On the final dayof the first of this year's women's Olympic Qualifiers, Spain defeated Azerbaijan to clinch the one available ticket to Beijing, after Chile had come back from a goal behind to defeat Ukraine, and Belarus finished fifth with a victory over Kenya.
In a thrilling final, Azerbaijan challenged Spain - something they had not been able to do at all in their pool encounter on Wednesday, but eventually it was not anough against a Spanish side that was indeed the best team in this competition.
Spain went ahead through an early goal by captain Silvia Muñoz, who hit the ball into the net from close range, stunning both the Azerbaijan team and the spectators into a moment of silence. Azerbaijan took a while to recover, but then got into the match better, and was able to level the scores before half-time when Dilfuza Mirzaliyeva converted a short corner.
Azerbaijan was on a roll suddenly, and continued to push for the lead, until their plans were rocked by a yellow card for Bo Kyung Ali-Zada. Spain made good use of their advantage in numbers and went ahead again a minute later, as Silvia Muñoz scored again, off a rebound off a Barbara Malda shot.
The game went back and forth, both teams now equal opponents, and it looked like the match would head for extra time when Dilfuza Mirzaliyeva slapped a free hit into the goal with ten minutes to go, but Silvia Muñoz - who singlehandedly got Spain's goalscoring done today with her hattrick - scored her third goal of the day instead, thereby ending the game and booking the Iberians' ticket to Beijing.
In the bronze medal match, Chile turned around the pool stage result, when Ukraine had defeated them 2-1, to take victory and thus third place this time.
Coming back from a goal behind after Bohdana Sadova had won an early lead for Ukraine, the match was a close contest of equal opponents, and Chile were a bit lucky to come out on top at the end of a match that could have gone both ways.
Chile levelled the scores midway through the second half when Daniela Caram deflected a penalty corner over goalkeeper Alvina Budonna, and took the lead with only five minutes to go when Denise Infante pushed the ball over the line from a crowded circle. Ukraine made a desperate effort to push the match into extra time with the equalizer but to no avail - the clock ran down, and Chile had won.
Before that, in the first game of the day, Belarus had taken on Kenya, and booked another win over the African side who have clearly been out of their depth in this tournament. Having lost all their matches, conceding a total 42 goals without scoring one, Kenya finished last but also showed potential underneath a great lack of practice and experience - as well as an enthusiasm and pure love of the game that some other teams could well use a bit of.
Belarus played like the superior team they were today in a match without great intensity or highlights, and put away goals throughout the match at a regular frequency, with five different players scoring the five goals. The Europeans thus finished fifth, a fair reflection of their ranking.
Individual awards were presented to Barbara Malda of Spain as Topscorer, Maria Jesus Rosa of Spain as Best Goalkeeper, and Inoyathon Jafarova of Azerbaijan as Best Player of the Tournament.
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