The final round of pool play at the women's Visa International Invitational Tournament at the Riverbank Arena saw Korea edge out China but Argentina go through to the final on goal difference, despite a defeat at the hands of Great Britain. Great Britain and Argentina meet again in tomorrow's women's final. In the men's event, already certain finalist Germany maintained a perfect record with a win against India, and Australia and Great Britain drew, with the undecided result seeing Australia through into the Final.
China and Korea kicked off the action on a cold, grey London morning, and both teams struggled with the hostile weather conditions, resulting in a relatively slow first half. China caught Korea off guard and took an early lead through Sun Sinan who converted a penalty corner 7 minutes into the match, but Korea soon took the match in hand and led play for long stretches of time. Kim Jongeun levelled the scores in the final minutes of the first half, and after the break, Korea came back pressing hard for a win, with Kim Jongeun scoring her second goal soon after the restart. A string of chances for Korea yielded nothing more, and the score didn't change any further. Korea thus booked a narrow victory, but will want to improve on control and efficiency in front of the goal.
Next up, the Great Britain women took the field against Argentina in front of an enthusiastic, well-filled stadium. The home team came out of the blocks at full steam, putting high pressure on the Leonas from the starting whistle and dominated play in the first half. Alex Danson scored a beautiful reverse stick goal to give her team the lead 15 minutes into the game, and Argentina started struggling, picking up four green cards in 8 minutes. The constant disadvantage in numbers quickly limited Argentina to the basics and eventually allowed Great Britain to extend the lead to two goals as Ashleigh Ball converted a penalty corner.
After the restart, the hosts started well again, but soon ran out of steam, wasting a number of chances and allowing Argentina more scoring opportunities. The Leonas could not score however, and the home team took a much cheered 2-0 win. Despite the success, British head coach Danny Kerry was critical of his team's performance in the post-match press conference, saying, "Today was not a 70 minute performance, it was a 45 minute performance. We're looking forward to the matches of our lives during the Games in London, and if we want to win, we can't have 45 minute performances. We need to play with fire in the belly."
The first men's match of the day had certain finalists Germany take the field against India. After their great but draining match against Australia, the Germans seemed tired and the match was off to a slow start, allowing India to snatch the lead as Shivendra Singh slotted a ball into the net 15 minutes into the game. The match was wide open at this stage, with both teams struggling to put forward their A game, and neither team could score until Christopher Wesley levelled the scores just before halftime.
The second half saw equally dissatisfying performances from both teams, prompting Germany's young star Florian Fuchs to some harsh criticism of his own team: "We cannot be satisfied. We had many turnovers in the offense, and mistakes in defense. In the second half, we weren't focussing. It didn't feel like we were forcing any chances. We had a lot of possession but no result in our opponents' circle." It was also Florian Fuchs who established the match's final result, scoring 5 minutes from the end for the 2-1 win and a perfect record for Germany with three wins in as many games.
Australia and Great Britain wrapped up the day with a thriller of a match, fiercely disputing the path into the Final. The Kookaburras came out strong and had several shots on goal early without being able to score. The Brits at the other end made better use of their opportunities, and James Tindall converted their first good chance, a penalty corner, with a powerful drive into the back board. The lead didn't last long however, with Matt Gohdes levelling the scores again a few minutes later. The scores kept seesawing back and forth, as with another penalty corner shortly after, Great Britain almost immediately claimed back the lead at the hands of Richard Alexander, before Jason Wilson established the 2-2 halftime score.
After the break, the world number 1 took charge and proceeded to dominate the second half, allowing their British opponents only two shots on goal in 35 minutes. Efficiency was the issue however, as out of a sizeable number of opportunities, the Kookaburras could only score one more goal through Simon Orchard who sunk a penalty stroke, while Great Britain boasted a 50% success rate with Ashley Jackson converting a corner late in the match. The final whistle sounded as the score line stood at 3-3, a result that was enough for Australia to reach the final against Germany.
Tomorrow's classification matches will have China and Korea play for third place in the women's tournament, while Great Britain and Argentina dispute the Final. In the afternoon, Great Britain and India men will do battle for third place, followed by the grand finale, pitting world numbers 1 and 2, Australia and Germany, against each other in the deciding game for the men's Visa International Invitational title.
China - Korea 1:2 (1:1)
Great Britain - Argentina 2:0 (2:0)
Germany - India 2:1 (1:1)
Australia - Great Britain 3:3 (2:2)
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