France benefit from Japan's win and are confirmed as last Semi-Finalists
The last World League Round 2 tournament concluded today in Elektrostal, finalizing the field of Semi-Final participants, with Japan and France - in absence - the last two confirmed competitors. In the morning match, Ukraine defeated Egypt to claim third place in the tournament. Japan then wrestled down Austria to secure first place in the tournament and render the last match between Russia and Czech Republic irrelevant for the final ranking.
At the end of the day, Japan accepted their ticket to the World League Semi-Finals, whileindividual awards went to Katsuya Takase from Japan as Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament, Dmitry Azarov as Topscorer of the Tournament and Nikolay Yankun as Best Player of the Tournament. The Czech Republic were presented with the Fair Play Award.
First up on the final day of the event were Egypt and Ukraine, and both teams were visibly keen to end their campaigns on a high note from the start, playing fast-flowing attacking hockey that had play move up and down the field. Egypt was able to finally gain an advantage just before the end of the first half when Hamada Atef converted a penalty corner, but Ukraine looked the stronger side after the break, attacking well and keeping play deep in the Egyptian half for long periods of time.
When the goal came, it was fiercely contested by the Egyptians, as the shot had come from outside the circle, but having been touched by the defending goalkeeper, it was deemed an own goal and thus the equalizer. The match turned into an open battle as both teams fought to tip the scales in their favor. There were no more goals however, until the dying minutes, when Iurii Moroz for Ukraine and Mohamed Edris for Egypt scored in quick succession.
The scoreline remained at 2-2 until the final whistle, and the two teams headed into a curious shoot-out that saw only a single attacker able to score out of the first nine attempts. Their one goal by Iurii Moroz was thus enough for Ukraine to win the shoot-out and the match, which propelled them into third place.
The second match between tournament favorites Japan and Austria started in two steps, with the match briefly suspended after thunder, lightning and sizeable hailstones cut the first try short. When the match resumed with just under two minutes on the clock, the Austrians surprised the Samurai with a penalty corner, and Patrick Schmidt batted the rebound into the net for the lead. Japan responded quickly to restore the balance with a penalty corner of their own through Toshiro Tachibana however.
As the sun came out again in a 180 degree turn of the weather, Austria kept challenging their Japanese counterparts, playing a very organized and disciplined defensive game. Japan wasted a number of opportunities, including a series of penalty corners, while at the other end, Dominik Monghy took advantage of the haphazard Japanese defense to reclaim the lead for Austria just before halftime.
Japan finally managed to get more structure into their game in the second half, and Toshiro Tachibana soon scored his second of the day for the another equalizer. Austria, who had another match with a sparsely populated bench after three players had to leave to play in the German league finals this weekend, fought ferociously but could not pull ahead again.
The Austrians ran out of fuel towards the end of the match, and instead of managing to force the match into a shoot-out, ended up conceding two late penalty corner goals. Shinji Kawauchi and Manabu Hatakeyama scored to make the score at the endof regulation time 4-2 for Japan, which confirmed Japan as the winners of the event as well as designating France the last missing participant in the upcoming World League Semi-Final events, as Russia no longer had the opportunity to overtake Japan and claim their place.
The day and the tournament then ended with the clash between the Czech Republic and the Russian hosts. Due to the previous results, it couldn't impact the final ranking anymore, with Russia confirmed in second place and Czech Republic in sixth before they took to the pitch today, but in an entertaining encounter - the highest scoring of the event - Russia took a last win.
The two teams gave each other a good run for their money in a fast-paced and passionate game that saw the goal come in bursts: a first one yielded two goals for Russia and one for the Czech around the 10th minute, with Dmitry Azarov and Pavel Plesetskiy finding the net for Russia, while Martin Lehovec scored for the Czech Republic.
The second flurry of circle activity started in the 23rd minute, when Azarov added a second to his name, which was quickly followed by a goal from Martin Seeman for the Czech, a goal from Alexander Palyanitsa for Russia, a penalty stroke conversion by Ales Perinka for the Czech and another goal for Russia by Nikolay Yankun, pushing the scoreline to 5-3 in favor of Russia by halftime.
The second half was more measured than the frantic first, both teams had opportunities, but there were a lot more battles out in the field and fewer scoring chances. The latter was also evidenced by only two goals being scored, as opposed to the first half's eight, with Alexander Palyanitsa adding Russia's and Jakub Kyndl converting a late penalty stroke for Czech Republic.
The match ended 6-4 for the Russian hosts, a good end to the tournament for the home team, who enjoyed the applause from the sizeable crowd.Back