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Saturday Olympics action - hockey

The world is a much happier place after landing a few decent bets in recent days - Netherlands to win the men's hockey semi, then Lavillenie and Asil Cakir in the athletics stadium last night. If I'd had the balls to lay the USA in the men's 4x400m relay, as I'd tweeted earlier in the week (odds-on favourites, yet no runners in the 400m final - just a bit odd I thought), it would have been a huge night. Anyway, back to the action…..

Men's Hockey

Spain v Belgium 11.30am BST

One of the ranking games first. These sides both finished third in their group which is a massive achievement for Belgium, a nation which rarely mixes with the elite of the sport. They started their group against the best two teams (Netherlands and Germany, today's finalists) with honourable losses and then finished the group with two wins and a draw. Third in the group gives them a shot at being ranked in the top five in the world - something I doubt they've ever achieved before, certainly not recently. Ranking games are heavily affected by the 'care factor'. Once out of contention for a medal, it's very easy for players to be more interested in everything going on - success in other sports, chasing los senoritas around the Olympic Village etc. I reckon Belgium will be a lot more interested in a result here.

1pt Belgium 3.75 Ladbrokes (4.5 listed at Stan James but they could possibly claim palpable error on that)

alternatively take the +0.5 handicap at evens with William Hill for a point

Australia v Great Britain 3.30pm BST

The Kookaburras were very disappointed with their semi-final loss to Germany, they should have put that game away but played a shocking 10min period in the second half and conceded three goals which sealed the match. Beware the wounded tiger, they will not want to go home without some form of medal, even if it is bronze. A happy note to end the tournament on is far better than a long period of soul-searching for the original gold medal favourites.

GB were given an absolute flogging by the Netherlands on Thursday, it really was a bring out the witches' hats (traffic cones) job and watch the Dutch run a clinic. I've seen a lot of hockey over the years and I've never seen anything like it. Can the British men bounce back? They will have been buoyed by the women's team winning bronze yesterday and will be keen for similar success. Yet, realistically, fourth is the best they could have expected here - the top three nations are a class above and GB would really need Australia to be off their game to get a result here.

The Kookaburras let a 3-0 lead slip in the group game against GB, they won't do that again. Patriotism gets in the way of me having a proper bet here, but if you are going to back the Aussies, I'd suggest giving away 1.5 goal headstart - something like 4-1 or 5-2 is the expected scoreline.

Netherlands v Germany, Gold Medal, 8pm

Despite the anomalous world rankings which give too much weight IMO to old tournaments, I believe the Dutch team are clearly better than the Germans. A 3-1 win in the group stages was a fair line on the form and the gap between them. In Thursday's semis, Germany surprised Australia 4-2 (more down to the underperformance of the Kookaburras I believe than the brilliance of Germany) while the Netherlands destroyed GB 9-2, despite losing two players to injury during the match.

The only thing which can justify the current price on the Orangemen is the value of the two missing players. Klaas Vermeulen went down early with a broken collarbone and Mink van der Weerden headed off to hospital for a scan on his foot. They will disrupt the team but pre-tournament they had only played 53 and 23 games respectively - I think their importance to the side is overstated. In the days of rolling subs, only the keeper is on the pitch every minute of the game, so the Dutch will have alternatives at both ends of the ground.

Anything better than evens to win in normal time is worth taking.

2pts Netherlands 2.25 Sportingbet UK (2.2 Bet365, Ladbrokes)


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