Britain to cross swords with Argentina in potentially fiery opening men's hockey match of London 2012
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
May 23 - The schedule for the London 2012 Olympic hockey tournament has been unveiled, including details of the early group games.
The games, taking place at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic Park, will start on July 29 with a clash between neighbours Australia and New Zealand in the women's competition.
Britain's women will get their campaign underway with a clash against Japan on the same day while champions Netherlands start against neighbours Belgium and Argentina will face South Korea, borth games also on July 29.
A key game in the group stage will be Britain's clash with the Netherlands on August 6.
In the men's tournament, reigning champions Germany face Belgium while Great Britain (pictured top, in red) take on Argentina, both matches to be played on July 30.
The latter game will be particularly spicy given the increased tension between the two countries over the status of the Falklands Islands.
Argentina and Britain went to war over the disputed territories in 1982 and the South American country recently showed an advertisement featuring hockey star Fernando Zylberberg training on the Islands (pictured below).
Midfielder Zylberberg is, however, set to be absent from the Argentine Olympic squad.
Britain will then face Australia, a key test of their abilities and whether or not they can challenge for a medal, on August 5 while Germany will take on the Netherlands on the same day.
"The Riverbank Arena is set to stage exciting world-class sport during the Olympic Games," said London 2012 director of sport Debbie Jevans.
"The Visa International Invitational Hockey Tournament helped us test the venue and we will continue to work with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) to fine-tune our plans before the first Olympic match takes place on the distinctive blue and pink pitch."
During the group stage, the 12 teams in both tournaments will be split into two pools of six.
Following a round-robin competition, the top two from each group qualify for the semi-finals.
In the men's tournament, Australia – the world's top-ranked nation – will be favourites to walk away with the title, but Germany and the Netherlands should challenge while hosts Britain could also push for a medal.
The favourites for the women's tournament will be hosts Britain (pictured below, in red), world number-one the Netherlands, and Argentina, who were triumphant in the Champions Trophy earlier this year.
FIH President Leandro Negre said: "As the London Games approaches, the excitement in the hockey world continues to build.
"Now that we know the official schedule of the men's and women's tournaments, the dream of one of the most highly anticipated Olympic Games is quickly becoming a reality.
"We look forward to working with London 2012 in the next few months to make sure that everything is ready to welcome the world's top hockey players to an unforgettable Games."
The hockey tournament will conclude on the weekend of August 10 and 11, with the men's and women's finals taking place on the Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
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