Japan and England bound for Madrid
30 Apr 2006 18:32
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Japan and England have become the first two teams to advance to the World Cup from the Samsung Hockey World Cup Qualifier after recording their fourth straight wins in Rome today.
The victories over China and Scotland respectively ensure that neither team can be overtaken by their Pool B opponents for one of the top two spots – and a berth at the Samsung Hockey World Cup in Madrid - with one round of matches remaining before the semi finals and classification phase.
Japan’s run through the tournament has been extremely impressive, culminating in today’s dissection of world number five China. The energy and desire of the Japanese has been an overwhelming force throughout the tournament and their performance this afternoon announced their arrival as a legitimate contender on the world stage.
England have been in similarly dominant form. After Japan’s defeat of China, they knew that a win or draw against old foe Scotland would send them to Madrid, with more than half the tournament still to be played.
England responded with their pressure and work rate to keep Scotland pinned inside their own territory for much of the opening half the platform they used to propel them to a dominant victory and a deserved spot at the World Cup.
Today’s results mean that China are headed for the sudden death 5-8 classification matches, a surprising result for a team ranked among the world’s elite. China will be joined by France after they scored a penalty corner goal in each half to defeat Ukraine.
While the identity of the Pool A World Cup qualifiers and classification participants have already been identified, the other pool is less certain.
In the first ‘match’ of the day, USA scored with two minutes remaining in their rain-interrupted clash against Italy to snatch a victory and ensure they remain in the driving seat at the head of Pool B along with Korea.
After play was abandoned last night with less than 10 minutes remaining, USA scored on their fourth penalty corner attempt this morning to ensure that a victory against Azerbaijan tomorrow will make it extremely difficult for the chasing teams to catch them.
In the other Pool B match held over from last night, Ireland and New Zealand played a scoreless draw to fall further behind Korea and USA in the race for a top two place. The result places New Zealand’s campaign in a precarious position with two matches remaining until the classification stage.
With China lurking in the 5-8 classifications, the teams in Pool B will be additionally desperate to clinch a top two place and avoid the pressure of a playoff for the fifth and final spot at the World Cup.
In tomorrow’s matches, USA play Azerbaijan, Ireland clash with Italy and Korea meet New Zealand. The result of these matches could determine the automatic qualifiers from Pool B.