On the final day of the Visa International Invitational Tournament at the Olympic hockey venue in London, Great Britain won the women's final against Argentina, while Korea defeated China for women's bronze. In the men's event, Great Britain also finished their campaign on a high by defeating India, while Germany repeated their victory over Australia to win the tournament with an impressive four wins in as many matches.
In a rousing women's Final, Great Britain repeated yesterday's result exactly in front of yet another near capacity crowd to defeat Argentina 2-0 to claim the title, but success came at a high price as both Crista Cullen and Alex Danson had to leave the field during the second half, injured after clashes. Great Britain benefitted from high efficiency in front of the goal, and the fact that a listless Argentine side could not make use of their chances, including two great shots that ended up on the post. Both goals came at the hands of the ever reliable Crista Cullen who sunk two penalty corners in the early phase of the second half.
The British triumph is even more impressve taking into consideration that the hosts did not concede a single goal in their 4 encounters here at the Riverbank Arena - a fact that Britain's youngest team member Georgie Twigg credits mostly to goalkeeper Beth Storry: "Beth is just the best in the world, and the defense works really hard." Argentine head coach Carlos Retegui also paid tribute to Britain's defense, saying "What I am worried about is having 8 penalty corners in the game and not scoring goals. Great Britain are very good defenders."
The men's Final delivered on the expectations put into the summit of the world's two best teams with an entertaining encounter that yielded 7 goals, but could easily have seen more if not for the wasted opportunities at both ends of the field. There were scoring chances on both sides from the very first minute, as Australia had already missed a penalty corner and Germany wasted a penalty stroke before three minutes were played. Australia then missed a string of chances, including a penalty stroke of their own, before finally getting on the scoreboard in the 18th minute as Chris Ciriello drilled a corner flick into the net. With the goal spell broken, Germany soon responded in kind however, as Tobias Matania and Thilo Stralkowski put a field goal each to their names.
Germany continued in the same vein after the break, as with less than two minutes on the clock, Florian Fuchs pushed his team further ahead with another penalty corner conversion. Midway through the second half, Matt Gohdes made good use of a penalty stroke this time to get the Kookaburras within striking distance again, but it didn't take long for Matthias Witthaus to restore the advantage. Australia had a good few opportunities in the last ten minutes of the match, but the German defense stood well and instead of challenging the number 2, the Kookaburras eventually conceded one more goal, giving away another penalty stroke three minutes from the end which Philipp Zeller converted for the 5-2 final scoreline and the tournament win.
Prior to each Final, the matches for third place had taken place. In the women's competition, the two Asian representatives had done battle for third place, with Korea defeating China 3-2. Overall a clash of equal opponents, the match had two vastly different halves, with Korea dominating the first half, and China becoming the stronger team after the break. Barely two minutes into the match, Lee Seonok converted a penalty corner for Korea, and nine minutes later, Park Kiju scored a field goal to extend Korea's lead. Zhao Yudiao responded with China's first goal, but Korea promptly restored the two goal advantage through a penalty corner by Cheon Seulki for a 3-1 halftime lead.
After the break, China awoke, and were able to create a number of chances after Lee Seonok had failed to take advantage of a penalty stroke for Korea, her shot saved by Zhang Yimeng in the Chinese goal. Despite a number of opportunities, China were unable to make their new found energy count until they had the advantage in number whenKim Jongeun was sidelined with a yellow card three minutes from the end. Li Hongxia scored the consolation goal for China, but it was too late, and the final whistle confirmed Korea's third place.
In the men's bronze medal match, the Great Britain men narrowly defeated India 2-1, a result that fairly reflects the course of the game: despite equal percentages in ball possession, Great Britain were the more efficient and more dangerous team. After a slow start into the match from both sides, it was India however who took the lead first when VR Ragunath hammered home a penalty corner in the 24th minute. Great Britain responded just before the end of the first half, with a penalty corner goal of their own, scored by James Tindall, and put away one more midway through the second half when Rob Moore tapped in a perfect pass from Iain Mackay for the narrowest possible win.
Reflecting on the successful event, British captain Glenn Kirkham complimented the enthusiastic spectators as well as the organizers' efforts after the match: "The large crowd for the last two games definitely gave us a boost on the pitch. We definitely benefitted from a well-informed crowd. Roll on the Olympics."
3rd/4th place: Korea - China 3:2 (3:1)
Finale: Great Britain - Argentina 2:0 (0:0)
3rd/4th place: Great Britain - India 2:1 (1:1)
Finale: Germany - Australia 5:2 (2:1)
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