March 8, 2014
Changes made by CAH did not help
By Eric Weil
Field hockey in Argentina is still officially an amateur sport, yet the country’s national team players (men and women) trained like high- earning professional soccer players and played almost a 100 international matches in all kinds of weather during 2013... losing only around 10% The total includes 4 9-a-side games each in an experimental tournament in Australia.
The men began in hot January, winning a 3-test series at home against Spain and then easily retaining the South American title in Chile where the women did likewise. Between February and April, the women won a 3-match test series against New Zealand and then played there in two 4-team international tournaments, winning one of them, while the men won their five World League 2nd round matches to qualify for the semifinals.
In June, while the women played in the World League semifinals round in London, lost 4-2 to England and were 3rd, but as final hosts they were assured of a final place anyway. The men played their World League semifinals in hot Malaysia and qualified for the finals, losing 4-2 in the final against Olympic champions Germany with whom they had drawn 1-1 in group play. In August, the men retained the Pan-American Cup in Canada, winning all games and beating Canada 4-0 in the final.
In October, both national teams played in the above-mentioned 9-a-sides which have slightly different rules, but also played a few 11-a-side friendlies against other national teams. While in December, the men won all five tests away to South Africa, the Women’s World League finals were held in Tucumán, the only time the writer saw Argentina.
We mentioned recently about the unfairness of this tournament in the heat of Tucumán for which both Argentine Hockey Confederation (CAH) president, Senator Aníbal Fernández and International Hockey Federation (FIH) president, Leandro Negre (for allowing it) must be blamed — with Argentina playing all their matches (except the last) in the cooler night, while others had to play in the hot sun and there were also other advantages Argentina tried to gain. On the last day, playing for 3rd place, Argentina had to play earlier as the final (won by the Dutch) had to be the last game, and they tired in the second half.
The future looks good however as Argentina had reached the final of the year’s U-21 World Cup to draw with the Dutch and only losing on penalties, while the seniors, although third in Tucumán, had drawn against the other top four teams, England, Australia and the Netherlands. Argentina ended the year as they had started it, ranked at number 2 in the world, behind the Dutch.
I continually complained about holding the tournament in Tucumán in summer where a new stadium still had its glitches when the tournament began. Other complaints must have been successful as the 2014 Women’s Champions Trophy, originally scheduled for Tucumán at the same period, will now be held in Mendoza.
Argentina did not play up to expectations at home, but there were reasons. The newcomers showed up well, but on the whole the team found scoring more difficult, especially from penalty corners from which the scoring percentage was lower than ever. The defence of corner takers Silvina D’Elía and Noel Barrionuevo was not as watertight as before. But Argentina were playing under their third coach within a year and this was the fault of both CAH president Fernández and former president Daniel Marcelini who were not on speaking terms and never got together to sort things out.
Marcelini dismissed World Cup winning women’s coach Carlos Retegui and signed Marcelo Garra-ffo on a 2-year contract months before being defeated by Fernández who immediately replaced Garraffo by Emanuel Roggero from his own club, Quilmes. For the team it meant continual changes of tactics with little time to face important tournaments and Roggero must have felt unwanted as the girls had unsuccessfully asked to keep Garraffo. This had a lot to do with lack of success in the World League semifinal and final stages.
RETEGUI AND AYMAR. Carlos Retegui was put in charge of the men’s national team in one of Fernández’s changes and he must have had something to do with their rise in standard. Now he is back with the women as he has been named head coach of both men and women. This seems a good move (without belittling the qualities of Garraffo).
Luciana Aymar was named as the FIH’s top player of the year for the 8th time. This was a bit of a surprise as this outstanding player, now 36, used to be half the time, but now perhaps only a quarter. But she says she will definitely retire after the World Cup — also annoyed at the above mentioned problems — in June and she will be impossible to replace for the moment.