only the play-off games that we are interested in now.
before we got to the pool this afternoon the nz women played australia in their semi-final and, sadly, went down 4-1. shame, but still a medal chance nonetheless.
2v3 = south africa v new zealand we started really well off the first strike and got pretty damn close to scoring straight away. we couldn't convert the chance and the game seesawed for a couple of minutes before the locals got the early goal. we settled down after that and got into a good rhythm and got a couple of nice goals, then a third cracker just before the 1/2-time break to go into the second half 3-1 ahead. in the second half we kept rolling on in the same manner as the first and took the game away from south africa with 3 more goals in 7 or 8 minutes. once we got a 5 goal lead it was goodnight nurse for south africa and we got another couple of sweet goals to go 8-1 up with a minute and a half to go. someone got chucked in the sin-bin and we leaked a consolation goal with less than a minute to go. final score 8-2 to us. onto the final tomorrow.
1v4 = australia v france games do not come any closer than this cracker. scores tied at the end of regulation time. scores tied at the end of overtime and into golden goal time. crowd goes bananas. france showed the benefit of practicing overtime uwh against colombia yesterday and got the golden goal required. the french played smart and got the puck down into the australian end of the court and played patiently waiting for a slight mistake in the aussie defence line. mistakes = goals at this level.
so quite the upset, both seeds 1 and 2 gone from the final. i'm not sure if this has ever occurred before.
i'll be pushed for time tomorrow evening, so a report on the final will have to wait until sunday. probably not before mid-morning local time. maybe later. it all depends on the quality of the function.
final at 4pm local time = 2 am sunday morning nz time. we will be wearing black togs.
play-off games 4v5 = france v colombia game went to extra time, but france had the experience to score in extra time and close down the game, eventually winning 3-2 3v6 = new zealand v netherlands no extra time required, but all referees in position to see gloving infringements would have been nice. i don't think the game was really as close as the score-line suggests because i feel we had control for pretty much the entire game. netherlands got within 1 goal in the last 30 seconds of the game when we had to play with a man in the sinbin. anyhow, that's finals hockey and we won 4-3. 1v8 = australia v canada we have just left the pool with this game still in progress [and we saw a cool prang on the motorway] but i am sure the aussies will win comfortably. canada just isn't the same team without the quebec players. 2v7 = south africa v usa i expect a comfortable win for the locals in this game too
note the randomness of the playing schedule above? completely odd order of games. you'd expect 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 in that order [or a simple reverse of that order] it's not a late change [as is the change to game times late yesterday] it's the way it always was. just seems odd to me.
as is the continued underestimation of the time required to complete international games. an hour now allowed for games in knock-out times where a result has to be found. so an extra 15 minutes has been added to what was too short an interval for RR games. in knock-out games there are 2 5min extra time periods [if required] with a 2min and a 1min break. that's 13 minutes scoffed up by the hungry uwh monster without ref's timeouts. only 2 mins to spare until next game starts - 'what happens if an extra 5mins each way isn't enough?' i hear you ask. well, another 1 or 2min break and into sudden death/golden goal play. i think an extra 15 minutes isn't quite enough. try and convince me otherwise if you like.
tomorrow, assuming south africa roll the usa in 2v7 game, we'll play south africa in the semi-finals at 3.30pm local time = 1.30am NZ time saturday morning. i expect utter bedlam, in terms of noise, on the side of the pool. SA supporters will likely be foaming at the mouth praying for a home-town victory and the colombians will be going ape -shit - cos that's just what they do - beating drums and chanting for everyone.
off for a shower, then some dinner. support crew/team groupies have arrived so dinner table talk will [hopefully] be much more pleasant and less earthy than the last 2 weeks topics of debate. it'll be nice not to talk politics for a change; i'm completely over the hillary/obama thing.
last day of RR play, argentina in the morning, netherlands in the afternoon.
argentina game [because it was only 3rd match of the day] almost started on time. astounding stuff. we rolled over argentina 14-0.
by the time we got to the netherlands game [game 10 of 16 in pool 2] the games were running 40-45 mins behind schedule - so arriving 45 mins before scheduled kick-off for a carefully timed build-up is a bit pointless. i don't know who thought that an international uwh match could be run and concluded in a 45 min slot, but they are badly mistaken. let's just do the numbers: 30mins playing time, 3 mins 1/2 time, allow up to 4 mins for time-outs, loads of time for referees stoppages [cos there are plenty of those this week], maybe up to a minute for clock-stopping in the last 2mins of game time and you have probably eaten 40mins already. THEN there is the time wasted by the 24/7 tv folks. internet tv is a great thing for our sport, but it shouldn't be running our scoring systems and game clocks. anyway, back to the game...
netherlands game started out with both teams fairly willing in the exchanges but we took control after about 5 minutes and got 3 goals ahead by half-time. after half-time we started to run away with the game and ended up winning 9-0. the dutch had a couple of well-seasoned campaigners sitting out of the game, so i can only assume they weren't too bothered by the score or result.
we are playing the dutch in the quarter finals on thursday, so the return match should be a much tougher affair as i expect the old stagers will be in the water.
all we need to know [for certain] is what time our game will be played. the playing schedule was altered last night to allow 60mins/game for the play-offs. fingers crossed.
last day before the rest day. why the rest day is in the middle of the RR and not the day after has never been explained. refereeing randomness continues unabated, but at least we played the aussies today which meant that the refs make less impact. this is because the aussies like to play underwater hockey at underwater hockey competitions. a concept lost on most of the other teams here. when we play australia we have nice, open, passing games of uwh where 1 on 1 skill is more important than being able to smash the crap out of anyone or thing that moves along the sidewalls.
result of game was a 3-3 draw, which i guess is a fair result as control of the game swung back and forth a bit with both teams scoring off the slightest of mistakes of each other [and both teams got a bonus goal each from the refs when forced to play with only 4] probably the aussies feel hard done by the refs cos we got awarded a penalty shot as well. i have no idea if the call was legit [you know my opinions on refs by now] cos the pool is pretty murky and it's tough to see anything further than 10m away [unless you are a ref in which case you don't need to see things, your imagination is good enough].
apparently there is a refs game scheduled for sometime tomorrow and some coaches have been asked if they'd like a chance at payback by reffing the refs. i think i'd just like to drop a couple of kilos of C4 explosive in the water when they are all in there and watch them float, dead, to the surface.
all the elite men's & women's teams have been invited to a big braai at the durban underwater club at 3pm. it's an optional event for our team, the women are spending the day at a game park [might be hluhluwe, i'm not sure]. socialising isn't really my bag, but this might be a good opportunity to organise some gear swapping in advance of finals day...
first game of the day was against colombia who we had beaten comfortably in a 15min warm-up match on tuesday. we didn't properly fire up for a team that had run australia close in the first game of the RR and we paid the price for that. we were behind on the scoreboard at the end of the first 1/2, but the ridiculous number of sinbinnings and infringements called against the colombian team eventually told against them and we managed to go 2-1 ahead. then, because so many of the referees are idiotically trigger happy this year, Pig got given a 5min sinbinning. i admit the pass he threw caught a colombian in the head, but if you are stupid enough to press your face against the wall when play is being heaved along that same wall, then there aren't really many places to move. and, according to Pig, the clown took enough evasive action to pull his head away from the wall as the puck bounced off the wall. result: colombia equalised from resulting free puck/melee, in our corner. final result 2-2.
i am furious with the standard of refereeing, once again. our entire subs bench, John & myself witnessed Pizazz [world chief referee, i remind you] watch a fairly blatant hooking offence against our player in open play. Pizazz, signalled for advantage to run. no advantage was gained and 10 seconds after Pizazz called a foul against our guy. what's with that? this is the guy who almost cost us a place in the final in sheffield with a bullshit call against Piers. Pizazz also sent Pig for 5 minutes near the end of the game [see above]. immediately after the game Pizazz apologised to our water-boy and manager for sending Pig out - 'tell him i am sorry if i got it wrong' stunned reaction from w-b & m. if you are not certain about such a devastating/potentially crucial to a match outcome call - DON'T BLOODY CALL IT. a better apology might be refunding the costs of attending the competition to the guys who get knocked out early because of refereeing incompetence. this is the same guy who refuses to believe, despite clear video evidence from sheffield, that sending out Piers was a good call. referees and those who appoint them for games really have to consider the cost, to athletes, of refereeing mistakes. each of the guys in my team have paid around $6500nz to be here. they don't get state funding. there is no magic money pixie who pays for these campaigns. and whilst saving the cash, the guys have to take time away from paid employment to train twice a day. meanwhile referees are starting to have their expenses covered: 'so that we can get the best refs to attend' well, shit. if the ghouls and simpletons on display here are the best, then our game will remain a crash-bash thug festival. playing in small, shallow pools like kings park only exacerbates the problem.
this may seem like a sour grapes moaning bitch, but i honestly feel that the standard of the game has developed beyond the capacity of almost all the officials who are controlling games. 1 of 2 things will happen to the game. 1. refereeing standards improve rapidly and the game becomes open and enjoyable to watch and play. 2. refereeing standards remain as they are and teams that attempt to play open games are repeatedly thwarted by brutish thuggery that goes largely unpunished, as it is now with the result that adventurous teams either: a. give up in disgust and leave it to the boofheads, or: b. start playing like boofheads as well, and hope for the best when the refs keep making random sinbin calls.
presently i do not hold much hope, the same timing system that was a disaster in sheffield is being used again here. a proven, bullet-proof, system exists but i can only assume either jingoism or indolence is keeping it sidelined. people are not learning from their mistakes.
we learned from ours in the morning and as a result poor old canada, who have never done anything to offend us, got punished for our mistakes in our late game. we thrashed them 14-0.
only 1 game tomorrow, top of the table clash v. australia @ 15h30 local = 01.30am 29/04/08 NZ time. selection calls for spots on the playing roster are getting very tough.
we had a nice early game against france [current world champs, post-cmas games in bari last year, and rightful custodians of the trophy]. we tightened up all the things we got wrong in our preparation prior to the south african game. after a tough first 5 minutes during which france took an early lead, the pace of the game evened out a bit and we managed to climb back onto the scoreboard, eventually winning 4-1. this is the third world champs in a row that we have beaten france 4-1 in the RR stages and we are hoping this is a good omen. france got a bit hammered in the penalty count, but if your skulduggery goes as far as trying to pick up the puck with your free hand and throw it in the bin - well you only get what's coming i suppose.
our second match of the day was against the usa and was a pretty dire affair which we won 8-0. usa made no attempt to actually score goals or win the game and were content to swim from side-to-side of the playing area playing keep-away. sure, you can't win the game without posession, but having the posession isn't the same as winning.
we watched the elite women play canada and it was a fairly turgid affair too. the canadian team isn't the same as the one that narrowly lost the final in sheffield. the canadian women spent a long portion of the game playing with reduced numbers - getting down to only 2 in the water at one stage.
after the women's match we went for dinner at the big mall. service was crap, the restaurant was not air-conditioned and some local chap bashed another bloke in the face with a beer glass. great family viewing.
late starting games on sunday - colombia @ 12h30 [10.30pm NZ time] and canada @ 17h45 [1.45am mon morning NZ time] colombia won promotion to the elite A division in sheffield in 2006 and have already claimed the scalp of 2006 runners-up, the netherlands, and ran the aussie men close, going down 1-2 in the final 5 minutes of the game. the colombian game should be worth staying up for.