In Pool B of the Hero Hockey World League Final, Argentina retain their unbeaten record to top the group and the Netherlands get points on the board.
It was a matter of hockey pride when the Belgian Red Lions took on Los Leones from Argentina. The match see-sawed between the teams but Argentina emerged 3-2 winners and kept their unbeaten record in the tournament while Belgium suffered their second defeat.
Argentina, who upset the Netherlands in yesterday’s opening match, again started well in today’s encounter. But it was Belgian Tom Boon (6’) who opened the scoring when he smashed the ball into the far corner of the goal.
The Pan American champions kept fighting for the equaliser, which soon came courtesy of Pedro Ibarra (11’). On his run towards goal, Ibarra left five Belgium defenders behind to eventually defeat goalie Vincent Vanash with a skilful backhand stroke.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half top-striker Boon (34’) made another mark when putting Belgium 2-1 ahead. This was his third goal in the competition making him the tournament top scorer.
Argentina levelled the score to 2-2 in the middle of the second half when Matias Paredes (50’) latched onto the ball at the far post to deflect a long pass coming from Juan Martin Lopez into the goal. “We played well but we never defended the lead”, said Belgium coach Mark Lammers.
Argentina held on to their attacking style taking the lead for the first time in the match when Callioni (61’) picked up a flick and managed to lift the ball over the Belgian keeper. Coach Lammers summed up: “Argentina deserved the win because they fought more. This was not a good game for us.”
Tournament top scorer Boon agreed: “We can do much better.” Regarding Monday’s match against the Netherlands Boon, who is currently playing in the Dutch Hoofdklasse, said: “It’s always nice to play against team mates. It will be a tough game but we have to win if we want to avoid facing Germany in the quarter final.”
Argentine goal scorer Facundo Callioni, attributed his team's success to "hard work" and "a successful press operating all over the field. We played less attacking hockey and really concentrated on pressing our opponents," he said.
Coach Carlos Retegui knows that his team will need to be on the top of their game to counter the attacking power of the Australian team in their third pool B game. "I am a fan of Australia's hockey and it is always an attacking game when we play them."
However, Retegui added that he has spent many hours planning his tactics for each team: "Belgian have one of the best coaches in the game, and we had to think very hard and very strategically about how to beat them. They are one of the most upcoming teams in the world."
In the second Pool B match of the day, the Netherlands bounced back from the previous day's defeat to take three points in a tense match in their second Hero Hockey World League Pool B match. A sole goal from Billy Bakker gave the team in orange a 1-0 victory over Australia.
Much of the match saw both teams playing uncharacteristically cagey hockey, but with the Netherlands still reeling from their defeat at the hands of Argentina, and Australia mindful that the men in orange might be coming back with a vengeance, this was always going to be a tactical encounter.
That said, there was plenty of action on the pitch with both goalkeepers being forced to make important saves and the Netherlands hitting the post twice in the early minutes of the game.
Frustrations with the lack of a breakthrough was obvious when both teams were told to calm down by the match officials.
A series of penalty corners for the world champions drew some great saves from the Netherlands goalkeeper Jaap Stockman, and at the end of the first 35 minutes Australia had marginally enjoyed the better first half.
The second half saw the Netherlands seize their chance just three minutes after the restart. A tremendous piece of skill by Billy Bakker saw him junk through the defence and shoot from a wide angle past goalkeeper Tyler Lovell.
The Netherlands were reduced to 10 men when Bob de Voogd was dismissed for a rash tackle, but the Kookaburras were unable to take advantage and, in fact, it was Lovell who was forced into making a good save from a rising shot.
As the game reached the final stages it was the Olympic silver medallists who created the greater pressure, forcing a fine save from Lovell, but then the dismissal of Seve van Ass meant the Netherlands endured a torrid few minutes of defending. This included two penalty corners with just 90 seconds remaining in the game, both dealt with by Stockmann.
After the game, Netherland's coach Paul van Ass said: 'We defended with our hearts. The qualities of chances was in favour of Australia but in our team everybody fought for every inch."
Ric Charlesworth, the Australian coach said: "We didn’t play as well as we would like for many reasons; our basics were poor but we still made enough chances to win the game and didn’t. We had seven or eight corners. That’s where we’re at, at the moment. You hope that you would play better and better each day but we had the opportunities today but we couldn’t finish and that’s disappointing.”
The Netherlands will play Belgium in the third pool match on Monday, while Australia face Argentina.
Follow the action on the FIH event site.
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