On the last day of the EuroHockey Nations Championships in Manchester, the German women upset the heavily favored Netherlands to take the title away from the Dutch for the first time since 1991. Before the final, England defeated Spain to claim their ticket to Beijing, and in the day's first two matches, Italy defeated the Ukraine to finish in 7th place while Azerbaijan overcame Ireland to claim fifth position.
First today were Italy and the Ukraine, the two teams at the bottom of the table who had scored no more than three goals in the tournament together and had both not won a point previously. Both teams were already certain of their relegation to B division for 2009, which rendered the match rather unimportant.
The Ukraine started with slight advantages but conceded a goal in the fourth minute as Francesca Faustini put forward a brilliant individual run and put away the ball for the lead for her team. Undeterred, the Ukrainians kept attacking and appeared more motivated than their opponents, but to no avail, they could not find the goal.
The match passed without remarkable incidents or spectacular motions, and Faustini's fourth minute goal remained the only one on the scoreboard, securing seventh place for Italy and confining the Ukraine to the bottom of the final ranking.
In the game that followed, the other relegation pool match, Ireland and Azerbaijan played out fifth and sixth place, and in a scrappy game, the highly motivated Ayerbaijanis pushed past a tired Irish side to claim the top spot in the relegation pool.
At the beginning of the match, the two teams had appeared equal opponents until the 19th minute saw Irish captain Linda Caulfield slot a penalty corner past the Azerbaijan goalkeeper. Failed opportunities on both sides took them through towards the end of the first half, where Azerbaijan won a penalty corner with the sound of the hooter, and Irish goalkeeper Louisa Healy was surprised by a weak shot from Nazira Hidayatova that levelled the scores going into the break.
In a fairly even second half, Azerbaijan proved more effective: both teams had their opportunities but could not use them, with the exception of one penalty corner strike hitting Jill Orbinson's foot on the line to give Azerbaijan a penalty stroke which Inoyathan Jafarova duely converted to give her team the lead and eventually victory in today's match.
Next up was the match for third place, an encounter quite possibly more important than the final itself for the decision about the last remaining direct ticket to Beijing. England had the better start into the match and asserted themselves as the dominating team in the first half.
Mel Clewlow first took the advantage onto the scoreboard in the 15th minute, converting a penalty corner, and Crista Cullen added another, similarly from a corner, ten minutes later. The Spanish looked increasingly bewildered and kept struggling to get their act together, while the home team with their comfortable two goal lead became more confident as time wore on and looked like they were going to run away with it.
The second half started much in a similar fashion, as England piled another goal on when Crista Cullen scored her second of the day, making good use of another penalty corner. The three goal lead seemed to have made the English girls too confident however, and gradually, the tide began to turn, Spain suddenly having more and more impact on the game while England began to struggle.
Jennie Bimson picked up a yellow card 12 minutes from the end, and the Spanish girls took maximum advantage of the situation, pulling back a goal through Ester Termens. The game now turned into an open exchange of blows, and the nerves of England players and supporters were strained to the limits as Spain managed another goal to reduce the lead to a lone goal when Silvia Munoz hit home a ball into the circle.
The game deteriorated fast from there, Spain frantically pushing for the equalizer while England desperately battled to hold on to the win. The nailbiter of a game culminated in a penalty corner for Spain awarded seconds from the end and executed after time which was cleared by England. While Kate Walsh and her team erupted in cheers and celebrated their berth in the Beijing Olympics, the Spanish players protested for another penalty corner because the ball in their opinion had struck an English foot but to no avail.
The last match of the day was the big final between Olympic Champions Germany and World Champions Netherlands. Contrary to the copmmon expectation that the heavily favored Dutch would take the tournament by storm, it was Germany who got on the scoreboard first, catching Marc Lammers' girls by surprise with a ferocious counter attack after a Dutch penalty corner that found Janine Beermann in the circle, ready to put away a reverse stick shot.
Despite the unexpected setback, Holland settled into their rhythm fast and attacked steadily but found themselves faced with an equal opponent who would not give them any space. After the break, Holland stepped up the pressure to get the elusive equalizer but could only hit the post, whereas Germany used their opportunities more wisely to see their lead doubled as today's matchwinner Janine Beermann put away her second of the day.
The Dutch fought to get back into the game, but could not find the net, not even on a string of short corners, and they were soon running out of time. The Germans concentrated on their defense which stood firm, and as the minutes ticked down, Holland's chances of levelling the score faded fast. Germany won the final in style, and crowned themselves the new European champions, well deserved after today's comprehensive effort and maximal efficiency on their opportunities.
Fairplay Award: Ireland
Best Goalkeeper: Kristina Reynolds (GER)
Topscorer: Maike Stoeckel (GER)
Best Player: Marilyn Agliotti (NED)
Relegation Pool Italy v Ukraine 1-0 (1-0)
Relegation Pool Ireland v Azerbaijan 1-2 (1-1)
Bronze Medal Match Spain v England 3-2 (2-0)
Final Netherlands v Germany 2-0 (1-0)
1. Germany (qualified for 2008 Olympic Games)
2. Netherlands (qualified for 2008 Olympic Games)
3. England (qualified for 2008 Olympic Games)
7. Italy (relegated)
8. Ukraine (relegated)
Men on Sunday, August 26
09:00 Relegation Pool Czech Republic v Ireland
11:00 Relegation Pool England v France
13:00 Bronze Medal Match Belgium v Germany
15:30 Final Netherlands v Spain
Posted 12 hours ago.
Teun de Nooijer’s dream of winning the Euro Hockey League in his last ever playing season remains alive and kicking...
Posted 2 days ago.
An Investec South African women’s hockey squad flew to China late Wednesday for a training camp. The squad will be...
Posted 2 days ago.
Mary Logue has been named as Electric Ireland Irish Senior Women's Assistant Coach. Logue will join up with Darren...
Posted 3 days ago.
Ahead of the upcoming men’s Hockey World League Round 2 event in Elektrostal, Moscow, newly elected Russian Hockey...
Posted 3 days ago.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – 2012 Olympian Claire Laubach, who shares a story of perseverance and hard work that is...
Posted 3 days ago.
In advance of tickets going on sale on 19 August, Glasgow 2014 has released key information to help the people of...