On the second day at the first 2008 WorldHockey Qualifier, New Zealand overcame Ireland, France booked their first tournament win against the USA, and Argentina defeated Trinidad&Tobago to claim the table leadership.
Day 2 in Auckland started with a big surprise as Ireland proved not only an equal opponent to the Black Sticks but also snatched the lead with a penalty corner goal from Mark Gleghorne.
New Zealand levelled the score with a goal that sparked fierce protests by the Irish, as an elevated hit from the far right hit an Irish defender's body before being slammed into the net by Dave Kosoof for his fifth goal of the tournament.
Spurred on by the moment and the cheers of a large crowd of supporters of both teams having turned out despite the cool temperatures and light rain, the Kiwis added a brilliant goal a minute later, with Phil Burrows weaving his way into the circle in a spectacular solo and to hit a great reverse stick shot across that Ben Collier deflected .
The Irish were visibly deflated from the sudden change of luck and struggled to get back to the good performance of the intial phase of the match. They held on, and even looked on the way up coming back from the break, but then conceded an irksome goal as a hit across from the far right was deflected by Ben Collier to hit the post only to bounce over the line off unlucky goalkeeper David Harte.
Overall, Ireland delivered another excellent performance in today's highly entertaining match, but it was not enough to wrestle a point from the Black Sticks who again showed themselves in fine form.
The second match of the day got under way with a shock awakening for France who found themselves 2 goals down after only 5 minutes against the much lower ranked team from the USA. Jarred Martin had used France's initial surprise over the Americans' aggressive attacking to net one in the second minute, while Pat Harris added the second, finishing off a great solo run by pushing the ball past French goalkeeper Martin Zylbermann.
The French fought back with two goals of their own for a level half-time score but for the longest time kept trailing the USA in a match that suddenly turned into another high-scoring one. The USA pulled ahead two more times through goals by Nate Coolidge and Andy Sheridan, but each time, French captain Frederic Soyez was quick to close the gap. Soyez's performance was monumental and he swung the game in favour of his French team, accumulating five goals by the end of the match. Most were great team goals but some simply sheer individual brilliance.
It was an extremely entertaining game well appreciated by the crowd but the USA will be disappointed after having had a great start, then failed to go on with the scoring, fading in the second half. France will be full of confidence going into their next game after the rest day tomorrow; their next game being the tough match against Argentina.
The final match of the day saw Trinidad&Tobago take on Argentina. Like yesterday, Argentina scored early, but then struggled to convert their superiority into goals. As Trinidad and Tobago ran out of steam as the first half wore on however, they added three more before the break at the hands of Matias Vila, Lucas Rossi, and Lucas Vila.
Matias Vila contributed his second goal for the day in the second half, and two goals from Lucas Vila, who thus completed his second hattrick of the competition and made himself solitary leader in the list of goalscorers, gave Argentina a total of 7 goals, while Trinidad&Tobago managed to get on the scoreboard for the first time in the tournament.
The team around Kwan Browne delivered a markedly improved performance over yesterday's rabbit-in-the-headlights appearance against New Zealand but could not put much pressure on an Argentinean team that did the necessary without showing much determination or enthusiasm.
Argentina thus overtake New Zealand to claim the top of the table, with both teams on the same number of points and goal difference, but Argentina ahead on having scored one goal more. They are followed by Ireland and France on three points each, while the USA and Trinidad&Tobago trail behind, both without points after two matches.
After tomorrow's rest day, play at the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier resumes on Tuesday with the matches between Ireland and Trinidad&Tobago, France and Argentina, and the USA and New Zealand.
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