Final minutes of action decide Round Two qualifiers from Prague
Ukraine and Italy men and Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine women have qualified for the Hockey World League Round 2 following the conclusion of the Hockey World League Round 1 event in Prague, Czech Republic, yesterday.
The final day’s matches of both the men's and women's competition provided a huge amount of excitement as there were several different possibilities as to who would qualify for Round 2 of the competition and continue their dream of Hockey World League Final and World Cup qualification.
In the men’s competition, the two qualification places came down to who had the best goal difference as three teams had the same number of points and matches won. In the women’s competition, top place, and an a bonus of 25 FIH Hero World Ranking points, also came down to goal difference.
On the men’s side, the teams locked at the top of the table were Belarus, Italy and Ukraine. With just one match left to play – between Belarus and Czech Republic – it still wasn’t certain which two teams would go through to Round 2 of the Hockey World League.
Belarus needed to win by four goals or more to overcome Ukraine’s and Italy’s superior goal difference and take first or second place in the group.
They came close, scoring three of the required goals but a single goal for Czech Republic’s Tomas Jahoda, meant that Ukraine ended up in first place.
It was then between Italy and Belarus as to who would take the second coveted spot and Italy will be thankful that Agustin Nunez was in form in front of goal.
His tally of 10 – nine from open play – saw him crowned top scorer and his team take second place and qualify for Hockey World League Round 2.
However, the fact that the Italian defence only conceded three goals in five games played a big role in their progression. This was the best defensive record of the tournament.
Three teams progressed from the women’s competition and, with Czech Republic and Poland winning three matches and losing one and Ukraine winning two matches, all three teams were guaranteed Hockey World League Round 2 action next year.
The final placings came down to the number of goals scored, meaning that the sharp shooting Czech Republic saw them win the competition ahead of Poland, with Ukraine finishing in third place. Lithuania came fourth, after they beat Turkey in a tense shoot-out to register their only win of the event.
The hot-shot trio of Veronica Decsyova, Klara Hanzlova and Barbara Haklova were all on fine form for the Czech Republic in front of goal – they led the top goal scoring chart with four goals apiece. Joining them at the top of the table was Turkey’s Perihan Kucukkoc, who scored all four of her nation’s goals – all from penalty corners.
Marlena Rybacha and Amelia Katerla were also among the goals, with pre-tournament favourites Poland winning three of their four games and, despite finishing second on goal difference, the Polish team will be pleased that they beat the competition winners Czech Republic 3-2 in the pool match. Poland will however rue the match they lost to Ukraine by a single late goal from Viktoriya Stetsenko.
Turkey women will consider themselves unlucky not to have picked up at least one win as two of their matches went to shootouts, but on both occasions – against Lithuania and Ukraine, the Turkish team lost out.
In the match against Ukraine, Turkey scored in the 66th and final minute of the game to take the match to a shootout, but the momentum they had gathered during a frantic final few minutes of the game failed to carry them to a memorable victory.
Hockey World League Round 1 action continues this week with action taking place in the following locations across the world:
- Glasgow, Scotland - Men (6-11 Sep)
- Accra, Ghana - Men (9-11 Sep)
- Accra, Ghana - Women (9-11 Sep)
- Antalya, Turkey - Men (9-11 Sep)