France and Argentina played out a hard fought and close encounter on the first day of the INSEP Hockey Challenge in Paris, with the South Americans eventually winning the match by a single goal.
The first half was a tight affair. Both teams struggled to create scoring opportunities, with the Argentinians slightly on top, but not able to score until Rodrigo Vila broke into the circle and drove home an field goal opportunity in the last minute of the half, to put his team 1-0 up at the break.
A rejuvenated France started the second half with a series of dangerous circle penetrations in the first 10 minutes, but it was Matias Paredes for Argentina who scored the next goal after a defensive lapse from the French. Argentina went 3-0 up soon after, with another well-taken field goal from Lucas Cammareri.
The French bravely worked their way back into the game, and eventually won their first penalty corner for the game mid-way through the half, which Fabien Magner converted.
Two minutes later, 19 year old Victor Lockwood positioned himself perfectly in the circle to deflect a strong cross from the hard working Tom Genestet high into the net, and Les Bleus were back in the match. France continued to press for the equaliser for the remaining 12 minutes of the match, but they were unable to bridge the gap. Argentina held on to take the game 3-2.
Argentinian coach Pablo Lombi said after the match, “We are pleased to have won the game, but I am disappointed that we were 3-0 up, and then let France back into the match. This was a significant lapse in concentration.”
“However, this is our first match of the tournament, and this is the first time our group has come together to compete in an international competition for some time. We will aim to play better and better in each game of the tournament,” said Lombi. “The tournament is good preparation for the Pan Amercian Cup, which is our main qualification for the 2O12 London Olympics. We are aiming to improve on the pitch.”
France head coach Scott Goodheart was philosophical after the game. “I’m frustrated that we let Argentina get ahead by three goals, and I am not sure the second and third goals were very good defence on our part. But I am pleased with the effort the players put in in the second half, and also to get back into the match. We nearly levelled the score a number of times in the last 10 minutes,” he said.
“Like most of the teams here, we are preparing for a major qualifying tournament in the next month or so. The results are important, but it is just as important for us in these matches to continue to improve as a group – I think we are on the right path,” said Goodheart.
Both teams have their next matches on Wednesday. France face South Korea at 18h00, and Argentina play current World Champions, Australia at 15h30.
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