of the match against Romania but allowed Romania to level in the third and get ahead early in the fourth before retaking the lead at 9-8 with 3:37 remaining in the game. Both teams took timeouts but it was Romania who scored to level at 11 seconds on the clock. Germany was not dejected and scored the winner with five second left. Both goals were scored off deflections and German captain Marc Politze was involved in both, first as the defender and then as the scorer of the last goal. In other Group A games, European No 2 Montenegro dispensed with the Netherlands 12-6 and Greece crushed the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 12-2.

In Group B, Spain took the whip to Brazil, turning a 7-5 halftime lead into a 17-7 victory. Argentina and Turkey battled to a 9-9 draw after Argentina was never headed and led by two goals until 2:26 in the final quarter. Highlights of Monday matches include all of the Group A games with The Netherlands against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania against Greece and Montenegro taking on Germany. Canada debuts against Brazil in the late game while Argentina faces Spain in the first.

Match Reports:

Game 1: 13:50, Group A, MONTENEGRO 12 NETHERLANDS 6
Quarters: 2-1, 4-2, 4-1, 2-2
Referees: Doriel TERPENKA (CAN), Sergio BORRELL (ESP).
Extra Man: MNE: 3/10 NED: 4/9
Pens:  MNE 1/1
Teams:
MONTENEGRO: Zdravko RADIC, Drasko BRGULJAN, Vjekoslav PASKOVIC (1), Antonio PETROVIC (3), Filip KLIKOVAC, Aleksandar RADOVIC (1), Mladan JANOVIC (2), Nikola JANOVIC (1), Aleksandar IVOVIC (1), Boris ZLOKOVIC (2), Vladimir GOJKOVIC (1), Predrag JOKIC, Mikos SCEPANOVIC. Head Coach: Vido LOMPAR.
NETHERLANDS: Jordy STIL, Thomas LUCAS (1), Tjerk KRAMER (2), Mike VAN DEN BRINK, Luuk GIELEN (1), Robin LINDHOUT (1), Lars GOTTEMAKER. Richard VAN ECK, Ruud VAN DER HORST, Roeland SPIJKER (1), Tim REUTEN, Matthijs LUCAS, Robert BESKERS. Head Coach: Johan AANTJES.

Montenegro, second in January’s European Championships after a one-goal loss to Serbia, eased through the opening match, reinforcing its expectations of victory in Edmonton. The Dutch opened the scoring but by quarter time, Montenegro looked the stronger team. Despite the Montenegrins’ overwhelming favouritism, the Dutch proved formidable opposition and by midway through the second quarter were trailing by a goal at 4-3. The game changed appreciably when IVOVIC, PETROVIC with his second, ZLOKOVIC and RADOVIC lifted the score to 8-3 three minutes into the third quarter. IVOVIC ‘s short drive behind the defence to score was invaluable. Montenegro was not so successful on extra-man attack but following Thomas LUCAS’ counter-attack goal, Nikola JANOVIC and PASKOVIC converted the man up for 10-4 at the final break. Goals were swapped in the final eight minutes with the Dutch showing spirit and the Montenegrins ensuring maximum points.


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Montenegro vs Netherlands - credit: Russell McKinnon

FLASH QUOTES:
Mladan JANOVIC (MNE) — goal scorer, on the importance of preparing for a long tournament ahead: “We didn’t play so much with full power today because we have a very important match with Germany tomorrow and we play for seven more days in a row.” On being confident that Montenegro can win the Olympic Qualification Tournament: “For sure, we come here to win the tournament. But first we need to make it to the semifinals. When we pass this, we’ll have less pressure and I think we can win also.”

Ranko PEROVIC (MNE) — Head Coach, on being satisfied with the victory: “We played two periods very bad. But then we got our rhythm and played well for the last two periods…it’s enough.” On his team’s incomplete performance: “We must play four periods, not two. That’s not enough."

Johan AANTJES (NED) — Head Coach, on being very pleased with the result: “I think we played with discipline and, for us, this is a good result.” On having learned from their experience at the recent European Championships: “(At the European Championships) we played against these tops teams for two quarters well and two quarters disappointed. We have now more discipline in our tactics…for us, that is what I like most about this game.” On the importance of tomorrow’s match against Macedonia: “If we can beat Macedonia, then we have three more games where we’re looking for a surprise. We know that Germany, Greece and Romania at this moment are at a higher level but perhaps in this strong tournament, playing every day, perhaps we can surprise one of these strong teams (and qualify for the Olympics).”

Richard VAN ECK (NED), on feeling pleased with the 12-6 final score: “I’m happy with the score. This was the second-best team at the European Championships, so it could have been a bigger difference.” On the Netherlands’ strong defensive performance: “The defence, we played like a team. I think it was a positive thing in the game for us that we can build on in the next games.” On whether there’s any advantage to having played professionally in Montenegro for a year: “It’s totally different, the national team and the club team. I know four guys on this team and the other guys I saw them playing. You know a little bit their style.”


Game 2: 15:10, Group A, GREECE 12 FYR OF MACEDONIA 2
Quarters: 1-0, 3-2, 3-0, 5-0
Referees:  Filippo GOMEZ (ITA), Steven ROTSART (USA).
Extra Man: GRE: 3/10. MKD: 1/7
Teams:
GREECE: Nikolaos DELIGIANNIS, Emmanouil MYLONAKIS (1), Andreas MIRALIS (2), Konstantinos KOKKINAKIS, Theodoros CHATZITHEODOROU, Argyris THEODOROPOULOS, Christos AFROUDAKIS (2), Evangelos DELAKAS, Georgios AFROUDAKIS (1), Iannis FOUNTOULIS (5), Konstantinos MOURIKIS (1), Matthaios VOULGARAKIS, Filippos KARAMPETSOS. Head Coach: Dragan ANDRIC.
FORMER YUGOSLAVIAN REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA: Milosh MARINKOVIKS, Mateo CUK (2), Srgjan AKSENTIJEVIC, Petar IVOSEVIC, Ivan BASARA, Igor MILANOVIKS, Marko MARTINIC, Dimitar DIMOVSKI, Miroslav RANDJIKS, Cupic VOJISLAV, Boris LETICA, Daniel BENIKS, Dalibor PERCHINIKJ. Head Coach: Sasho POPOVSKI.

This was a game that looked like two teams just wanting to get a solid start without too many antics. However, it turned into a nightmare for one team. Just one goal came from the opening quarter at 4:24 after several attacks with no shots. While Christos AFROUDAKIS, FOUNTOULIS and MIRALIS, with a miraculous over-the-head shot from seven metres, which kept low, gave the Greeks some supremacy, CUK responded twice for the Macedonians, once from centre forward and the second on extra, dragging the ball down on the far post, just crossing the line. The second half heated up with Greece’s more potent attack taking maximum effect while the shut-out defence left the Macedonians wondering what to do to get a score. FOUNTOULIS proved especially effective, adding four more goals to his second-quarter effort. He scored from deep left, off the five-metre foul and from centre forward when his shot bobbled over the line. Later, he converted extra. Coach ANDRIC earned a yellow card but he was unworried as his team was 10-2 ahead at the time.  His calm, hands-in-the-pockets style had his team on target for what he hopes will be a favourable tournament.


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Greece vs FYR of Macedonia - credit: Russell McKinnon

FLASH QUOTES:
Ioannis FOUNTOULIS (GRE) — Five-goal scorer, on the team’s overall performance: “We passed this test. We make a good performance with high level, with very good defence, and we continue with our target to pass into the Olympics.” On building confidence into the next match: “Every game that you win and you perform well gives you strength and power to give again the best in the next (game).”
On his five-goal performance: “It was a nice performance, but in the next game somebody else, it will be his day.”

Dragan ANDRIC (CRO) — Greek Head Coach, on the overall performance of the Greek team: “I’m very satisfied with the performance of my players and the motivation they showed in this game. When you let in only two goals in one game, you must be satisfied with the result.”

Sasho POPOVSKI (MKD) — Head Coach, on the fact that his team didn’t take advantage of its chances early in the game: “In the first two periods, we missed a lot of chances…chances that we can score. Greece scored on their chances, and after four or five goals difference, there was no story.”

Cupic VOJISLAV (MKD), on rebounding from today’s loss: “We don’t have any time to be sad. We just have to keep our heads up because we have a very, very important match against the Netherlands tomorrow which I think we can win.”


Game 3: 16:30, Group A, GERMANY 10 ROMANIA 9
Quarters: 3-2, 4-4, 0-1, 3-2
Referees: Nenad PERIS (CRO), Daniel FLAHIVE (AUS).
Extra Man:  GER: 5/12. ROU: 1/5
Pens:  ROU: 1/1
Teams:
GERMANY: Alexander TCHIGIR, Florian NAROSKA, Tim WOLLTHAN, Julian REAL, Marko STAMM, Marc POLITZE (3), Erik BUKOWSKI, (2) Paul SCHUELER (1), Tobias KREUZMANN (2), Moritz OELER (1), Andreas SCHLOTTERBECK, Sven ROESSING (1), Roger KONG. Head Coach: Hagen STAMM.
ROMANIA: Dragos STOENESCU, Cosmin RADU (4), Tiberiu NEGREAN, Nicolae DIACONU (2), Andrei IOSEP (1), Andrei BUSILA, Alexandru MATEI GUIMAN (1), Mihnea CHIOVEANU, Dimitri GOANTA, Ramiro GEORGESCU, Alexandru GHIBAN, Kalman KADAR (1), Mihai DRAGUSIN. Head Coach: Istvan KOVACS.

The most exciting game of the session saw Germany finish on top after two spectacular goals in the final 11 seconds. It was all about the final quarter with these two dynamic teams and they arrived at 7-7 to finish off the eight minutes. RADU, the one-man scoring automaton, had three from three quarters but his fourth was the best goal of the match. Surrounded by five players he received the ball, managed to clear a little space and then plastered the ball on to the back of the net from four metres in front for what was 8-7 to Romania. The celebrations were short-lived after coach KOVACS urged his team to slow the game down. Captain POLITZE and KREUZMANN scored counter-attack goals in just over half a minute to reverse the fortunes of Romania at 3:37. Both teams took timeouts with Germany failing to convert on extra. With 11 seconds left, Romania regained the ball, went to a timeout and with 11 seconds on the clock, DIACONU took a hopeful shot through the arm of POLITZE. It deflected off his arm and went spinning to goal, defeating TCHIGIR for 9-9. Germany went on attack and POLITZE, still incensed from his deflect, took a foul from well outside and down the left and fired off the shot, which deflected off the arm of the brilliant RADU and into the goal with five seconds on the clock. Romania was thwarted and even its final shot was blocked by Germany. The game had started the way they mean to play on quarter-final day, should they both arrive there. Germany went two up but IOSEP and RADU levelled before OELER gave Germany the lead with a minute to go. MATEI GUIMAN converted on extra to open the second-quarter scoring in what was a high-energy match. Germany went 5-3 ahead and 6-4 up by midway through the second period. RADU grabbed a second from two metres and he closed the scoring at halftime with his third from centre forward for one goal behind at 7-6. The third quarter was action-packed with DIACONU equalising from seven metres at 3:19. KADAR picked up his third major foul and NAROSKA gained the ire of his team when he had his point-blank shot blocked by STOENESCU. With just over a minute remaining, a Romanian timeout soon after gained no reward, setting an excellent final quarter.

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Germany vs Romania - credit: Russell McKinnon

FLASH QUOTES:
Marc POLITZE (GER) — Captain, on scoring the winning goal with just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter: “It’s great, because it’s an important victory for us.” On the importance of winning the first match of the tournament: “If you get only one point in the first match, it’s very hard because tomorrow we have Montenegro. We want to do our best and we’re looking forward to that match tomorrow.”

Hagen STAMM (GER) — Head Coach, on avoiding a prediction about Germany’s finish in the tournament: “I’m thinking from game to game. Tomorrow, it’s Montenegro and they are the favourite to win our group. They’re a really good team. After that, we’ll think about our next game. On Politze’s game-winning goal, just after he’d made two bad passes: “Finally, you know, that’s sport. That’s what we all love. That you make two mistakes and then you make one really good, important thing that was responsible for the result finally.”

Cosmin RADU (ROU) — Captain and goal-scoring hero, on the way the game unfolded: “The Germans controlled the game for the first two quarters. In the third quarter, we played better. But, in the final quarter, we made some mistakes and we couldn’t stop the Germans.” On moving beyond this match: “We have to look ahead to the next game. We know the most important one is going to be on Day 6 for the quarter-final. That’s the day we have to play our best.”

Nicolae DIACONU (ROU), on the bad luck that led to the final Germany goal: “It was a very hard game. We fight until the end but…that (German) goal in the end was very hard for us.”


Game 5: 17:50, Group B, SPAIN 17 BRAZIL 7
Quarters: 3-2, 4-3, 6-1, 4-1
Referees: Adrian ALEXANDRESCU (ROU), Axel BENDER (GER).
Extra Man: ESP: 3/8. BRA: 4/7
Pens: ESP: 2/2
Teams:
SPAIN: Inaki AGUILAR, Mario GARCIA (1), Oscar CARRILLO, Balazs SZIRANYI (1), Guillermo MOLINA © (2), Marc MINGUELL (1), Ivan GALLEGO, Albert ESPANOL (2), Blai MALLARACH (1), Felipe PERRONE (4), Ivan PEREZ (3), Xavier GARCIA (2), Daniel LOPEZ. Head Coach: Rafael AGUILAR.
BRAZIL: Vinicius ANTONELLI, Bernardo GOMES, Henrique MIRANDA (3), Gustavo COUTINHO, Marcelo FRANCO (1), Gabriel ROCHA (3), Jonas CRIVELLA, Felipe SILVA, Bernardo ROCHA, Ruda FRANCO, Gustavo GUIMARAES, Danilo CORREA, Marcelo CHAGAS. Head Coach: Goran SABLIC.

Spain never needed to hit top gear but worked solidly throughout the pool against a Brazilian team that had energy early but faded as the game went on. Spain is the outright favourite for the group win but had to come from 2-1 down to win the opening quarter 3-2. The legendary PEREZ took to the pool at the start of the second and had two goals in 50 seconds. The 6-2 scoreline turned to 6-4 when Gabriel ROCHA and MIRANDA scored and then by the halftime break it was 7-5 with ROCHA scoring his third in the dying seconds. MIRANDA brought the game to 8-6 just over a minute into the third period but then Brazil started to die as Spain stepped up, cruising to 13-6 at the buzzer MINGUELL and PERRONE took it out to 15-6 with PERRONE’s goal from two metres after turning 360 degrees with three players trying to get the ball off him, clearly the goal of the match. MIRANDA broke the 12-minute Brazilian scoring drought with his third goal at 3:45. MOLINA and ESPANOL wrapped up the match for what proved to be a blowout after such a promising first half.

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Spain vs Brazil - credit: Russell McKinnon

FLASH QUOTES:
Felipe PERRONE (ESP), on taking things one game at a time, with the focus on Friday’s quarter finals: “We kept improving and, in the end, I think it was a good result for us. But we need to keep working because we know that the important game will be on Friday. It’s important to be concentrated every game to arrive there in the best condition.”

Rafael AGUILAR (ESP) — Head Coach, on the challenges of the first match: “The first game of a tournament like this is always difficult because we haven’t yet got the rhythm of the competition. But, we’re happy with the final score. Ten goals difference is good for us.”

Goran SABLIC (CRO) — Brazil Head Coach, on Spain’s dominance in the second half: “I’m a little bit disappointed. I didn’t expect to win against Spain, but I did expect a decent game. The first two periods were OK, but the Spanish experience and better physical preparation decided the game.” On preparing for Monday’s match against Canada: “In 24 hours you can’t do much, but we’ll work on concentration and self-confidence.”

Henrique MIRANDA (BRA) — four-goal hero, on what he expects from Canada on Monday: “It’s a very fast team, very strong team. We’ll try not to get countered. And we’re going to try to surprise.” On the strengths of the Brazilian team: “Brazil has heart. We never give up. We play until the end. And I hope we surprise them. They’re prepared and we’re also prepared.”


Game 6, 20:00, Group B, TURKEY 9 ARGENTINA 9
Quarters: 2-3, 2-2, 2-2, 3-2
Referees: Henk SMIT (NED), Aleksandar ADZIC (MNE).
Extra Man:  TUR: 4/14. ARG: 2/10
Teams:
TURKEY: Atilla SEZER, Ali Can YILMAZ, Berk BIYIK (1), Oytun OKMAN (3), Berk GUNCUT, Emre COSKUN (2), Osman GULENG, Ali Can GAGATAY (2), Nadir SUNMEZ, Anil SUNMEZ, Halil BESKARDESLER (1), Can GUVEN, Ali Ozcan KILIG. Head Coach: Halil AVCIOGLU.
ARGENTINA: Hernan MAZZINI, Ramiro VEICH, Juan MONTANE, Brian CARABANTES, Emanuel LOPEZ, Ignacio ECHENIQUE, Fernando ARREGUI, Gonzalo ECHENIQUE (2), Ivan CARABANTES (4), Ramiro GIL, Franco DEMARCHI, German YANEZ (3), Franco TESTA. Head Coach: Nahuel ALFONSO.

The first draw of the tournament came when Turkey had to come back from two goals down inside the final four minutes to draw just inside the final minute. It was total excitement from two teams battling to gain any dominance. South American champion Argentina was never headed in a game that was tied at 1-1, 4-4, 5-5, 7-7 and finally 9-9. While YANEZ scored three for Argentina and Gonzalo ECHENIQUE  two in the first half, it was left to captain Ivan CARABANTES to supply the shooting skills in the second half with four goals. One such goal came in from downtown Edmonton with a backhand reminiscent of a Hungarian goal against Russia at the 2000 Sydney Olympic semifinals. Following the missile he sent in another from six metres for the adventurous two-goal lead. Argentina didn’t count on Turkish captain OKMAN scoring his second to close the gap at 2:26. Turkey went to a timeout at 1:12 and OKMAN scored his third from the deep right with his right arm to square the game. In the final seconds Argentina ruined any chance of a decent shot at goal with a long-range effort with plenty of time left and another, which was blocked.

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Turkey vs Argentina - credit: Russell McKinnon

FLASH QUOTES:
Oytun OKMAN (TUR) — Captain, on having to come back several times during the game: “At the end, the final score is good for us because Argentina was leading for the entire game. The tie score is better for us, but it’s worse than we had expected.”

Halil Ibrahim AVCIOGLU (TUR) — Head Coach, on looking for positive signs out of the first match: “All the game Argentina was leading and the last two minutes we came back to score two goals for the draw. So this is good mentally; we are strong.”

Ivan CARABANTES (ARG) — Captain, on a disappointing final result: “We played well on defence, but we committed some silly fouls that ended in goals for Turkey. So we have to concentrate more from the beginning to the end of the game.”