The last tickets for the 2016 Olympics have been taken. In four dramatic quarterfinals some teams took them as expected, some not so much but in the end the four matches proved to be a worthy highlight of the qualification tournament in Trieste this week. Each of them ended up being decided by just a single goal. Hungary, favourites against Germany, survived a late scare as the Germans stormed back in the final period scoring 4 goals and even having posession in the final seconds where furious defence by Hungary overcame 2 attempts from the German side as the Magyars held on for the 7-8 win securing their place in the 2016 Olympic tournament. Little celebration though after the final whistle had blown before everyone on the squad realised they succeeded on the task that was upon them following the miss of qualification in previous international tournaments such as the 2016 European Championships and 2015 World Championships.
The same score in Friday’s 2nd match where Spain won but also saw the opponent coming utterly close in the final term. Canada looked to have played a lost match especially in the 3rd session where Spain walked away to a seemingly comfortable 3-7 lead before the Canadians, coached by interim head coach Pino Porzio, got back in the 4th period scoring 4 goals. The answer by Albert Español though, and the fact that Jared McElroy’s hit, his 2nd straight, came just in the final seconds, made it impossible to go for the equaliser. Spain held on and huge celebrations began as the Gabi Hernandez coached side returns to the highest podium, trying to improve on their 6th place finish in London 2012.
The third match was the most dramatic one. Here France and the Netherlands played a tough and tactical match with tight defences as both teams clearly were under a lot of pressure. The Dutch however looked to endure that pressure the best throughout most of the time as they gabbed an early 1-3 lead and held on for that lead until the 2nd half of the final period. Here it was that France slowly but surely came back, patient as they were. With three straight goals French camptain Alexandre Camarasa lifted the French from trailing to actually leading 8-7 with just over a minute to play. A huge blow it seems for the Robin van Galen coached Dutch team but Robin Lindhout, on a quick-taken free throw surprised defence and goalie to level the score 8-8 quickly after. Both teams could not hit in the final minute despite some real chances, so that a shootout would determine which one of these ‘underdogs’ would made it. The series started bad for France as veteran Mathieu Peisson saw the ball slipping out of his hand in the first attempt. But the French would even make up for that miss as Luuk Gielen and later on captain Roeland Spijker saw their shots being saved by France goalkeeper Remi Garsau so that Mehdi Marzouki, as he struck on the series possible final attempt, sent France to Rio downing the Netherlands 12-11 in dramatic fashion. Therewith France returned to the Olympic stage for the first time after 1992!
The final teams in action for Rio qualification where hosts Italy and Romania. The favourites played a surpringly tough match agains the Romanians who hung on despite falling behind early 0-2. Mihnea Gheorghe carried his team in the second period scoring 2 of the team’s 3 goals as Romania got back in the game and stayed there throughout. But the tight Italian team managed to hold off a possible completion of the little comeback even in a high-scoring 3rd quarter where Matteo Aicardi, Christian Presciutti and Pietro Figlioli, all Olympic veterans, secured the anwsers were there for the Romanians scores. Gheorghe opened up the final period with levelling the score at 7-7 with his 3rd of the night but with under a minute remaining Pietro Figlioli struck getting Italy in front and securing the win and tickets to Rio.
2016 Olympic Games Men’s Qualification Tournament
Programme and results
Day 6 – Friday, April 8 (quarterfinals):
Hungary (1A) vs. Germany (4B) 8-7 (1-0, 4-2, 2-1, 1-4) – game 31
Canada (2A) vs. Spain (3B) 7-8 (1-2, 2-2, 0-3, 4-1) – game 32
France (3A) vs. Netherlands (2B) 12-11 (1-3, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2; penalties: 4-3) – game 33
Romania (4A) vs. Italy (1B) 7-8 (0-2, 3-2, 3-3, 1-1) – game 34
Eight teams have already secured a place for the Olympic Games:
Australia, Brazil (as host), Croatia, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Serbia, USA.