Day 5, Women#15 Spain vs New Zealand: It was a very interesting game, the Spanish team looked very different in this game, they were on the bottom of the points table so they knew they had to go all-out. The sharp body language was telling that the players are having very clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. On the other hand, New Zealand after having won the first two games they were in a slight state of superiority complex, which led to their downfall. Playing full press against New Zealand was a very good choice and that was a very good call by the head coach I would say. Knowing that if they played full press and isolated the ball carrier then the ball carrier usually starts playing individually, and then they keep on going for double teaming defense to counter it. I think this was a very good strategy by the Spanish team and ultimately, they were able to score goals against New Zealand. They were able to double their lead through PC situations. Absolutely, they have done very good homework against their opponents. Knowing that the right-side defender is not bending too low so they won’t be able to deflect the left side deflection pass.
Spanish defense was very focused and calm, they kept on offering the New Zealand players to play individually in different pressing situations by isolating them, which was a very good strategy. The New Zealand players were very hasty, kept on forcing through center channel which was not working. If they could have utilized the side channels through baseline that would have been great. But unfortunately, they were a bit emotional and kept playing individually which was not working for them.
I think the first time we noticed that the Spanish women’s team looks like a very different team against New Zealand and it was a very well-deserved victory for them.
Day 5, Men#19 Japan vs Spain: Very critical match, Japan vs Spain again. For both teams the quarter finals chances were at stake. The Spanish team had great homework, knowing that the Japanese players will go all out and will become frustrated if they don’t allow them to score from the beginning. To stretch the field the Japanese team put their strikers on the opponent teams D. That was not working. Spanish players in the mid line intercepted their passes and did turnover counter attacks. They used soft high ball greatly in possession play, diagonal inside passes through the top D were used brilliantly, which were very effective. The beauty with which the Spanish team used quick restart caused great harm to the Japanese defensive structure. They did not offer the Japanese defensive structure any room to breathe. Physical space and physical body appearance were used excellently by the Spanish players and used power play against the Japanese players.
Whenever the Japanese players got opportunities to attack on turnovers, they were really hasty and players were not available for link plays. They tried their best but the Spanish defense was very composed. Once again, the Japanese team was not able to use the base line effectively. Spanish team even though they put up a good display because they were in a position to qualify for the quarter final, they did miss a few chances due to the Japanese goalkeeper putting up an excellent performance. Japanese players did not act timely on their opportunities, they could have turned the match in their favor earlier in the game.
About Tahir Zaman:
Tahir Zaman is an esteemed hockey coach. He represented Pakistan Hockey in Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. He was a part of the winning squad of 1994 Men’s Hockey World Cup. He is FIH Academy Trainer and FIH Senior Coach. He is currently serving as the head of Education and as the Executive Board Member of the Asian Hockey Federation