Field hockey is the oldest known ball and stick game and is one of seven types of hockey played globally – by both men and women. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
While the first recorded hockey match took place in Persia 2000 BCE, the first Olympics contest was held in London 1908.
The fast-paced, skilled, and physical game is played outdoors on synthetic turf by two teams of eleven – one goalkeeper and ten field players, with up to seven substitutes on the sideline.
Players use a hooked stick to pass, dribble, and shoot the ball towards a goal protected by the opposition goalkeeper.
Drawn knockout matches are decided by a shootout, where an attacker and a goalkeeper compete for eight seconds, concluding once a goal is scored, or the allocated time is up.
For both men and women, 12 nations qualify per competition. These countries are then divided into two pools for a round-robin group stage, with the top four teams in each pool advance to the knockout finals.
The group stages commence at Oi Hockey Stadium on July 24, concluding on the 31st, with finals starting on August 1. The men play for their medals on August 5, while the women’s deciders are a day later.
The Kookaburras are one of Australia’s most decorated, consistent, and successful male sports teams across recent decades and are currently ranked number one according to the FIH (Fédération Internationale de Hockey).
Success is no stranger to the Aussies, medalling in nine Olympic Games, making another two finals, and finishing top eight four more times. Additionally, the Australians have medalled in every men’s hockey event since 1992, excluding Rio 2016.
Since debuting in Melbourne 1956, Australia has won one gold medal in Athens 2004, three silver in 1968, 1976, and 1992, and five bronze medals in 1964, 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2012.
In the recent Rio 2016 games, Argentina took home gold, while Belgium won second and the Netherlands were beaten by Germany for bronze. Australia finished seventh.
Belgium finished top of their group, whilst Argentina had to battle their way up from third to beat them 4-2 in the final.
In the past four Olympics, Germany, The Netherlands, and Australia have featured in the gold and bronze medal matches, often making their way onto the podium. Germany has won the most medals of the trio with 13, including two gold medals in 2008 and 2012, and is likely to place again in 2020.
In the lead-up to the Olympics, teams have been playing in an extended FIH Pro League since January 2021 to make up for matches postponed in 2020 due to COVID. The 2020-2021 edition of the tournament concluded on June 27 in Perth with Australia taking on New Zealand. The tournament was a fantastic opportunity to provide fans with valuable, clear insight into their country’s sides ahead of the Games.
While we shouldn’t count out India, Germany, or The Netherlands, the current FIH Pro League and 2018 Hockey World Cup champions, Belgium, are hoping to go one step further than Rio 2016, and secure their first gold medal in Tokyo.
However, Australia, who are second in the FIH Pro League, but first overall in the FIH’s world rankings, is in prime condition to contend for a second gold medal after an unsuccessful Rio campaign.
The two table toppers begin the Olympic games in separate pools and are unlikely to face-off until finals.
Based on the FIH overall rankings, Pool B is more competitive with Belgium (2nd), Germany (3rd), The Netherlands (5th), and Great Britain (6th), however, Pool A, doesn’t lack power fire either. Among Australia (1st) are India (4th), Argentina (7th), New Zealand (8th), and Spain (9th) who will bring plenty of heat.
A notable inclusion is Japan, who has not appeared in the Hockey tournament at the Olympics since Mexico City 1968. The host nation, however, is not strong in the sport, ranked 15th in the world.
|Pool A||Pool B|
|New Zealand||The Netherlands|
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Since joining the Olympics, the Hockeyroos have been Australia’s most successful team, winning three gold medals in 1988, 1996, and 2000. Additionally, they have not missed out on qualifying for finals since they entered the games.
However, things have been quieter, winning few titles and sliding down the FIH rankings. By 2012, the Hockeyroos have started to surge up the rankings and contend for the podium again. In this time, they’ve won gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games and silver in the World Cup and World League.
In Rio 2016, Great Britain and the Netherlands finished first in their respective pool and met in a close, nail-biting gold medal match. After tying three-all, Great Britain won the shoot-out 2-0 to secure the Gold medal. Germany earned bronze against New Zealand, while Australia did not progress beyond the first stage of the finals, finishing eighth.
Across the last four medal matches, the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, and Argentina have featured heavily and are expected to compete again this year.
The women had their own FIH Pro League tournament, which ran simultaneously with the men’s season, and also concluded in Perth with Australia vs New Zealand on 27 June.
After missing out on their third consecutive gold medal in Rio 2016, FIH Pro League champions and 2018 Hockey World Cup winners, the Netherlands, will hope to bounce back in Tokyo. Should they secure gold, they’ll surpass Australia as the top Olympic gold medallists in women’s field hockey.
Behind the Netherlands in the FIH world rankings and Pro League, is Argentina, who should not be ruled out of medal contention. They will be searching for a way back into the gold or bronze medal matches after missing out in 2016.
Rio gold medallist Great Britain, Germany, and New Zealand are also in superb form and are positioned to go for the top four again.
As for the Hockeyroos, it is unlikely they will miss the finals which they have not missed since their Olympic debut. Interestingly enough, every time the Hockeyroos have progressed past the quarter-finals, they have gone on to win gold.
Ranked fourth globally, and fifth in the FIH Pro League, they are one of Tokyo 2020’s better sides. WIth eight debutants and a new coach, Katrina Powell, Australia will have a new look.
Replacing Paul Gaudoin, the duel gold-medallist has the task of changing team culture and knows what makes a winning team tick. With a strong side and new blood to boot, the Hockeyroos are a smokey for the top four.
Based on the FIH world rankings, the pools are pretty evenly matched, with the Netherlands (1st) and Germany (3rd) headlining pool A, while Argentina (2nd) and Australia (4th) lead pool B. Other notable inclusions in the pools are Great Britain (5th), Ireland (9th), and India (10th) in Pool A, and New Zealand (6th), Spain (7th), and China (11th) in Pool B.
Ireland will be making a well-earned Olympic debut in Tokyo this year after finishing runner-up in the 2018 Hockey World cup and defeating Canada in the qualifier. The Irish are a great underdog story for Tokyo 2020 and are a team to keep an eye on.
As for the Host nation, Japan typically does not perform too well in women’s field hockey, finishing eight, tenth, ninth and tenth again in the past four Olympic Games. It is unlikely they will have a place on the podium, but don’t count them out for finals, especially with the home crowd on their side.
|Pool A||Pool B|
|Kookaburras Squad||Hockeyroos Squad|
|Daniel Beale||Edwina Bone|
|Tim Brand||Emily Chalker (C)|
|Andrew Charter (GK)||Jane Claxton|
|Tom Craig||Savannah Fitzpatrick|
|Matthew Dawson||Kate Jenner|
|Blake Govers||Stephanie Kershaw|
|Jeremy Hayward||Amy Lawton|
|Tim Howard||Rachael Lynch (GK)|
|Dylan Martin||Rosie Malone|
|Trent Mitton||Kaitlin Nobbs|
|Eddie Ockenden (C)||Brooke Peris|
|Flynn Ogilvie||Karri Somerville|
|Lachlan Sharp||Penny Squibb|
|Joshua Simmonds||Grace Stewart|
|Jake Whetton||Renee Taylor|
|Aran Zalewski (C)||Mariah Williams|
Kookaburras reserves: Josh Beltz, Tom Wickham, Tyler Lovell (GK)
Hockeyroos reserves: Madison Fitzpatrick, Greta Hayes, Jocelyn Bartram (GK)
The group stage runs from July 24-31 at Oi Hockey Stadium with finals starting on August 1. The men play for their medals on August 5, while the women’s deciders are a day later.
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