A week later and some time to reflect on a Champions Trophy that had it all!
Set in Mendoza Argentina it was the final send off of their captain, eight time world player of the year, and hockey icon Luciana Aymar. A player with hero status not only in the hockey world, but also in the whole of South America.
Argentina, like Holland, has some of the best hockey fans. Going into a sports shop and seeing the Argentinian playing uniform with names of Aymar and Barrionuevo, next to shirts of footballers Messi and Beckham, is pretty damn cool. It also shows the importance of hockey in their country and its popularity among the people.
There has been much debate on the layout of international tournaments having quarter finals- meaning the teams that finish top of their pool can sometimes not make finals and those that finish last have an opportunity to do so. In the case of this year Champion Trophy it worked out well for us, but in saying that I have also been on the other end where it has not. We wanted to finish top of our pool in the hope we would meet Holland in the final. By conceding a late goal in our game against Germany, that we won 3-1, Argentina beat us on goal difference to finish top of the pool. Goal difference is a heart breaking, soul-destroying topic for the Hockeyroos. Two Olympic game finials we have missed out on because of goal difference, and fifth is not a place we want to ever finish.
However, NZ were also having a strong tournament drawing with Holland and finishing on top of their pool. Which subsequently meant we played Japan and England in our final games. Argentina knocked off Holland so it was the two of us in the final.
Big props need to go out to FIH and the marketing team on how they are showcasing hockey to the world through film, pictures and social media. Something that has been long overdue in our beautiful sport to raise the profile and get people involved.
Our final day in Mendoza proved to be the most exciting as we prepared for the final that night. Waiting for the bus to take us to the ground before the game… waiting, waiting… yes the bus failed to turn up for 20 minutes or so. Our goalies ended up taking taxi’s to the ground because they would not have enough had time to get ready for the match. Now our bus had never been late before, but on grand final day for some strange reason it was.. Coincidence? Or ploy to put us off our game?? You decide.
The game showcased all that was expected in a final, with a goal apiece, some Aymar flare and passionate fans. The controversy came in the shootouts, because why win in normal time when you can do shoot outs and give your coaches, friends and family a heart attack in the process. The big screen at the field was not working, again for the final day a little strange as it had been great all tournament. Anyhow, Aymar lined up for her penalty and had a cracking shot at goal that appeared to either hit one post going in and hitting the other and coming out… somehow? Or.. conversely, hitting one post-then the other post, with the ball not crossing the line. We of course referred after much confusion but the goal stood, and we were unable to see what they saw because there was no big screen. After the game their was footage that clearly showed the ball did not cross the line, but also photos and other angles that may have said otherwise.. In true Aymar style her last shot of hockey meant she went out with a bang, the way every champion should, and we were proud to take home the silver medal.
So after a huge year of hockey- World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Champions Trophy and individually tackling the Holland club competition, it is nice to back in sunny Australia. I cannot wait to see what 2015 holds as I aim to improve my hockey and as always share it with the world!