Australia powered past hosts Japan 5-3 in a thrilling opening match of the men’s hockey tournament at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, while India fought back from a goal down to beat New Zealand.
Australia’s “Kookaburras” trailed 3-2 at halftime after conceding three goals in quick succession not long before the break but kept fighting to turn the tables in the final two quarters.
“Japan are a tough opponent. We wanted to get the result today,” said midfielder Daniel Beale, who scored the final goal.
“Luckily, we got the three points and we’re just looking to build each and every game. This is definitely a good place to start with a win.”
The Australians pulled level in the 34th minute after Blake Govers scored a penalty corner and went ahead on the sun-drenched pitch of the main stadium with a backhand shot from captain Aran Zalewski that flew high in the net.
Beale took an assist from forward Tim Brand to put the game away.
Australia’s players were taking on plenty of ice water and using fans and cold towels to cool themselves during breaks but Beale said they would adapt to the humid conditions.
“It’s hot, but we’re just going to deal with it and get on with it,” he said.
“Luckily coming from Australia we’re used to a high heat so I think everyone has to deal with it. The team that copes the best is going to go the furthest in this tournament.”
Japan forward Kenta Tanaka said their weak points had been exposed by Australia.
“We want to address that and do our best next time,” he said, adding that Japan would rely again on counterattacks in their next game against Argentina on Sunday.
In the second match of Pool A, India, who have won gold medals at eight Olympics, conceded early but equalized quickly through a penalty stroke and roared on to win, with two goals from Harmanpreet Singh and one from Rupinder Pal Singh.
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