BEIJING - As far as hockey is concerned, not an iota has changed in its hierarchy since Athens 2004. The same quartet - Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain - that fought for honours at Athens has again made it to the last four without so much as a decent challenge from the remaining field of eight. This quite clearly reflects that progress amongst the pretenders - and that includes once incredibly mighty Pakistan - has neither been sufficient nor satisfactory to make a qualitative change. The semi-finals today thus present an exact repeat of what we witnessed at Athens, with Australia meeting Spain and the Netherlands taking on Germany. Would it also be a repeat of the result four years ago is a point of conjecture, but Australia and Holland - the two finalists at Athens - even in the rarified strata seem to be streets ahead of the opposition. Pakistan meanwhile would be plumbing the depths by fighting for a spot at the bottom of the middle cluster of four. And even if it beats New Zealand today, it would end up a highly unsatisfactory seventh - its lowest ever in its endeavours at the Olympic Games since 1948. The form of each of the leading four frontline sides has been in consonance with its global ranking. And till it featured in a draw against the Netherlands in the fourth round followed by another similar outcome against Great Britain, Australia seemed to be in prime form to get back-to-back Olympic gold after none in the previous 70 years. These two stalemates aside - the first of which many here believe was a contrived one to close the door on minnows' remote prospects of causing an upset and getting into the last four at the expense of either the Aussies or the Dutch - Australia look the part for an encore. Beaten 4-1 in the final of the Champions Trophy 2008 only recently, Spain must be keen to avenge, more than this latest reverse for the 6-3 drubbing in the Athens semis. In the current Spain squad of 16, as many as 11 are survivors from that hiding. And it is likely that they would neither have forgotten nor forgiven that humiliation. Ambition Spain does have, and it may sneak into the final on the back of such sparkling talents as Pol Amat and Santiago Freixa. Maybe, Spain would hope the two draws would have a psychological impact on the Aussies going into this crucial outing. Spain's Olympic record against Australia though has been rather dismal as the last of its wins against the Kookaburras was as far back as the semis encounter in 1996 at Atlanta. And like most champion outfits, the Aussies always have the extra notch to give at vital moments and in Jamie Dwyer, Grant Schubert and Eddie Ockenden it has enough firepower up-front to outgun Spain. The Netherlands too is rather well-placed to vie for its second successive place in the final. The world champions Germany have at best been lacklustre in this event, and the flamboyant Dutch clearly look better in comparison. The Dutch lineup boasts of perhaps the best schemer in contemporary hockey, Teun de Nooijer, and the best short corner striker, Taeke Taekema - the former has so many assists to his name and the latter with 10 conversions already the highest goal-scorer of this Games. As for Germany, it would be hoping that its forwards, in particular Christopher Zeller who was such a spark in their 2006 World Cup triumph, fire big time to put the game beyond the Netherlands. Easier said than done, though. Back to the greenshirts, whichever way today's encounter goes, there is lots of rethinking to be done by Pakistan if the idea is to reclaim its pride of place in what still is its national game.