(Photo: SH Images 2013)

Italy 1, Ireland 0 (halftime 0-0)

Italy secured its spot in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals after earning a hard-fought 1-0 win against Ireland. The berth to the next round of the World League was a minor surprise as Italy entered the tournament as the third-seeded team, while Ireland enjoyed top billing, although it was a mere three World Ranking places that separated the two teams.

Elisabetta Pacella’s goal with 15 minutes left in the game was the decider in a nerve-filled match where neither team wanted to be the one to make the critical mistake. Pacella slipped the ball bast Irish goalie Emma Gray with a back handed shot sending her team into a frenzied celebration. Ireland tried to get the equalizer but with goals at a premium, it was clear that the Italian goal would stand as the game-winner.

Ireland and Italy entered the game tied in the standings in second place with six points each. With Belarus topping the group with seven points, it was clear before the game that a win was necessary to earn a top-two finish and move onto the Hockey World League Semi-Finals.

Italy will not know if it is playing in the Netherlands or England until the last Hockey World League Round 2 women’s tournament Is completed next week in Brazil. The Italians join the other Round 2 qualified teams Belgium, South Africa, India and Japan in the Semi-Finals. The second qualifier from Valencia will be the winner of the Spain vs. Belarus game. Spain must win in regulation to earn a Semi-Final berth.