The Czech Hockey Federation hosted the biennial women's EuroHockey Indoor Junior Championships in Prague last weekend. Some twenty matches were played over the three day competition, including a superb final between the hosts and a very assured Polish team.
The top tier EuroHockey Indoor tournament of the year was enhanced by a late call up for Turkey, who took their place in the competition thanks to the withdrawal of Italy. A well-drilled and extremely fit Turkish team attained a commendable 5th place finish, some five places above their previous best placing at the event.
The opening day of the tournament started with a draw between Belarus, the 2011 Champions, and Russia. The final game of the day was a notable meeting between the two teams that would eventually contest the final, with Poland managing to record a narrow 3-2 victory against hosts Czech. Poland were the only team with a maximum six points at the end of Day 1, and sat clear at the top of the table.
The morning session of Day 2 decided the semi-final slots. In Pool A, Belarus used their vast experience to record a 4-2 win against Turkey to claim their place in the Semi Finals, being joined by Russia who produced a stunning second half performance to get the better of Austria 8-5. In Pool B Poland consolidated their position at the top of the table, taking the three points by doing just enough to beat Portugal 2-0. Portugal - who had recorded their first ever win in the Championships on Day 1 by defeating Sweden 1-0 - defended very well against the eventual champions, who were joined in the Semi Finals by hosts Czech Republic.
Ahead of the Semi Finals, the afternoon session saw the start of Pool C (Relegation Pool), with Austria defeating Sweden 6-0 before Turkey outclassed Portugal to record a 5-0 victory.
The first Semi-final saw Poland take on Belarus. Incredibly, Belarus established a 2-0 lead, but Poland fought back to grab a 3-2 victory, with the winning goal coming from the stick of Magdalena Zagajska to book a place in the tournament final.
An extremely vocal crowd were treated to an exhibition of indoor hockey in the second Semi Final, with the home team powering to a stunning 10-1 win over Russia. The score-line was a fair reflection of the Czech dominance in the match. Klara Hanzlova was the star of the show, scoring four times and also grabbing a couple of assists in the rout.
The opening match of Day 3 saw Austria draw 1-1 with Portugal in the Relegation Pool. It was an evenly contested game but the result was better for Austria than Portugal, with the latter being relegated from the division. Sweden were also relegated when they lost 5-1 to the impressive Turkey, who sealed their best ever EuroHockey Indoor Championships ranking with a fully deserved win.
The bronze medal game between Russia and Belarus was a tired affair as both teams had used most of their energies in the Semi Final matches. That said, there were some great goals as Russia dominated the match to claim a 6-2 win and a third place finish in the tournament.
The grand finale of the tournament was the Gold medal meeting between home favourites Czech Republic and the in-form Poland. The Czech team started the game at a lightening pace and had a number of great chances to open the scoring, but a series of stunning saves from Polish keeper Marta Kucharska denied the hosts and allowed her team to gain confidence. The score was locked at 0-0 at half time, but Poland significantly stepped up their game in the second half and powered to a 4-0 win. Semi Final her Magdalena Zagajska scored twice in the Final, with Paula Slawinska and Amelia Kateria also registering.
Congratulations to Poland on their success.
1. Poland - EuroHockey Champions
2. Czech Republic
7. Portugal (Relegated to Championship II in 2015)8. Sweden (Relegated to Championship II in 2015)
Source Material: European Hockey Federation
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