FIH Hockey Qualifiers: How the two-game format works - Explained
As per the rules, the team which will win both the matches will qualify. But in case both the teams manage to win one match each, the decision will be made by the aggregate of the goals scored by the teams in the two games.Updated: Nov 01, 2019 11:47 IST
“You’ve seen how difficult it has been for the teams to adjust to the format,” the USA Women’s team coach Janneke Schopman quipped when she was questioned on the format during the press conference in Bhubaneswar just a day ahead of Hockey Olympic qualifiers. For the first time, the International Federation of Hockey (FIH) decided to hold a two-match qualifying event to finalise teams for the upcoming 2020 Olympics. While the Continental Champions from each federation, along with host nation were given an automatic berth, the remaining six teams were to be decided via the qualifying event.
Schopman was not wrong to point out how the teams have found the two-match format difficult. As per the rules, the team which will win both the matches will qualify. But in case both the teams manage to win one match each, the decision will be made by the aggregate of the goals scored by the teams in the two games. If the aggregate is also the same, then the decision will be made via a tie-breaker shoot-out after the second match. Considering this is the last chance for all the teams to book a berth to Tokyo, the two-game format saw a series of surprising results in the qualifiers last week, as many top teams faced troubles in dealing with the pressures and demands posed by the format.
The 2018 World Cup finalists Netherlands saw themselves drawing 4-4 when the 17th ranked Pakistan threw a spirited fight in the first game. In the second game, Pakistan suffered a 6-1 defeat as the mighty Dutch fought back to make it through to the Olympics with an aggregate of 10-5.
The Ireland-Canada match saw a controversial finish after a last-minute penalty stroke was awarded to Canada following a video referral. As Canada scored the goal to push the two-game affair to a tie-breaker shootout, which they won 5-4, the Irish took to social media to complain about the decision that washed away their hopes of making it to the Olympics.
In Women’s qualifier, World No. 10 China came back from 0-2 down after the first game to oust Belgium as they scored twice in the last 10 minutes in the 2nd game to push the match to shootout, which they eventually won 2-1.
The USA women’s coach, who played for Netherlands before retirement, says the format is like a one long match, divided into two games. “This is a different format than we have ever seen in field hockey. We have had a similar system back in the Netherlands in the past, in which we used to play final as a two-match affair. It sort of becomes like one single game, where you play one half on Friday, and the second half on Saturday.”
Her counterpart and India Women’s coach Sjoerd Marijne has a different outlook. “I read a lot of coaches see this as one-match. But I do not. I see this as a two-match process. At the end, you will know on Saturday whether you have qualified or not. You cannot judge after Friday’s game whether you are through or not. You have time to adjust after the first game and we will go match-by-match. That will work best for us,” he said a day before India takes on the USA in the qualifiers.
He further elaborated: “China and Belgium match is a good example. Mistakes can happen and they are a part of the game. This is why you have to go match-by-match. I have a different mindset about the second match, but I will keep it to myself as I don’t know how the first match will go.”