A first half strike from team captain Marlena Rybacha was enough for Poland (FIH World Ranking: 26) to defeat Malaysia (WR: 21) and reach the final of the Hero Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in New Delhi, India.
Rybacha found the target with a 3rd minute penalty corner before marshaling her team to a second successive victory over high-ranked opposition at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. The Poles reached the event semis by overpowering Russia (WR: 23) on Thursday, but Saturday’s triumph against Malaysia is hugely significant as it guarantees a top two tournament finish and earns them a place in the Olympic qualifier phase of the HWL.
Poland’s opponents in the showpiece final will be host nation India (WR: 13), who justified their position as tournament favourites with a high quality victory over Thailand (WR: 45). Jaspreet Kaur, Sunita Lakra, Poonam Rani, Rani Rampal and Amandeep Kaur all contributed to a 5-0 score-line which sealed their safe passage through to both the final and the HWL Olympic qualifiers.
Sadly for Malaysia and Thailand, the semi-final defeats mark the end of their hopes of reaching the next phase of the HWL. The six finalists from the three women’s Round 2 events will be joined by the highest-ranked of the third place finishers from those competitions. Azerbaijan (WR: 19), who finished third in Montevideo, are currently in the hot-seat due to being higher-ranked than either Malaysia or Thailand, who will fight it out for third place on Sunday. However, Azerbaijan must wait until the completion of the women’s Round 2 event in Dublin before knowing their fate. To learn more about how the teams progress through the competition in the hope of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, click here.
The 5-8 classification matches took place earlier in the day, with Kazakhstan (WR: 32) overcoming Singapore (WR: 43) while Russia (WR: 23) cruised to a comfortable win against Ghana (WR: 30).
The final day of action Hero Hockey World League Round 2 event takes place on Sunday (15 March), with Singapore and Ghana getting proceedings underway at 1315 (local time – UTC / GMT +5.30) in the 7-8 classification match before Kazakhstan and Russia play off for 5th place at 1530. The battle for 3rd place between Thailand and Malaysia begins at 1745 before India and Poland fight it out for top spot at 2000. To see all tournament fixtures and results, please click here.
You can keep track of the tournament in New Delhi on the official tournament microsite.