Spain vs GB
We have had a bit of a look at GB already so a bit more on Spain this post. First, have to recognise the work these guys have put in and the huge improvements they have made over the past few years. They are a genuine chance to beat any team on their day now and this kind of improvement is making the Mens Elite grade a massive tussle all the way through the groups.
This vid, all the way through to the goal shows some great support and pressure.
Most notably you can see how they are cranking their center players. Alvaro number 8 is their Center, and Fer number 11 is their goalie. Alvaro takes the puck, follows in, and then it's Fer who pushes through aggressively to attack and support in the next couple of waves, finally getting a nice benson style inverse pickup move around the last GB defender and it's Alvaro barrelling in to help finish the goal as well... both center players very very aggressive, probably the most aggressive combo out of all the teams. Here's that finish...
Don't see that pulled off often in a big game. Nice!
Here's a free on the GB goal, really good taking up position early and tight from the Spanish fwds, also not a straight line but angled which makes all sorts of different shape and pressure on the GB defence. This goal was finished a couple seconds after the GIF ends.
So they are really doing some good stuff. I was told by team-mates to watch myself or I'd get my wrist broken by one of their wingers before we played them in our practice game... a friendly! Maybe that just shows how tough my team-mates think I am I suppose. Surely it was just genuine concern that they have a seriously strong guy that can damage people. But no question they are doing a lot right.
They are also still developing experience in the big pressure games and they weren't able to push on past this Quarter, with GB taking this game 5 goals to 3.
A big reason of course is that GB played a good game!
In this clip, GB forward Henry Ing-Simmons (if they got the goal-scorer correct?) is on a break, and Fer the spanish goalie drops on him, and gets about a millimeter away from rolling right under and coming away back up the pool at top speed, but Henry reaches back and manages to grab it, and keeps going, good tenacity, plus scores the goal himself. Clutch moment there, if Fer ends up with the puck he is headed up court at a rate of knots, but the GB forward showing good tenacity makes it a goal the other way instead. Did Fer attack before he finished defending? Maybe, but then he doesn't get the reward if he doesn't take the risk either.
This one is a bit of a clear-cut issue on D for the Spanish. As the GB player turns, you can see the Spanish defender sitting waiting behind? Sitting back and not pressuring the GB player puts more pressure on the defence because it's leaving the attacking player enough space to keep his pass option alive, and sure enough he just flicks the puck past that waiting defender, and it's a goal. What to do instead? From that waiting position, run up as close to the guy turning as you can and try to get stick on puck. Any stick on puck removes the clean pass option and leaves the GB guy with only a push underneath his body or a messy drive, and the defender is also buying space and time behind him for team-mates to drop into as well.
Of course, we don't know the specifics of the Spanish defensive rotations, or that positions job? We can see a defender dropping to try to tackle as well... but almost always better to push up, cut off the pass, force a rotation with the other defenders etc rather than hang back.
Those little things, getting your defensive patterns just right, getting the balance of attack/defend to match the situation just right, it all comes with experience and those guys will continue to get better and even more dangerous. If they can hold their group together! Because as always, these things are also about cyclical learning and experience... For example the Canadian team in 2000 that was pretty experienced and then held a fair bit of the group in 2002, had pretty much all evaporated by 2004 when they had a newer group building their own development.
In the same way, we had an incredibly experienced NZ mens elite team in 1998 that was very competitive, and then only 1 player carried on into 1999, and he was still a newbie himself just after his first big comp, Mr Benson Taylor. It all goes in cycles.
Some quarterfinal highlights.
Just looking through some of the Womens quarters and saw this little gem from no.12 Emma Bavelaar in the NZ womens team. So, it's not crystal clear in the GIF but Emma turns, sees the pass back to Paige her support player. She wants to make that pass, but Karine the Canadian 10 is going to block that pass, you can see her reaching her stick to block. Emma then moves her stick quickly over the puck as if she is going to pull it back to the corner, and Karine is forced to move her stick over to the right to follow the option, then Emma pops her stick back behind the puck and makes her pass, which is now no longer blocked. It's a bit clearer here in the game vid...
This is what a tic-tac should be used for, to manipulate the opposition. It's such a small thing, but it's done really well here and considering Emma was the youngest player in that team, that is epic that she is pulling that off under pressure. Awesome.
Note also that a lot of people preach that tic-tacs should be rolled around the stick? You hear a debate sometimes, is it better to move your stick around or over? People prefer one method, it's like scrunchers and folders, right? Well, this kind of move involving a pass pretty much requires you to go over... the puck isn't moving, you can see Emma is just flashing her stick over the top of the puck to do this. Just a coaching note. (I'm a believer in over, not around, just to put my flag in the ground on this one, but I acknowledge that around has it's place too. What a pussy on the fence, I know)
Here's Rachel Bell the GB 7 doing this same thing but with a bigger pass, if you watch the french player she swims up to, her stick hand moves toward Rachel just as she passes it because of how she times her tic-tac. Nice.
Doesn't take long watching the GB ladies play to see Sophia do something epic, here the puck moves towards the subs bench just as she is coming in fresh, ends up with 1 to beat, fades outside and goodnight.
She is a freak in the best uwh way possible, love watching her play.
I think that's my bedtime, next post we will finally get to our own Quarter-final. Probably.