Korea and USA have ensured their participation at this year’s World Cups after guaranteeing a top two finish in Pool B on day seven at the women’s Samsung Hockey World Cup Qualifier in Rome.
The pair have joined England and Japan as the automatic qualifiers from the pool phase of the competition after both recorded victories to remain unbeaten at the head of the points table.
USA started the opening match of the day in impressive style, slotting two early goals to open a handy lead against Azerbaijan. Another goal shortly before the break increased the margin before USA stumbled midway through the second half.
A pair of Azerbaijan goals within three minutes created a tense period of play before USA pulled two goals clear for the second time with Robyn Kenney scoring after lead-up work by Kate Barber with four minuets to go.
With their job accomplished, USA had to wait until the result of the late match between New Zealand and Korea to find out if they had done enough to complete their World Cup qualification aim with a match to spare.
Korea obliged and helped USA and themselves in the process with a victory over New Zealand maintaining their unbeaten run. The match was level until the 21-minute mark, when two quick goals gave Korea a comfortable advantage.
Three more second half goals easily countered the challenge mounted by New Zealand as Korea ran away with the match.
Ireland too are undefeated after snatching a dramatic equaliser with 22 seconds remaining to overcome Italy and move into in the 5-8 classification matches.
After struggling under the pressure exerted by the Italians for much of the match, Ireland looked headed for a fourth consecutive draw until Catriona Carey somehow found herself with the ball in the shadow of full time to convert and give the Irish their first win of the tournament.
Importantly, the victory lifts Ireland over both Italy and New Zealand into third place in Pool B and they are now certain to at least remain in third or fourth place ahead of their final remaining round match against Azerbaijan tomorrow.
The third and fourth placed teams at the completion of tomorrow’s play will go into a sudden death series for the last qualifying berth available at the tournament.
The results from yesterday and today mean that one of this tournament’s top two seeds will miss the Samsung Hockey World Cup in Madrid.
China (world number five) and New Zealand (world number six) have struggled for positive results all tournament and their relegation to the sudden death phase is a shock considering their current standing in world hockey.
Both will compete at the elite Champions Trophy in Amsterdam prior to the World Cup, but one (or potentially both) will be missing when the year’s showpiece event starts on 26 September.
China and France have already made sure of their participation in the 5-8 classification matches from Pool A, with New Zealand and Italy to battle it out for the final place from Pool B.
The teams will play each other in what will become a head-to-head clash tomorrow, with the Black Sticks having a two-point advantage over the home team at this stage.
The other interest tomorrow will be the clashes between the top two teams in each pool to determine the make-up of the semi finals on Thursday. England will play Japan in the opening match of day eight before Korea and USA meet later in the day.
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