Black Sticks strike
02 May 2006 21:03
New Zealand produced their best performance of the tournament when they needed it most to keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive on day eight of the women’s Samsung Hockey World Cup Qualifier in Rome.
After flirting with elimination from the World Cup race due to a series of indifferent performances during the tournament, the world number six was left in the high-pressure position of having to get a positive result out of their final round match against home team Italy just to make the 5th-8th place playoffs.
The victory keeps the Black Sticks’ hopes of a World Cup berth alive via the 5-8 playoffs. They will face France in the first crossover match on Thursday, with the winner to face either China or Ireland in the fifth place playoff – a match that carries with it qualification for the World Cup.
In the meetings between the top two teams in each pool, today’s matches for those teams already qualified for the Samsung Hockey World Cup was mainly instructive in determining the finishing order (and semi final match-ups) at the completion of the round phase.
With World Cup berths already secured, England and Korea earned top spot in their respective pools ahead of the semi finals and classification matches with wins over fellow Madrid-bound competitors Japan and USA.
While both recorded identical three-goal victories, England’s was the most impressive as they controlled their clash against Japan to ensure they progressed to the semi finals as the top seed in the pool.
Korea’s win against USA was a controlled effort, with patience in possession and crisp skills helping them to complete Pool B unbeaten in five matches.
The decisive moment in match came just after half time, with Ko Woon Oh given space on the right to find Kwang Min Ko who converted with a precise reverse stick deflection for a two-goal Korea lead. The goal was also the 100th in the tournament.
In the other matches on day eight, Ukraine scored two late goals to overcome Scotland and Ireland recorded their fourth draw -and third scoreless - in five matches in an uninspiring contest against Azerbaijan.
The other clash of the day was between China and France. China controlled the match throughout but struggled to score against France before prevailing to ensure they finished Pool A in third place.
Thursday’s semi finals will feature Korea and Japan, and England and USA. In the playoffs for the final remaining qualification place in this tournament, China will play Ireland while New Zealand will clash with France.
The classification matches for positions 8-12 will feature Ukraine and Azerbaijan, and Scotland and Italy.