Chile 1, Belarus 3
In the first game of the FIH Olympic Qualifier in Kakamigahara, Japan, there was already a surprise as Belarus, ranked 22nd in the FIH World Ranking topped #17 Chile.
Belarus was clearly the better team in the first half, spending much of the time in front of the Chilean net. Oddly enough it was a blooper goal that gave Belarus the 1-0 lead when Yuliya Mikheichyk arched a shot up and over the head of Chile goaltender Claudia Schuler for the 1-0 lead eight minutes into action.
The 1-0 lead stood through the half as both teams were looking far from sharp. The penalty corner chances from both sides were squandered with multiple miscues and the scoring chances were often thwarted not by defense, but by player’s mistakes. Javiera Villagra was credited with a second blooper goal that trickled in the net behind Belarus goaltender Maryna Navitskaya. But Chile failed to capitalize on any momentum from the goal, as Belarus bounced back and put in two quick back-to-back goals to take a convincing 3-1 lead. Mikheichyk added her second goal in the flurry.
The markers put the game well out of reach for Chile as Belarus hung on for the 3-1 win. Both teams will need to step up their game on Friday if they want to keep their Olympic hopes alive. Belarus plays Azerbaijan, the second seeded team here in Japan, while Chile will look to rebound against lowest-seeded Austria.
Japan 7, Austria 0
Top seeded Japan had no problem dispatching lowest seeded Austria, 7-0, in a battle of David vs. Goliath today at the FIH Olympic Qualifier. It was a total team effort for Japan as seven different players scored in the win.
Japan wasted no time showing that it is the team to beat at this tournament, pouring in four goals in the first half alone. Yuakri Yamamoto and Akane Shibata opened the scoring with two goals coming less than four minutes apart. Ai Murukami put in the third field goal of the gae in the 25th minute to lift Japan to a 3-0 lead. The first-half scoring closed when Japan converted its first penalty corner chance, making it a hefty 4-0 lead at the half.
The second half was much of the same as Austria managed just one shot in the half. Japan didn’t do much offensively in the first part of the half, but it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities as the Japanese swarmed the Austrian net. Japan finally extended its lead in the 50th minute when Aki Mitsuhashi struck with an open field goal. Two more Japanese field goals brought the final to 7-0.
The only negative thing that could be said about Japan’s effort today against the Austrians was their lack of conversions on the penalty corner, something that will become more important as they work their way up to the higher seeded opponents at the event. Nevertheless, the hosts must be pleased with their performance as the first win was important for the team facing the most pressure in terms of expectations.
Japan’s next game will be on Friday against Malaysia, while Austria takes on Chile.
Azerbaijan 4, Malaysia 0
Azerbaijan relied on the strength of its penalty corners to power them through to a 4-0 win against Malaysia in opening day action of the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Kakamiigahara, Japan.
Azerbaijan did a good job of creating several shot corner chances in the first half, but didn’t score until its third attempt when Yulia Muradi fired in the 1-0 goal. Khatira Yliyeva gave Azerbaijan some breathing room with five minutes left in the half when she doubled the lead on another short corner.
The damage could have been worse as Azerbaijan had another corner awarded as time expired in the half, but shot just wide. Malaysia was nearly virtually unnoticeable in the half as they rarely found themselves on the attack.
Malaysia perked up a bit in the second half and has some good chances, including a point blank shot that somehow missed the mark. But in a big mental blow, Azerbaijan’s Myungsoon Mammadova marched down the field and put in the 3-0 goal after the big chance. After the goal Azerbaijan dominated the rest of the game scoring one last goal, the second from Muradi to cruise to the 4-0 win.
Azerbaijan is the second-highest seed at the tournament and on Friday will take on Belarus, which was a surprise winner in today’s early game. Meanwhile Malaysia has another tall order with a game against top-ranked Japan on Friday.
Follow the games live via the FIH Twitter feed @FIH_Hockey
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