|May 5th, 2012|
|18||3:00pm||JPN - AZE||5 - 1 (4 - 0)||Final|
First Place: Japan 5, Azerbaijan 1
Japan will make its third consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games after winning the FIH Women’s Qualification Tournament in front of a sold out home crowd in Kakamigahara. The top-seeded Japanese routed second-seeded Azerbaijan, 5-1, in today’s final.
Akane Shibata had the game of her career today. She scored two sprawling goals to help Japan build a strong first half lead. Shibata had scored only once in the previous five games.
Japan took the lead eight minutes into the game when Rika Komazawa scored a clean short corner. Japan doubled the advantage midway through the half when Shibata got her stick on a short corner deflection that went up and over the shoulder of Viktoriya Shahbazova. Shibata made a big stretch on her second goal to open up a 3-0 lead.
The goal continued to roll. Tournament Top Scorer Kaori Fujio got in on the fun, storming down field and putting Japan ahead 4-0 with eight minutes left in the first half.
Azerbaijan chipped into the hefty lead to open the second half scoring. Khatira Aliyeva scored her fifth penalty corner goal of the tournament to give Azerbaijan a glimmer of hope. But it did little to slow the Japanese down as Komazawa put in a second marker to bring the final to a definitive 5-1.
After the game, there were tears on both sides of the pitch. The Japanese women have been under enormous pressure as the ninth-ranked team in the FIH World Ranking, host and tournament favorite and today could finally enjoy accomplishing their London mission.
For Azerbaijan it is the second consecutive Olympic qualifier that they have just missed the goal of the Olympics. They also finished in second place to Spain in 2008 at home in Baku. Azerbaijan has never played at the Olympic Games.