Four teams book tickets to the 2018 World Cup at the Women’s FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.
In a day of exciting action, top quality performances and the occasional upset, four teams have booked their ticket to both the 2018 Hockey World Cup and the Hockey World League Finals in Auckland at the end of this year.
China stunned Australia when they turned on the style and saw their counter-attacking strategy pay off. The Netherlands continued their serene progress towards the semi-finals with a win over Spain; New Zealand put in a workmanlike performance to defeat Italy and Korea broke the hearts of a stadium full of Belgium fans to take the fourth semi-final place.
Australia v China 0-2
Goals from Wu Mengrong and Zhang Jinrong propelled China from a fourth-place pool finish into the semi-finals and also into the 2018 World Cup.
The match itself was a classic encounter between the defensive Chinese, whose style of play is to defend strongly and counter with long passes, and the tenacious Australians, whose game plan is to press high and create as many attacking chances as possible.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the first half was when a break by China found Wang Na waiting on the edge of the Australia circle. Rachael Lynch was quickly out to nullify the attack. At the other end of the pitch, Georgia Nanscawen was busy in midfield trying to spark an attack, but a major problem with the Australia side in this game was the lack of opportunities to shoot.
The first China goal, when it came in the 32nd minute of the match, was the result of a well-rehearsed and quite unexpected penalty corner routine. The ball came out to the top but rather than taking a first time shot, the ball was slipped to Wu, who was able to place it in the corner, past Lynch’s outstretched foot.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, the Hockeyroos threw all they had at the Chinese defence. Emily Smith came close to equalising when she just failed to connect cleanly with a cross from Kathryn Slattery. The world number four side was made to pay when Liang Meiyu fired past Lynch after some skillful work by Zhang Jinrong down the left-hand side of the pitch but Australia should have been alert to the danger as just seconds earlier Zhang Jinrong and Liang Meiyu had nearly combined after a virtually identical move.
Full credit must go to the Chinese for a game plan that took the sting out of the Australian attack and played to their own strengths.
Korea v Belgium 1-1 (Korea win 3-2 penalty shootout)
Fast, furious with many, many scoring opportunities for both teams and the first shoot-out of the tournament – this was a match that had everything.
The final quarter-final match to decide who would grab the final Hockey World League Final ticket on offer at this event was frenetic and entertaining. The match went to the team from Asia as they proved the more clinical in the shoot-out with Cheon Eunbi, Cho Yun Kyoung and Cho Eunji all finding the target.
To the disappointment of the large host crowd, Korea took an early lead when Choen Seul Ki – the tournament’s top goal scorer so far – sent a rocket of a shot past Aisling D’Hooghe in the third minute of the game. Belgium fought back hard and created a lot of scoring opportunities in the opening half but were unable to find a route to goal.
The score was levelled just after half-time when Emma Puvrez scored an innovative goal, picking the ball up in mid-air and shooting past Jang Soo Ji in the Korea goal. Three successive penalty corners for Korea severely tested D’Hooghe but the ‘keeper proved herself more than up to the challenge. In a further Korean attack, a crucial tackle by Louise Cavenaile prevented an almost certain goal as Cheon Eunbi had received the ball in lots of space in the circle and was lining up to shoot home.
At the other end of the pitch some great play by Aix Gerniers earned her team a penalty corner which Lien Hillwaert narrowly failed to convert.
With neither side able to break the deadlock, the match went to shoot-out, with Korea prevailing to take one of the five World Cup qualification spots available at this event.
Belgium will be in the 5-8 place play-off, still with an opportunity to qualify in fifth place.
9/10 place play-off Scotland v Malaysia 1-0
Nicola Skrastin was able to celebrate her 100th cap for her country as Scotland (Hero FIH World Ranking: 16) enjoyed a win over Malaysia (WR: 22).
The match saw a strong and structured performance from the higher-ranked team and, despite some tricky skills and speedy movement from the Asian team, this was to be Scotland’s day as they finished their first Hockey World League Semi-Final event in ninth position.
Sarah Robertson scored the winning goal as she swept the ball into the goal following another well-worked penalty corner routine.
With three minutes left Malaysia were reduced to nine players as two players were sent off for poor tackles, and Scotland put the pressure on and kept the ball in the Malaysian half of the pitch for much of the remaining time.
New Zealand v Italy 2-0
Quick breaks, fast counter-attacks and some fiercely competitive battles on the pitch – the match between New Zealand and Italy was a game that pitted the strong, physical fifth-ranked team against the rapidly-improving and equally tenacious 16th-ranked side. It was the Black Sticks who prevailed and become the first nation to book their place, not just in the semi-finals of this event but also at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in London in 2018.
Going into the semi-finals, head coach to New Zealand Mark Hager says he is looking for his team to create more scoring opportunities, while maintaining a solid defence.
Netherlands v Spain 2-0
A composed performance from the Netherlands saw the world’s number one side book their place at the 2018 World Cup, giving them the chance to defend the title they won in 2014. The result means the Dutch will also be competing at the Hockey World League Final in Auckland at the end of the year.
Spain must now go into the 5-8th place play-offs and look to seal their place at the Hockey World Cup by finishing in fifth place.
In Saturday’s semi-finals, Korea play China and the Netherlands take on New Zealand. Like the semi-finals, the 5-8 matches take place on Saturday 1 July, with Spain facing Italy and Belgium against Australia.
(9/10): Scotland 1, Malaysia 0
(QF): New Zealand 3, Italy 0
(QF): Australia 0, China 2
(QF): Netherlands 2, Spain 0
(QF): Korea 1, Belgium 1 (pso 3-2)
Match schedule for 1 July (Times CET)
(5-8): Spain v Italy – 11:15
(5-8): Belgium v Australia – 13:30
(SF): Korea v China – 15:45
(SF): Netherlands v New Zealand – 18:00