Chile 2, Azerbaijan 2
Second-seeded Azerbaijan will face top-seeded Japan in the final game after the Azerbaijanis drew against Chile 2-2 in today’s round robin finale. Azerbaijan needed at least one point from today’s outing to make it to the final and they got just that after Chile staged and incredible comeback to tie the game at two with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.
Two identical short corner goals coming three minutes apart completely changed the outlook of the game as Chile stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to tie things up in the blink of an eye. Denise Infante and Camila Caram put in nearly identical penalty corner goals, going to the lower left corner to inject new life into the match.
The first half was evenly balanced with Azerbaijan holding the slight edge with a few dangerous chances. First the Azerbaijanis missed a point-blank shot and then a penalty corner goal was disallowed for being too high, leaving Azerbaijan empty handed. It was ultimately a bizarre, goal that the Chilean goaltender knocked in herself in the attempt to make the save, that gave Azerbaijan the 1-0 lead. Myungsoon Mammadova got credit for the awkward marker.
Mammadova more than made up for the odd 1-0 goal when she doubled the lead with a well-executed penalty corner deflection five minutes into the second half. From there it was a lot of back-and-forth and it looked like Azerbaijan would cruise to the win when Infante’s first penalty corner went in with 11 minutes left. Caram’s marker got both teams on their toes going at blazing speed until the final horn.
Chile has been a hard team to predict the entire event. On one hand, they held Japan scoreless in a 0-0 tie, but in their next outing they drew against Malaysia, which finished the round robin in last place. Today the Chileans put in one of their more steady performances, but Azerbaijan was able to find the chinks in their armor early and hang on for the draw.
Saturday’s final game will be a rematch of Tuesday’s round robin meeting. Japan dominated that match, coming away with a 4-1 win. Chile will meet Belarus for third place on Saturday.
Japan 4, Belarus 0
Top-seeded Japan earned a place in Saturday’s final and will vie for the last women’s spot at the London Games after a straight-forward 4-0 win against Belarus.
The Japanese needed only a tie to secure their spot in the final, but got all three points after easily handling the fourth-seeded Belarusians. Japan’s Kaori Fujio opened the scoring just three minutes into action and Rika Komazawa doubled the lead midway through the half. The score could have been much worse as Japan dominated the first-half action.
Japan continued to control the game as Belarus floundered under the constant Japanese pressure. Japan captain Yukari Yamamoto scored on a penalty corner chance 20 minutes into the half to make it a 3-0 affair. The Japanese had about a dozen penalty corner chances in the game.
Fujio scored her second of the game to close the scoring with five minutes left in regulation and bring the final score to a convincing 4-0.
Japan entered the tournament as the big favorite, holding the #9 place in the FIH World Ranking, six spot ahead of the second-seeded Azerbaijan. But the Japanese, who finished fifth at the Champions Trophy earlier this year, have been hot and cold throughout the event, perhaps a byproduct of the pressure of being both the host and the favorite.
Nevertheless, the team convincingly earned a place in the final, and finished the round robin phase in first place, right on track to achieve their dream of making the 2012 Games.
Austria 3, Malaysia 2
It was a day of firsts for the Austrian Women’s team at the Olympic Qualifier in the final day of round robin action. They picked up their first point in a 3-2 victory against Malaysia and scored their first goals of the event.
Alexandra Sandner was the key to the Austrian victory, she put in the teams’ first goal of the tournament on a penalty corner seven minutes into action and also added the gamer-winning goal with three minutes left in regulation. Austria took the 1-0 lead before Malaysia stormed back with two quick goals to take the 2-1 advantage into the break.
Marta Langinja tied the game at two eight minutes into the second half setting up Sandner’s heroics. Malaysia will have a chance to earn redemption on Saturday when the teams meet again in the fifth-place game.
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