In the last day of pool play, Korea maintained their perfect record against Canada (4-0), Italy upset Ireland (2-0) to grab a berth in the Final and Malaysia earned their first win of the competition after an entertaining match against Uruguay (3-0).
Game 13 – Malaysia v. Uruguay: 3-0 (half-time: 0-0)
The first game of the day pitted the two teams at the bottom of the points table, both chasing their first goal of the competition. Malaysia had a slight edge in the standings, having tied Italy (0-0), but both teams already knew that they will meet again in the 5th-6th place match. The play stayed in midfield for a while, neither team able to hang on to the ball long enough to create chances.
Uruguay was more aggressive on the ball, but Malaysia maintained a cohesive defensive structure and had two excellent scoring chances, on counter attacks, that went high or wide. The game was pleasant to follow, between two young teams preparing for the future, but too many individual errors hindered the development of play. Malaysia had a good chance on a penalty-corner routine that ended with Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN unleashing a powerful shot that shaved the post, then another chance in a last second goal mouth scramble during which the ball bounced from stick to stick but did not cross the line.
Malaysia were finally rewarded early in the second half, when Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN managed to push a rebound under Noel DE LOS SANTOS in the Uruguayan net. With their first goal finally scored, Malaysia kept attacking and promptly scored again by Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN. With the result not in doubt any more, and the rain falling more heavily, the pace slowed down significantly and the Malaysia cruised to their first win of the competition with a three-goal advantage.
Game 14 – Canada v. Korea: 0-4 (half-time: 0-2)
Korea had to play without their captain and starting goalkeeper Ju Young LIM, suspended following an incident in their match against Ireland on Thursday. They started the game at full speed, earning a penalty-corner within 20 seconds of play, but it was well deflected by Sarah FORBES in the Canadian net. Canada was up to the challenge, loudly encouraged by a large home crowd, and played their best hockey of the week, pressuring the Korean defense and earning a penalty-corner, saved by back-up keeper Young Hui MOON.
Canada matched the Korean pace for 15 minutes, until Da Rae KIM inherited the ball in the circle and beat Sarah FORBES from close range. Canada nevertheless maintained their aggressive defensive structure and efficiently prevented the Koreans from getting any more clean chances. They also did not hesitate to take their own opportunities and tested the Korean keeper on a few occasion.
Korea scored a penalty-corner in the last minute of the half to go into the break with a two-goal lead. They kept pressuring the Canadian defense in second half but were denied multiple times by a stellar Sarah FORBES in the Canadian net before Da Rae KIM scored her second goal of the match at the conclusion of a fast series of passes through the defense. With fatigue kicking in, the pace of play declined. Canada pushed courageously in the final minutes to score a consolation goal but could not beat the Korean defense.
Korea won the match (4-0) and will go into the Final on Sunday with an unblemished record of 5 wins in as many games. Canada will be happy with their strong performance against the top ranked team that gives them a positive momentum going into the Bronze Medal match.
Game 15 – Ireland v. Italy: 2-0 (half-time: 0-0)
The last game of the day, and of pool play, was critical to decide which team would advance to the Final against Korea: after their unexpected setback against Malaysia, Italy absolutely needed a win while Ireland would go through with only a draw.
Italy pressured immediately the Irish defense and had two good chances in a succession of penalty-corners but Mary GOODE in the Irish net was vigilant. Ireland only had scoring opportunities on penalty-corners, while Italy controlled most of the play in first half. They had a number of penalty-corners, and even benefited form an unexpected defensive giveaway, but could not break the Irish defensive shell, well backed by an inspired Mary GOODE.
The break was reached with still no score, a situation serving Ireland. The momentum seemed to switch early in the second half, Ireland controlling the ball well and passing it in the backfield, forcing the Italians to run after it and to progress only with long hits or isolated runs. The Irish attacks became more dangerous and Nikki SYMMONS (celebrating her 100th Cap for Ireland) missed a golden opportunity when she deflected a drive just over the crossbar.
Italy finally scored on a penalty-corner in the 56th minute with a direct shot by Chiara TIDDI. With the situation turned around, Ireland could not afford to sit back, and needed to push and score. They didn’t help their cause when they were reduced to ten players after a yellow card to Bridget McKEEVER, and Francesca FAUSTINI added an insurance goal, triggering wild celebrations in the Italian camp.
In a desperate last move, Irish coach Gene Muller replaced his goalkeeper with an extra field player. The tactic generated two good chances in the final minutes but they just could not score, conceding to Italy the honor to play Korea in the Final.
The WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier concludes tomorrow Sunday in Victoria when Malaysia meet Uruguay for 5th-6th place, Ireland take on host Canada for 3rd-4th place, and Korea and Italy lock horns in the Final for the coveted ticket for Beijing.
WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier, Women – Victoria, Canada
Results day 5: Saturday 3 May 2008
Malaysia - Uruguay 3:0 (0:0)
38mn Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN (PC) 1:0
44mn Nadia ABDUL RAHMAN (FG) 2:0
68mn Rosmah ASRIN (FG) 3:0
Canada - Korea 0:4 (0:2)
16mn Da Rae KIM (FG) 0:1
35mn Seul Ki CHEON (PC) 0:2
44mn Da Rae KIM (FG) 0 :3
55mn Sung Hee GIM (FG) 0:4
Ireland - Italy 2-0 (0:0)
56mn Chiara TIDDI (PC) 0:1
62mn Francesca FAUSTINI (FG) 0:2
Final Pool Standings: 1) Korea 15pts 2) Italy 10pts 3) Ireland 9pts 4) Canada 6pts 5) Malaysia 4pts 6) Uruguay 0pt