On the fourth day of the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier in Auckland, France defeated Trinidad&Tobago, Argentina claimed the honors in the battle of the tournament favorites, their match against hosts New Zealand, and Ireland dispatched the USA with an 8-0 win.
The day, a national holiday commemorating the Treaty of Waitangi between Maori and settlers which incorporated New Zealand into the British empire started of with a match between the New Zealand Indian and the New Zealand Maori sides, providing an exciting prelude to the day's qualifier encounters.
The latter began with Trinidad&Tobago meeting France. France claimed an early lead when Martin Genestet charged into the circle for a hard hit from just inside that beat goalkeeper Andrey Rocke. Relieved to have gotten a good start in an important game, the French faced a rude awakening seven minutes later however, when Trinidad&Tobago were awarded a penalty corner after Christoph Musgens had warded off a penalty corner with his body. Wayne Legerton converted coolly, and suddenly the pressure was on again.
The ever reliable Frederic Soyez lightened the weight on his compatriotes shoulders by netting a penalty corner in the 28th minute, but it was Matthieu Durchon who swung the game for good, scoring a pair of goals shortly before and after the break to take the lead to three goals.
Trinidad&Tobago got close once more when Nicholas Wren converted a penalty corner, but they could not do more, and Gerome Branquart added another goal with less than two minutes to go to take the scoreline to 5-2. France's win was well deserved, but not exciting as having built a two goal lead in the first half, they spent the better part of the second half holding on to the score without doing much for the game. T&T on the otehr hand played well but are starting to look tired in this tournament where they are punching far above their weight in nearly every single game.
The subsequent match provided great entertainment to the stadium, now filled to capacity for the clash of the titans between Argentina and New Zealand, probably a preview of the final. New Zealand had been the stronger side in their previous matches, and was expected to take charge in this match, but it was Argentina who claimed victory today.
The South Americans first got on the scoreboard in the 16th minute when Lucas Cammareri deflected a good pass from Juan Garreta up into the roof of the goal, and extended their lead seven minutes later when Rodri Vila deflected a Matias Paredes free hit from the top of the circle ever so slightly to make it a goal.
Rodri Vila added a second goal in the second half, putting away a reverse stick shot after a brilliant pass from little brother Lucas to give Argentina an as good as insurmountable lead with twelve minutes to go. The hosts still managed to pull one back in today's highly entertaining and fast-paced match when Ben Collier baseball-batted a bouncy hit into the circle into the net, but they couldn't do more.
The match thus ended with a deserved win for Argentina, having been the better team, and the more motivated. New Zealand did not have their best day today, shifting a gear up late in the match but it was too little too late.
The day concluded with Ireland taking on the USA. After a good performance yesterday against New Zealand, one might have thought the US boys might be able to give the Irish a run for their money, but instead, the match turned into a goal feast as Ireland put away eight, getting near the ten goals that would have allowed them to overtake New Zealand in the standings to claim second place.
After the exciting clash of the titans before, the absence of highlights in a match that can only be described as lacklustre was all the more evident, and Ireland did not put forward their best effort to claim an easy win against a US side that did not have much to offer.
Mark Gleghorne was man of the match, scoring five goals to take his total to nine, which makes him the solitary leader in the list of goalscorers after day 4, two goals ahead of Argentinean Lucas Vila and French Frederic Soyez, both on seven. Eugene Magee, Andy Barbour, and Ronan Gormley added one goal each to take the total to eight goals.
With one round of pool play left, Argentina thus top the table on 12 points followed by New Zealand and Ireland both on nine. France are ranked fourth, currently on 6 points, while the USA and Trinidad&Tobago remain without points in this tournament.
After two rest days, play resumes with the last round of pool play on Saturday. Trinidad&Tobago take on the USA, Argentina meet Ireland, and New Zealand lock horns with France.
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