On the last day of round 1 pool matches, Japan narrowly defeated Chile, New Zealand wrestled down Italy, and South Africa booked their third consecutive win in the match with Azerbaijan.
In the day's opener, Japan started out tentatively, the dreary performance of two days before still very much on their minds. Their opponents however battled with themselves, with too many unforced errors, like in their previous two matches, and was thus unable to capitalize on Japan's slow start.
Instead, Japan got a lucky break in the 21st minute, when on a rare breakthrough attack, Mie Nakashima sunk the ball into the goal, giving her team what was going to become the winning goal.
The remainder of the game was spent mostly in lockdown mode, neither team able to gain any advantage, and Nakashima's goal remained the only one of the match, seeing Japan through to victory and a guaranteed place in pool C independent of the result of the second pool A match of the day.
Next up were New Zealand and Italy, a thriller of a game, which surprised everyone. Italy started energetically, and took the lead through a Francesca Faustini field goal midway through the first half. The Italians kept up well with the Kiwis but could not extend and secure their lead, instead conceding a goal five minutes before the break.
The Azzure were undeterred however, and won and converted a short corner, with the scorer again their pivotal captain Francesca Faustini - but only to see the Black Sticks pull level again within less than a minute.
After halftime, Italy started to struggle to maintain the energetic and fast game that had allowed them to keep the Kiwis on their toes in the first 35 minutes. A yellow card for Matilde Canavosio then put the Italians at a disadvantage in their push for glory, and sure enough, the goal followed swiftly, with Sam Harrison giving New zealand the lead for the first time in the match.
Visibly disheartened, the Italian girls could no longer keep up with the ever increasing pressure, and had to take another goal when Clarissa Eshuis sank a penalty corner for New Zealand's fourth goal of the day. The match ended thus 4-2 for New Zealand, tough luck for an Italian side that played excellent hockey today.
In the last match of the day, a tired Southafrican side struggled to make it past Azerbaijan. After an energetic start, the home team lost steam, and the second half was mostly a lacklustre locking of horns between two teams who at the final whistle had nothing left.
South Africa had a good grip on the game during the first twenty minutes and built the deciding advantage through two Farah Fredericks goals during that time.
Towards the end of the first half, and further after the break, play deteriorated, as South Africa were tiring quickly, while Azerbaijan were at their limits already - not surprisingly, given that the team staff plays an aggressive policy of few substitutions.
South Africa were able to put away another goal late in the match, as Shelley Russell deflected a penalty corner for the 3-0, and that was the end result.
With these results, South Africa and Japan advance to the medal round pool C from pool A, taking the result of their match against each other with them, which South Africa won 4-2. From pool B, New Zealand and Spain join them, bringing with them a 3-0 win of New Zealand against Spain.
Tomorrow Thursday, action starts at 13:00 local time with the encounter between South Africa and New Zealand in pool C, followed by the match between Chile and Italy, while the game between Spain and Japan are last on the day's program.
For more on this tournament, please visit our tournament site.
Japan - Chile 1:0 (1:0)
21' JPN - Mie NAKASHIMA (FG)
Italy - New Zealand 2:4 (2:2)
18' ITA - Francesca FAUSTINI (FG)
30' NZL - Katie GLYNN (FG)
32' ITA - Francesca FAUSTINI (PC)
32' NZL - Anita PUNT (FG)
51' NZL - Samantha HARRISON (FG)
67' NZL - Clarissa ESHUIS (PC)
South Africa - Azerbaijan 3:0 (2:0)
11' RSA - Farah FREDERICKS (FG)
18' RSA - Farah FREDERICKS (FG)
64' RSA - Shelley RUSSELL (PC)
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