(Photo: PALITO-AGUIRRE)

A hugely entertaining third day at the Argentina Hockey Men’s Champions Challenge 1 saw the eight competing teams order themselves for Thursday’s Quarter Finals, with Malaysia and host nation Argentina firmly putting themselves in the driving seat.

Malaysia were confirmed as the winners of Pool A even before they stepped onto the field on Tuesday thanks to Korea’s shock 5-4 defeat against Poland. It was a remarkable result, with the team ranked 19th in the FIH World Rankings overcoming a side currently sitting 12 places above them at 7th. It proved to be enough for the Europeans to take second place in the Pool, forcing Korea into third.  Paul Revington’s Malaysia team produced yet another good performance in Quilmes, battling their way to a 4-2 victory over Canada, who finished bottom of the Pool. Malaysian midfielder Mohd Fitri Saari was the star of the show, netting a penalty stroke as well as a brilliant solo effort to help his team to victory.

 In Pool B, Ireland got their first win of the tournament with a hard earned triumph over South Africa. Goals from Andrew McConnell, John Jermyn and Conor Harte proved to be enough for the Green Machine to claim third place in the Pool ahead of their African rivals. The final match of the day saw Argentina overpower Japan to finish Pool B in first place, with Guillermo Schickendantz, Gonzalo Peillat (2) and Matias Vila doing the damage for the hosts. The result forced Japan into second place in the Pool.

Following the completion of Tuesday’s matches, the line-ups for Thursday’s Quarter Finals are now confirmed.   At 0830 local time, Pool A winners Malaysia will face Pool B’s fourth ranked team South Africa. Japan (2nd Pool B) take on Korea (3rd Pool A) at 1130 before Poland (2nd Pool A) clash with Ireland (3rd Pool B) at 1430. The final match of the day is a Pan-American derby between host nation Argentina (1st Pool B) and Canada (4th Pool A), which begins at 1730.

Extended reports from each match along with post match quotes can be found below, with full competition information available at the following link: http://www.fih.ch/en/competitions-170-argentina-hockey-champions-challenge-1-champions

Poland stun Korea in Pool A

Poland claimed their first win of the tournament with a stunning 5-4 victory over top-ranked Korea in the first game of Day 3 at the Argentina Hockey Champions Challenge 1 in Quilmes.  It was a remarkable result, with the team ranked 19th in the FIH World Rankings overcoming a side currently sitting 12 places above them at 7th. The result means that Malaysia are certain to top Pool A irrespective of the result in their later match against Canada.

It took Korea less than two minutes to open the scoring in the early morning fixture, with You Hyo Sik crashing home the opening goal before the Asians enjoyed 20 minutes of virtually unbroken dominance.  Korea controlled possession and created a number of excellent opportunities to extend their lead but were thwarted on numerous occasions by Poland goalkeeper Arkadiusz Matuszak who was in inspired form.

Poland pulled themselves back into the match in the 26th minute thanks to a clever reverse stick deflection from Szymon Hutek, but Korea re-established their advantage just before half time when Jang Jong Hyun sent a perfectly placed penalty corner drag-flick into the net.

Poland exploded out of the blocks at the start of the second period, netting three goals in five minutes to stun their opponents from Korea.  A 40th minute own goal was followed two minutes later by a tap-in from brilliant midfielder Dariusz Rachwalski before Miroslaw Jusczak flicked home from a penalty corner in the 45th minute to give Poland a 4-2 advantage.

Korea fought hard to get back into the match but fell even further behind when Tomasz Gorny added a fifth 12 minutes from the end of the match.  Late goals from Jang Jong Hyun (PC) and Hyun Hye Sung (FG) gave Korea hope of a remarkable comeback, but smart defensive work ensured that Poland held on for a famous and hard earned victory.   

To see the official match sheet, please click here. 

Quotes:

Karol Sniezek (POL Coach)
 “Yes, I’m really happy with this team. Today they played very well. The most important thing is that they are improving every match. As I said the first match, we need these first 3 games to feel confidence and today they gained that. Korea is a great opponent, may be the best one in this tournament.”
“My players are trying to acclimatize in Argentina and with the temperature here. They will reach the proper level, physically and tactically, for the classification matches on Thursday”. 

 Darius Rachwalski (POL Captain and Scorer)
“I felt better today as we played our best match here in this tournament. I think we improved and that is good for our young and inexperienced players.  I can’t remember the last time Poland defeated Korea. It is great for us, for our confidence to face the classification pool.”

 Shin Seok Kyo (KOR Coach)
“Our team has many young players and they made many mistakes. They missed many opportunities to score and made the difference. At this time of the year, the players are tired. We have to think now in the next stage. In the semi-finals, we would prefer to play against Japan.”

 

Canada defeated as Malaysia continue winning run
Malaysia maintained their fine form at the Argentina Hockey Men’s Champions Challenge 1 by recording a 4-2 victory over Canada. It was a third straight win for the impressive Malaysians, who had already been confirmed as the winners of Pool A thanks to Korea’s loss against Poland in the first match of the day. For Canada, the result meant that they finished bottom of the Pool and will now face a difficult Quarter Final match against either Argentina or Japan, the two teams fighting it out at the top of Pool B.

Malaysia were arguably the better side in the first half, looking extremely threatening going forwards whilst also looking solid at the back. The team from Asia established a 2-0 lead after just eleven minutes with Mohd Fitri Saari firing home a penalty stroke before Tengku Tajudin Abdul Jalil doubled the advantage from open play. Canada pulled a goal back in the 17th minute when Keegan Pereira fired home, but Malaysia restored their two goal cushion in the 24th minute through Faizal Saari. The Canadians rallied hard towards the end of the first half and could easily have pulled themselves level were it not for some outstanding goalkeeping from Kumar Subramiam.

Canada continued to impress in the early stages of the second period and were rewarded for their efforts when Matt Guest lashed home a fierce reverse stick shot in the 39th minute. The young Canadian team was performing admirably against the more experienced Malaysians, and were very much in the match until a moment of brilliance from Mohd Fitri Saari took the wind from their sails. With 14 minutes of the match remaining, Saari picked up the ball in midfield, drifted past three Canadian defenders before arrowing a sensational reverse stick shot into the bottom corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any match, and proved to be enough to give Malaysia a 4-2 triumph.  

To see the official match sheet, please click here

Quotes: 

Paul Revington (MAS Coach)
“This group is working together for only the last six or seven weeks, and they are learning to play as a team. This is our first official international tournament. That’s why it is good for us score four goals in a match again. I’m pleased with my players because they did a great job, because playing against Canada is never easy. Our next rivals are South Africa and Ireland, and both are good.”

Kumar Subramiam (MAS GK)
“I think we did well in the last three games. And we have to keep this winning attitude because we need to improve every match. Although this is an important tournament and we want to win it, we are looking for a constant improvement of the team”.

Anthony Farry (CAN Coach)
 “They played better than us. We never could get into their rhythm. They put pressure in all the lines and we couldn’t solve that. We have to improve our skills for the next match. It is likely that we will play against Argentina, which will be a hard challenge for us”.


Ireland beat South Africa to finish 3rd in Pool B

Ireland ended their Pool B campaign in winning fashion with a hard earned 3-1 victory over South Africa. Goals from Andrew McConnell, John Jermyn and Conor Harte proved to be enough to give the Green Machine their first victory at the Argentina Hockey Men’s Champions Challenge 1. The result means that Ireland finish third in Pool B and will play Poland in the Quarter Finals, with fourth placed South Africa facing a tough match against Pool A winners Malaysia.  

The first half was a largely scrappy affair, with both teams struggling to find any consistency. Ireland took the lead eight minutes into the match when Andrew McConnell fired home from open play, but South Africa grabbed an equaliser in the 13th minute thanks to a field goal from Miguel da Graca.   Ireland’s McConnell had a glorious opportunity to give his side the lead in the dying moments of the first half when a scything move ripped through the South African defence, but the midfielder failed to hit the target with only the goalkeeper to beat, much to the frustration of team coach Andrew Meredith.  

Ireland moved into a 2-1 lead seven minutes into the second half thanks to a slick penalty corner variation, with John Jermyn applying the finishing touch with an accurate flick past South Africa keeper Michael Smith.  The South Africans stepped up their game immediately following the goal, with striker Lloyd Norris-Jones in particular looking lively, but solid Irish defending ensured that the Green Machine stayed ahead in the scoring before delivering what proved to be the killer blow in the 62nd minute. A goal-mouth scramble in the South African circle resulted in an Irish penalty corner which was expertly dispatched by Conor Harte, sending a low effort into the bottom right corner of the goal to give Ireland all three points.

To see the official match sheet, please click here.  


Quotes:
Gregg Clark (RSA Coach)
“We are disappointed with today’s match. Our performance was below the one I expected. We all know that we have to improve, and the next match is the most important one. We made a lot of mistakes, we were not mentally focused on the match and we have to work on it. Our next rival is Malaysia and they are on the top of the pool. It is a speedy team, and on Thursday we will make the match as difficult as possible for them.”

Ronan Gormley (IRL Captain)

“I think we improved our performance from the last game. We’ve been doing this since the first match and we have more improvements to make. Our next match is against Poland and we know they have many experienced players.”

Andrew Meredith (IRL Coach)
“This victory is a good result for us, and this comes from the hard work that the players put in. I’m very happy now, but we have to continue improving in this process as we move forward in this tournament.”

“Poland traditionally is a good defensive team, but at this stage in the tournament, my primary goal is to focus on our style of play and continue improving in the defensive and offensive area.”

Argentina outscore Japan to top Pool B

Host nation Argentina have topped Pool B thanks to a superb 4-1 win over Japan. Gonzalo Peillat scored two superb penalty corners with Guillermo Schickendantz and Matias Vila also on target for the South Americans. The result means that Argentina will face Canada in Thursday’s Quarter Finals, with Japan taking on Korea.

Argentina produced a fine display of attacking hockey in a first half which they totally dominated. The home favourites deservedly took the lead in the 14th minute when a speculative overhead pass into the circle was brilliantly deflected into the net by Guillermo Schickendantz, who showed lightning quick reflexes to divert the ball into the net. Further Argentine chances quickly followed, with Pedro Ibarra and penalty corner expert Gonzalo Peillat both going close to extending the lead. Eventually, the much expected second goal arrived two minutes before half time through Peillat, who found the bottom left corner with a low penalty corner flick.

Despite being thoroughly outplayed in the first half, Japan looked like a different team in the early stages of second period. The team from Asia pulled a goal back within minutes of the restart through Katsuyoshi Nagasawa, who crashed home a fierce strike from a tight angle.  However, Argentina re-established their two goal cushion in the 49th minute, with Gonzalo Peillat netting another expertly taken penalty corner for his team. Further efforts from Schickendantz and Lucas Vila went begging before Matias Vila rounded off the scoring with a deflected strike late in the game.  

To see the official match sheet, please click here

Quotes:

Franco Nicola (ARG Coach)
“I’m really pleased today as the players played an excellent second half. If you asked me which of the three matches I liked most, I have to say that I like all the matches if we win. But now, it is beginning another tournament. This kind of competition is complicated. You can win the first three matches and lose in the classifications and be out of the tournament. Our next rival is Canada, and the fact that they haven’t won any match in the group means nothing. They feel motivated when they play against us. Argentina vs Canada is the Pan-American derby.”

Gonzalo Peillat (ARG Scorer)
“The whole team played well today, on a high level. We could correct many mistakes we made in the first two matches. But we must keep improving game by game.”

Nagaoka Shunsuke (JPN Coach)
“Today Japan made many mistakes and Argentina took advantage of them. Argentina play at a higher level than us. We must control the match to control the opponent. Now we have to face Korea, and to win this match we need to tighten the structure of our defence. I think we need to keep the ball, as today we lost it very easily.”