And so we all came to the sticky end of the tournament... the knockouts. As we were first seed we missed some effectively extra knockout games the day before, which we might go back to for some saved penalty shot drama, but I thought let's look at some quarters.
Colombia vs France was an epic game for starters. Both teams came out roaring and there were some massive hits and big intensity especially in the opening minutes. Unfortunately the video is glitching and misses some crucial details, but the first goal was to Colombia, Juan Hose rolls back on D as a center-forward type position and shoots off on a big swim after picking one of the french backs pocket, he links with his right support player and the Colombians all roll onto the puck one after the other putting on a tonne of pressure until Juan finishes it in the goal, the French just unable to clear or get possession long enough to snuff out the attack.
Then we have some interesting stuff going on, for example this Colombian free puck...
Check out how wide their players are, especially compared to the norm for almost every other team. Instead of putting players into an area and trying to apply pressure, this play looks more like putting the puck into the opposition, putting light pressure on and then when the opp turn to the corner or look to swing wide they have a guy in each spot. Very different. Compare to this...
Here's the French adv puck, and yes I know it's a lot closer to the bin but they are doing this all over the court, also Turkey, GB, Portugal, NZ, lots of other teams are using this very tight 3 man hanging curtain attack style. Turkey are doing it with lets be honest some sheperding going on behind it (which we will look at later), and Aus a bit more loosely than they have in the past but similar.
The Colombians don't manage to make anything of this loose adv puck approach in this game that I can see however.
This game is one of those with a French and Colombian commentator, one of those hilarious vids where as the game goes on, each commentator as they are both speaking different languages just starts to ignore and talk over the other so we have a double commentary, and magically each set of listeners in both languages can still understand.
Lkie wehn you mses wtih wdors in tihs way it slitl meaks snsee. Cazry.
Here's a good bit. From the start of the clip, french are attacking and as they roll forward a col player gets the puck and makes a couple meters, and immediately FOUR of his team sub out. Ahhrghh! But he somehow realises he's very alone and turns, holds onto the puck and then flings it toward the subs bench... still danger time but then a french forward grabs it, can't see options and throws it the rest of the way towards the Col bench where the 4 fresh subs storm all the way up the pool, but somehow the french defence makes a miraculous save, and pushes to the corner.
A goal would have been Col 2-0 up and very tough, so it was a clutch save from France there, awesome.
Colombia have another couple of really good chances which each time the french defence just skims off the bin, and then Raphael saves a penalty shot, again clutch defence and the Colombians really are the dominant team in the first half but can't make it show on the scoreboard.
Then, right at the start of the second half, this happens. The French get one back.
As a coach, very interesting to see what the Colombians do to try to control the puck on their left wall. Four of them in a row do the exact same move trying to keep possession, pulling the puck back but without turning fully to use the body, and each time a french guy punts the puck through this weak position...
This is 4 Col players in a row each doing the same move. More obvious on the vid above.
One french player essentially goes through 3 colombians like this, with a french forward in support the whole time who finally gets it behind defender 4 and throws a great centering pass that gets wider than the remaining 2 col defenders who have had to come in close, and the french open forward drops on it beautifully and has a clean run to the bin.
Through the rest of the game which is mostly in the middle, both teams attack the space but the Colombians are right up on the french bin another couple of times, with a goal disallowed. Again dominant in territory and chances and they are really not having the luck fall their way this game. But, after a french drive goes to the right the french end up in that same right corner where the first goal was scored from and again the colombians are losing ground quickly through that corner and looking really vulnerable. (You don't ever want to have a weakness on the wall against a french team, they are very aware of which wall is strong/weak for teams and where goals are scored from, these are the guys that have their resting players marking maps of adv pucks around the pool to determine hot-spots etc). Arguably, the Colombians have looked their most vulnerable in that one corner. There is a colombian defensive adv but they aren't able to move it away up the pool and the puck ends up in the corner again, and the french put on a heap of pressure through the corner and score.
Great game, in all honesty the Colombians in a lot of areas were dominant, probably had more territory and definitely more scoring chances, but great clutch defence from the french kept them in it. Possibly the tendency to avoid full body turns in their left defensive corner might have hurt the colombians, but of course it's never as simple as just one thing that puts you under pressure.
What can we take from the game? Well, the Colombians were right in this comp weren't they. So so close. You do have to have a little bit of luck in getting through 3 knockout games and the Colombians just didn't get those finishes to the goals falling in, and that's the way it goes I guess. From the same game, you have to give a lot of respect to a team that can grind a win from a game where they were under pressure the whole time and mostly on the back foot... the French team would be coming out of this game with extra confidence that they can hang on in pressure and get the result. And that was actually a perfect game to prepare the French for their semi-final which was even tighter.
Australia vs Turkey
The background for this one is, the last time these teams played was in the Final in South Africa, where Aussie put on a school of how to play open hockey. The Turks that day, you could wonder if through all the intensity and drama and euphoria of the semi-final where they ended up winning with 2 vs 6 in the last minute, maybe meant they played their final in the semi? A big emotional result like that can make it hard to get the same intensity in the last game, especially when a team is making it into that last game for the first time. Some people even say you have to lose a final before you win one, but of course that doesn't always apply. Anyway. The main thing was... how much would the Turks have changed and learnt from the last time they played this Aussie style?
In this game it seemed like the obstruction interpretation that ourselves and Australia had struggled a bit to adjust to when we played each other earlier in the comp had moved a bit further back towards what it had been at previous worlds. A defending player was allowed to occupy the space where his torso was (as long as it was flat on the bottom not dropping) and if an attacking player moved into that space the defender got the benefit, so this kind of thing could happen....
Dummy into a guys legs? Wear some legs in your face, that's the way it should be too I think. We haven't really chat much about the refs but I am waiting on a bit of information to include, will put that in the next post. Suffice to say, I thought the refs processes, evaluations and consistency of interpretation especially in the later stages of the comp was fantastic, a big step onwards from past comps. Actually probably one of the only things to fault about the whole comp was that the referees weren't officially recognised at the closing ceremony, because they certainly deserved a big shout, but anyway. Back to the uwh geeking out.
I suppose that gif above is a good example. A couple of moves which are quite common in the Aussie skillset tend to involve putting the puck under or through the oppositions legs. There is the dummy attempt from Josh Mackenzie above, but also in that situation there is a lot of pulling back the puck and then forcing it through on an angle from a lot of aussie players.
It's often a reverse curl. But, the crucial thing about this is, in this particular game, these moves actually require the defending player to essentially be polite and raise his bum/legs out of the way to let the puck through, to attempt to reach it immediately with his stick. Many players do this especially inexperienced ones. But, if the defender just turns flat leaving his legs where they are, the Aussie attacker barges his legs or gets a facefull of bum... and on every team there will be a couple of older players who do this, just sit patiently and it's harder to get through. Normally no big deal, percentages will still make these moves very worthwhile. But, the Turkish skillset is very very stay down, turn the other way and keep bums on the bottom. Almost every player is going to be very difficult to make these moves work against.
What does this mean? Not too much, other than a couple of shots in the armoury the Aussies would normally have are going to have a much lower success rate against this particular Turkish group of players playing as they are. I haven't found any other examples yet, so maybe not a big deal, but these things all add up.
From the start of the game, Turkey are pretty territory dominant. Aussie get a bunch of calls relieving Turkish pressure, and after not getting much change going straight they start to look to use the full width of the pool for their defence, going straight sideways on adv in front of their goal, but the Turks race up very fast not allowing the Aussies to connect around the corners to their forwards and pinning the Aussies in defensive territory for much of the half.
The Aussies had a headshot too which to be honest was very lucky not to have gone for 5 mins just because it was so dead-on... Apologies Rhys if you see this for bringing back the memories, and Hakan too as it probably hurt a bit!
But this was just a bit of an accidental brain fart and I think the refs made a good call with 2 mins. Brain makes the pass as though the guy isn't there, one of those weird things, we've all done it at some stage. But, good teams defend well with 5 and the Aussies plugged through and defended well.
First goal after a couple disallowed or very close was to Turkey.
After a Turkish Adv with the hanging curtain of turkish forwards, there's a melee and then the puck pops back to Nick who has been patiently sitting waiting, and he goes for a gap which if he squeezes through has him going for a big swim and linking with his left winger most likely and only one Turkish cover defender, but, there's a clutch tackle from a Turkish player or maybe puck bounces away and it goes right back through the Nick-shaped space behind him.... nightmare for a fullback/goalie as generally when you do anything aggressive you want to hold team possession, or this kind of thing can happen, but, his only option was to go for it he had a corridor of opposition players to either side! Anyway great pressure from the Turks to make this goal and finally get their finish, good hustle and backtackling to make the chance and nice clean finish which they lacked earlier.
In the first half, 4 times the Aussies get 1-3m inside the Turkish half, very briefly each time, a couple of these with momentum from adv pucks. The rest of the half is solidly in the Aussie half, very strong territorial advantage for Turkey.
Most of the Adv pucks the Turks popped the puck to the fwdline so there's no foul but this one was getting a bit dodgy... When number 5 Ismail here (who takes all the pucks) starts to swim to either side of the hanging player(s) there is some definite sheperding starting to creep in.
Speaking of number 5... this guy is good, right? Most of the Turks are very strong powerful swimmers and brute force is their strength, speed, power. But Ismail here had a fantastic tournament and he's done a great job of directing them around, shifting the point of attack for the others to bludgeon, and he's got some great puck retention skills and short passing game.
Aspiring centers, definitely have a watch of the way this guy plays.
Second half, well it starts with a big strike from Turkey but here's a nice and under-rated bit of skill from Rhys Milburn
A lot of kids tic-tac for no particular reason, because they see good players doing it, but this is why you do it, to keep the perfect distance between the puck and your tackler to keep your pass option alive. Aussies might call this a pull-back I think? Kids, take note. Nice pass too.
Aus quickly gets their best chance of the game, Adv in Turkish half. Right away they are pretty aggressive.
All 3 in the backline are up in this play and the outside half ends up engaging. Other teams with a 3 man backline have 1 up hanging back as cover, especially say france a long way back... usually I think Aus do have 2 backs in and 1 out? So possibly they have had a chat about taking a risk and making the most of any attacking opportunity? Maybe. They get another free and repeat with really aggressive cover defence , maybe thats just the way Josh always rolls. As they game goes on they are doing this the whole time so I guess I just never noticed before.
So, sometimes it's hard to see what a team is doing, and then you have a clear little snippet on video where you get a good idea of intent, and intent is one of the only ways to figure out what is planned and what is random... so, watch the Turkish number 5, forward on camera-side until the next break in play
This is the interesting bit...
He glances back, sees his wall half behind, then launches back and over him, rotating back behind the half. If you keep watching you can see him do it again as the play comes back towards the camera before it gets called up.
So, in this little snippet it's easy to see the forward in rotation with the half. What to take from this? Well, it means if they are working a wall they will have another body rolling around in the rotation from behind, similarly to some of the Argentinian and Colombian play. If you are trying to arm-wrestle the Turks going straight through them this is going to make things much harder. But, conversely, it means if you turn around you won't have a Turkish forward back-tackling you on the wall like you would an Aussie, French, NZ or GB forward. So there is scope to have space to start off sideways moves and swings a bit easier... If you aren't getting crushed into your defensive corners all game that is. What this also means, a little less obviously, is that the Turkish halves know they have forwards rolling back behind them so they will have a more aggressive approach. The converse again, is this is actually pretty risky because while the forward can look back, they don't have any sight system like GB do rotating their outside guys in, as we saw in a past post. So when a half runs forwards aggressively, he doesn't actually know if the forward has rolled back or is rolling into rotation or has his mask off or subbing or just out of position... if you can get onto the half and he commits and you can catch the forward up, then there is very little to no cover. The kind of thing you can file away to remember later.
Aussies are looking much better this half with more time in the Turkish end, but then Turkey have an adv and do a great little shift. They hang their curtain of forwards, but then Ismail sells going straight pretty well and biffs the puck out left to a half charging onto it, and this fixes all 3 Aus forwards because they are tangled trying to get through the curtain. Aus half is actually a bit slow reacting too and I think Coskun gets right around, he's got good pace and very strong straight-ahead skills, Turkish forwards then squish the remaining Aus backs into the bin and to be honest the legality looks a bit iffy but the refs were happy with it and they are a lot closer than the camera, and pretty well executed by the Turks. The goal counts and the Turkish chatroom goes wild.
This goal lights a bit of a fire under the Aussie arse and they pull out by far their best passage of the game so far, all the way up to the Turkish bin, the first time the puck has been up there I think. This is a really mint section of play...
My favourite is this bit, nice centering move from Matthew Paine, then a little tap back from I think Shannon and then the perfect timing of the hit from the no. 12 again, that is juicy! Man that would have felt good on that hit.
Aussie get the puck all the way to the bin holding good possession, even an under-the-bum flick Jason Lord style from Stew Parko showing his Tasmanian roots, and then an advantage puck right on the Turk bin and possibly unlucky not to get a penalty shot, foul must have been outside the area and then playing advantage.
So, Coskun has been binned just before this by throwing his elbows all over the shop, now Turks have another guy binned for a bit of a grab/push/flail as the bin adv is setup, now Aus have a 6 on 4 on the Turkish bin. Crunch time.
This is really rough on the Aussies. They are all down early, they have 4 guys right up in the bin taking up all the real-estate, Turks were late down or not at all, both refs setting the line are hands up ready... but there is a Turkish guy (Coskun) waiting to come in when puck is touched and the chief ref is busy sorting him out, sitting him down etc and doesn't start until people have been sitting there quite a few seconds and people are going up wondering if there's a timeout... it's a mess. Chance is gone by the time the play is finally started.
But, Aussie gets another free and puts it in pretty easily, gets the goal, but then after a big conference it's disallowed and goes to equal... possibly the buzzer went early? Unsure what happened actually. But aussie keep putting on pressure 6 on 6, some great stuff centering the puck in front of turkish bin at 7:00 to go. The Aussie forwards didn't get much chance to do anything in the first half really being kept out of the play but now they are coming into it, Tom is starting to open the play up and take the puck to space and Jack and is it Shannon in the middle starting to really do some damage with their underbody skills, getting in behind the Turkish backline.
Aus have another adv on the Turkish bin and for once Nick doesn't blow out all his air on the charge. Perhaps with the benefit of that extra oxygen, the Aussies finish the goal and the game is all on, 2-1 to Turkey but with the Aussies right back in it and pressure now going both ways.
Then, Turkey with 1 in the bin already and they really don't help themselves when Coskun throws another elbow this time in front of camera so we can have a nice view.
Judge for yourself but it does look a bit like Coskun here isn't thinking about the puck anymore when his arm hits Matts face, although to be fair to him this pull-back-scrape-forward is Coskuns main move. There are a lot of passionate Turkish supporters in the chat, (too passionate sometimes you might argue) and there is always a lot of chat about refs, but it is good to see this on video, then see the play called up and then the right guy go to the bin for it. Good job refs with this kind of stuff. And I don't mean to be picking on Coskun... this one just ended up right on the screen!
The Turks get through with 4 for a minute and really do some great defence, Aussies move it around the spaces and Jamie North has a bit of a video blinder in the last couple of minutes (ie we can see him do a bunch of good things which I'm sure he was doing all game but on the other side of the court), but the Turkish defence just too hard to break down and they finish the game in the Aussie half.
Great game. Obviously I got into this one a lot. Turkish win 2-1.
Well, if you are still here reading congratulations, what an effort. Next post we will look at the other 2 quarters including ours against USA, and GB vs Spain.