Belgium 1, Azerbaijan 0
Belgium earned a place in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals after earning a nail-biting 1-0 victory against Azerbaijan in the all-deciding game for the second qualification spot.
The top two finishers from the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in Cape Town, South Africa move onto the next phase and with the South Africans clinching their spot already yesterday, the pressure was on Belgium to perform today against Azerbaijan.
It was clear the Belgians were off their game in the first half, putting in a conservative effort and constantly frustrated by the defensive-minded Azerbaijanis. It was until the 45th minute that Belgium solved the riddle of the Azerbaijan defense. Barbara Nelen scored her first goal of the tournament after a botched penalty corner chance turned into a golden opportunity for Belgium with the ball staying in the D, which Nelen scooped up and fired in for the crucial goal. It ended a long period of frustration that saw several penalty corner chances sail just wide.
For Azerbaijan, it is back to the drawing board. The team has once again just barely missed the mark to qualify for a major FIH event. At the Olympic qualification tournament, the team also narrowly missed the London 2012 Games, and now they will miss out on the Hockey World League Semi-Finals.
Belgium will join South Africa in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals, which will take place in two separate tournaments in June. The seeding of the two teams will not be known until all of the Round 2 tournaments are completed as teams will be seeded into the tournaments according to their position in the FIH World Ranking.
South Africa 2, Austria 0
South Africa finished the World League Round 2 tournament on home field in Cape Town with a perfect 4-0 record after topping Austria, 2-0, in a game that had no impact on the standings.
With their spot in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals confirmed, the South Africans used today’s game as the chance to test systems and some of its younger players. Nevertheless, they still managed to beat the Austrians in the meeting.
Pietie Coetzee was once again the women of the hour for the South Africans. She put in two first-half goals in the victory. Her second goal was her 258th career goal in her 258th career cap, a signal of pure consistency for the backbone of the South African squad. After Coetzee’s early strikes, both teams went on autopilot as there was little action for the remainder of the game.
South Africa joins Belgium as the two teams moving on to the Hockey World League Semi-Final from this first Round 2 event. The remaining six qualified women’s teams will be determined in the upcoming months at three more Hockey World League Round 2 tournaments.
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