The opening day of the women’s Olympic Qualifier in Kazan saw victories for USA, Netherlands Antilles and India, plus a spectacular opening ceremony of dance and fireworks. USA were in great form to defeat Belgium 3-2, with Netherlands Antilles showing their qualities with a 2-0 victory over France. In the final match of the day, India and Russia produced a superbly entertaining match, with India running out 3-1 winners.
Match 1: USA 3 Belgium 2
USA produced a solid display to defeat Belgium 3-2 in the opening match of the Olympic Qualifier in Kazan. The result was the perfect start for the USA’s bid to secure a birth at the Beijing Olympics, who deserved their victory, despite Belgium performing very well for much of the match.
The opening passages of play were dominated by USA, but arguably the best chance fell to a Belgium player, with Carole DEMBOUR blazing over the cross-bar. USA took the lead in the 12th minute, when Carrie LINGO brilliantly deflected in a penalty corner into the goal, giving Belgium keeper Elizabeth ACHTEN little chance of saving. USA looked like the team most likely to score the second, but a quick break down the right saw the ball arrive on the stick of Sofie GIERTS, who smashed a powerful strike into the corner of Amy TRAN’s goal to level the scores. The USA were stunned, but moved into a 2-1 lead when Jessie GEY scored a field goal six minutes before half time. The second half was dominated by the USA, but they could only manage one more goal. This came from an Angela LOY field goal in the 47th minute, but the team were unlucky not to score more. Belgium pulled a goal back in the 67th minute, thanks to a good finish from Carole DEMBOUR from the penalty corner, but it was too little to late. USA held on for a deserved victory, and will be looking forward to their match against Russia tomorrow. Belgium face France in their next game, which is the first match of Sunday.
Match 2: France 0, Netherlands Antilles 2
Netherlands Antilles scored twice in the second half to secure a convincing victory over France, but the match will be remembered for the missed chances more than the goals. Netherlands Antilles were guilty of missing open goals on at least three occasions, as well as a penalty stroke. The side deserved their victory, but will be frustrated with their missed opportunities.
The opening period of the match was a very tight and tense affair, with much of the play being in the midfield. Both teams struggled to create opportunities, but Netherlands Antilles looked like the team most likely to break the deadlock. France had arguably the best chance of the half, when Charlotte BOYER fired wide of the target when she had more time than she realised. The game came to life in the second half, with Netherlands Antilles dominating from start to finish. Two minutes after half time, Maria HISKENS beat outstanding France goalkeeper Marion REHBY, managed to miss the goal from close range. Her team continued to dominate, and the goal eventually came from Floorjte JOOSTEN, who deflected a cross from the right beyond the reach of REHBY and into the corner of the goal. Netherlands Antilles created even more chances in front of goal, but had to wait until the 65th minute before making the game safe, when Claire VISSER fired a penalty corner into the goal. There was still time for a penalty stroke, which was well saved by REHBY, and for Floorjte JOOSTEN to miss another open goal, but this was a match that Netherlands Antilles fully deserved to win. Tomorrow, Netherlands Antilles will face India, with France playing against Belgium.
Match 3: Russia 1, India 3
In what was without question the best match of the day, India and Russia both produced outstanding performances but it was India who came away with all three points.
The first half was a brilliantly entertaining spectacle for the supporters, with India keen on playing open, attacking hockey. India went close on numerous occasions in the early stages of the game, and scored the opening goal after just eight minutes when Rani DEVI tapped into an open goal following an incisive attack. India created plenty of chances for themselves, but could not add to the score-line. Russia also had chances late in the first half, suggesting that their confidence was growing
If the first half did not go exactly to plan for Russia, they could not complain about the start of the second period. Russia won a penalty corner in their very first attack, and despite a miss-control at the top of the circle, the ball was forced of the line by Irena KUZIMA to equalise. This set the tone for a wonderful second half as both teams were clearly not going to be content with a draw. India were playing some outstanding hockey, but the goal gave Russia the confidence that they seemed to lack on the first period. However, just as the game threatened to become a battle in midfield, Jasjeet Kaur HANDA moved her team into a 2-1 lead with a well-taken deflection. Russia were clearly stunned, and India tried to take advantage of this by attacking the Russia defence at any given opportunity. Russia had chances to equalise, but India looked threatening throughout this game and a third goal seemed to be inevitable. This eventually came from Pritam SIWACH, who dribbled around the keeper before passing into the open goal, sealing victory for India. On this form, they will be a difficult team to defeat in this tournament.
For more information about all of these matches, including official match sheets and live commentary archives, please click here to visit the FIH microsite.
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