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Pro League 2024 (London) 


Written by; Tao MacLeod

Day 8

Germany 2 – 4 Spain (Men)

China 3 – 1 Germany (Women)

Great Britain 1 – 5 Australia (Men)

Great Britain 2 – 3 Australia (Women)

What Happened Today

Germany 2 – 4 Spain (Men)

This was the first of two more games that have, yet again, been played behind closed doors. Spain started in a strong manner, both metaphorically and literally. They rode a couple of testing challenges (played within the spirit of a competitive game) in order to move the ball forward and move they did. There was a directness to their attacking intent that paid off. A ninth minute penalty corner drag flick from Marc Miralles gave his team the lead. In the second quarter the Germans spent a bit of time taking it to their opponents. They scored, yet again, through a Gonzalo Peillat short corner. A couple of moments before the ten minute break, the Spanish forced a turn over in the German. A quick counter attack into the circle saw Marc Reyne tuck the ball past Alexander Stadler for a field goal. 

In the third period Germany maintained most of the possession with the Spanish defending in numbers. They shifted well together and cut off many of the angles of attack that their opponents were looking for. They even got a couple of shots on target from counter attacks. In the 40th minute Alvaro Iglesias got a third for his team from open play. In their typical style Spain got a fourth. They broke quickly through the centre, before using the width of the pitch, by sending the ball to their left. Marc Reyne picked it up and drove into the circle towards the goalkeeper’s right hand side. Stadler saved the initial attempt, but didn’t clear it. Reyne managed to get to it before any of the defenders and scored his second of the match. Die Honamas finally got a goal back but it was too little too late. A solid defensive display by Spain, with their quick and fiery counter attacks was a stratagem too much for the World Champions. 

Marc Reyne of the Spanish hockey team spoke to the Half Court Press after scoring two goals against Germany in the FIH Pro League…

China 3 – 1 Germany (Women)

The first quarter was a game of stick or twist. Both teams looked to transition between attack and defence cautiously, whilst also obstructing the other. China opened the scoring with a nice little bit of interplay at the top of the circle that saw Zhang Ying get a goal with a cute finish. Germany then got a couple of short corners that forced Liu Ping to make a decent stop with her right kicker. In the second half Lena Micheel carried the ball towards the right hand baseline and drilled it across the face of the Chinese goal. Lilly Stoffelsma got in front of her defender and managed to deflect home an equaliser at the near post. Chen Li retook the lead for the Asians just before the final break. Germany failed to convert a short corner routine. China managed to get up the other end and with 47 seconds left of the game are awarded a penalty stroke after the centre forward was fouled after receiving a long pass from a quick counter attack. Zhang Ying got her second of the game. China ran out deserved winners. 

Great Britain 1 – 5 Australia (Men)

The fans who came through the opened gates in the evening were treated to an absolute belter of an opening in this later match. Two goals in two minutes of the push back saw Australia take the lead through Jake Whetton, before Lee Morton equalised for GB. The British goal was a quick pass and move goal, that was finished off by the diving Scotsman, while the first one was scored in typical Aussie style of strength and power. Ollie Payne then made a superb stretching save to keep the scores level. The Australians thought that it had gone in, it probably should have gone in except for some top notch goalkeeping. On referral the video umpire said that there was no advice that they could possibly give, but the replays on the big screen made it look as though the ball had never crossed the line. Both teams went at each other and attacked the open spaces at pace. Just before half time Australia scored a short corner. In real time, and from the media box (and the British bench) it looked as if the ball hadn’t left the circle. The players and coaches on the sideline demanded a referral, but from a different angle it was clear that there was day light between stick trap and the line of the ‘D’. The goal stood and Britain lost their right of protest. 

In the second Hal Ky Willott scored a short corner low and to the goalie’s right to extend the Australian lead. Tom Craig got another from close range, after Payne made a save from a well worked passing move that sliced open the British defence. Lee Morton was the best player for GB today, but his forward running wasn’t rarely kept up with by his team mates. In fact there were few original ideas by the host team. An over reliance on ball carriers and not enough team pattern play made it all tooIt ended as an absolute thrashing of Great Britain.  obvious for the opposition to defend against. Ky Willot got a fifth for the tourists, after Tom Criag hit the baseline and found him running towards the far post. It looked all too easy for them. 

Kookaburra goalscorer Tom Craig spoke to the Half Court Press after Australia beat Great Britain in the FIH Pro League today…

Great Britain 2 – 3 Australia (Women)

A low dragged shot from Grace Balsdon put Britain in the lead early on. In the second quarter The Australians pounced to intercept a pass deep into the British half. Grace Stewart drove to her right and into the circle, as her opponents backed off  in order to mark her team mates. As soon as she entered the circle she drilled the ball low to Pritchard’s right. They doubled their tally just before half time with a Brooke Peris deflection from a short corner. 

Tess Howard got a touch from a British penalty corner in the second half. It had come after a sustained bit of pressure from the home team, having pinned Australia back within their own quarter for a time. Shortly afterwards, a lung bursting run from Ellie Rayer was nearly converted at the back post by Charlotte Watson, but they just missed out on a connection. The Hockeyroos retook the lead in the 52nd minute as Rosie Malone got a deflection from a set piece routine. Unfortunately for the hosts this was how the game finished. 

Star Player

There were a few top performances today from the kookaburras. Ky Willot got two goals, from a penalty corner, another from open play. His field goal was set up by Tom Craig, who also got a goal himself and looked lively in transitions, from defence to attack and vice versa. However, I’m going to opt for a Spaniard…

Marc Reyne was good today. He was a vital part of the Spanish tactical mindset of getting about the Germans. As one of the forwards he did a lot of running, not only when in attack, but also defensively as well. He, alongside his team mates, put a right shift in when providing a low block for large parts of the game, before showing ambition and flair when looking for goals. He even scored a brace. 

Goal of the Day

The Aussies had a bit of a goal fest today. In the ladies match Grace Stewart’s solo effort rattled the backboard. Plus several of the men tucked away good flowing team moves. However, my goal of the day came in the opening two minutes of the GB-Aussie match. The Kookaburras goal was scored within 100 seconds of the push back. Lachlan Sharp drove through the centre of the pitch before he released Jake Whetton to his right. The Australian took a touch, allowed the ball to cross the top of the circle and the unleaded a pile driver of a shot past the goalie. It was absolutely unstoppable. 

Moment of the Day

Ollie Payne’s save at his far post was very, very good. He had already committed to the ground at his near post when the ball was sent to the other side. An early shot from an Australian probably should have gone in if it weren’t for the goalkeeper’s athleticism and determination to get up and dive across again to make a stick save. This, though, was second to an earlier moment…

Chen Yi’s cheeky little goal for China, against Germany, today was quite nice. It arrived at her stick, whilst quite close to the goal, through a crowd of players. Her team mate had forced through a pass to her, with it taking a slight bobble after deflecting off of a couple of sticks. Chen was being marked, but she showed good awareness to quickly push the ball into the space and over the line. It wasn’t a great goal, but one that showed an instinctive understanding of what to do in the circle, whilst under pressure. 

China’s goalscorer Chen Yi spoke to the Half Court Press after her team’s victory over Germany today, in the FIH Pro League.

Thought of the Day

That we have had four matches in London that have been played behind closed doors (over the course of this mini-tournament) suggests that the FIH have misjudged the scheduling and the concept of the Pro League. Low spectator attendances for neutral games appears to be a global issue within the sport. Why is the international governing body putting games on at lunchtime on a weekday? If it’s unfeasible for national federations to make any money from putting on these events, then we might see more international teams pulling out of some tournaments.

Germany vs Spain; men’s FIH Pro League June 2024 London. Photo copyright; Tao MacLeod. Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.

Click on the image to listen to the Half Court Press Podcast.