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Ireland – Belarus 0-2 (0-0 halftime)
The Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in Valencia had its first major upset as top-seeded Ireland lost against fourth-seeded Belarus in a low-scoring 2-0 decision.
The loss is a big blow for the 14th-ranked Irish, who now find themselves virtually in a must-win position in their next two games against strong opponents Italy and Spain. For 21st-ranked Belarus, the victory keeps them surprisingly n the hunt for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals with four points in their first two games.
The game got off to a fairly lethargic start under sunny skies and perfect hockey conditions in Valencia. There was a lot of back-and-forth action in the neutral zone but very few scoring chances. The penalty corner chances were harmless and both sides lacked a sense of urgency.
The tempo started to change 10 minutes into the second half after Belarus had a near miss on a breakaway. The opportunity served as a wake-up call for both teams, who suddenly sparked to life for the remainder of the game. Belarus finally found the back of the new when Ryta Bakura defelcted in a peantly corner stroke to give Belarus the 1-0 lead.
Ireland tried to get the equalizer, but Belarus goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya stood her ground and came up with a few big saves to thwart the Irish hopes.
"I would have to say that on a scale of one to ten, today was a ten for us," said an elated Navitskaya after the game. "We played very well and worked really hard and I'm very happy we won."
Belarus had a slew of penalty corners late in the game and finally sealed the win when Natstissia Syraezhka scooped up an errant shot on an initial flick and went to the far corner to put in the odd angle goal. The 2-0 goal sealed the victory for Belarus as they celebrated the big upset victory.
Spain – Czech Republic 6-0 (4-0 halftime)
Host Spain started its Hockey World League journey with a clear message that they are on a mission to go the Semi-Finals. The Spanish provided some big first-half fireworks here in Valencia, with a clear 6-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
The result was little surprise with the Spanish enjoying the home field advantage and sitting at #15 in the FIH World Ranking were playing on fresh legs against the #37 and lowest-seeded Czechs, who suffered a 4-1 loss against the Irish yesterday in a game that sapped a lot of energy.
Spain took an enormous 4-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the game and switched into cruise control after that, happy to save energy for the big opponents that they will face later in the week.
All four of the Spanish goals came from different scorers and from the field. The strikes came at such a rapid pace that the Czechs barely had time to get back down field before the Spanish were already in position for another attempt. After initial flurry of goals, things settled down later in the half as the Czech managed to keep Spain scoreless until break, but Spain was well in control with a 4-0 lead at the half.
Spain played cat and mouse for most the second half but only added two goals in the last five minutes of action despite having total control over the second-half proceedings. The late markers brought the final to a solidly convincing 6-0 win.
The win gives second-seeded Spain three points in its first outing in Valencia, while the Czech Republic is still winless in its first two games. All teams are idle tomorrow before play resumes on Thursday.
If you’re starved for hockey action during the off day in Valencia, the good news is the men’s Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in Rio kicks off tomorrow.
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