Spain’s Red Sticks and New Zealand’s Black Sticks kept their Olympic dream alive by winning their knockout matches
Spain’s Red Sticks and New Zealand’s Black Sticks kept their Olympic dream alive by winning their knockout matches in the 5-8 classification round at the Argentina Hockey World League Semi-Final in Buenos Aires. New Zealand got the better end on Japan winning 4-1 with Spain defeating Korea 4-2 in a shoot-out competition. Korea will face Japan in the 7th place play off.
Match 26: Spain v Korea 4-2 SO (2-2, 0-1)
Xavi Lleonart was the goal-scoring hero for Spain when his Red Sticks defeated Korea 4-2 in a shootout competition. The match was tied at 2-2 after regulation time.
Korea played defensively and waited for chances to attack on the counter. Despite having more ball possession Spain failed to create promising scoring opportunities in the first quarter.
The Koreans came close to scoring at the beginning of the second quarter when Jang Jonghyun’s dragflick was deflected off the goal line by the Spanish defence. Korea, the world’s number 8, eventually got on the scoreboard on 21 minutes when Oh Daekeun dived onto a pass from Cho Suk Hoon to deflect the ball into the goal.
The Red Sticks were the better side throughout the third quarter but were unable to beat the strong Korean goalie Kim Jaehyeon who saved three attempts in succession. The world’s number 11 kept on fighting in the last quarter and forced a penalty corner with 12 minutes remaining. Pau Quemada’s dragflick hit the back of the net to level the score to 1-1.
However, Korea bounced back quickly through Lee Namyong (51’) slotting home after a beautiful penalty corner variation. Spain tried everything to force the equalising goal in the remaining nine minutes and the effort paid off. Quemada (60’) fired home another penalty corner goal to secure a tied result after regulation time. This was Quemada’s sixth goal in Buenos Aires making him top scorer in this competition.
The shootout saw Spain converting all attempts to secure this important victory which keeps their Olympic hopes alive. Korea, however, are very likely to miss out on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Thoughts on the match
Xavi Lleonart (ESP)
“The Olympic dream is still alive. We knew that we had to win today. It was very difficult but we reached our goal, so we are very happy. But this was not our last game, so we need to win tomorrow again.”
Quico Cortes (ESP)
“Of course we have practiced the shootouts. We tried to press the Korean throughout the whole match to get our chances in the circle. When the match went into shootouts I was confident to do my job.”
Match 27: New Zealand v Japan 4-1 (1-0)
The Black Sticks kept their Olympic dream alive by getting the better end on Japan winning 4-1 in the 5-8 classification round. In the 5th place play off New Zealand will now face Spain who earlier won a shootout competition against Korea.
The Black Sticks forced two penalty corners in the first quarter but Andy Hayward and Kane Russell were denied on both occasions. New Zealand dominated play throughout the first quarter but were unable to get on the scoreboard.
The opening goal arrived at the beginning of the second quarter when Stephens Jenness (16’) put his Blacksticks ahead. Haven taken the lead, New Zealand tried to double it but Japan’s keeper Suguru Shimmoto kept them from scoring further.
The Samurais looked for the equaliser in the third quarter but to no avail. They forced one penalty corner which was blocked. New Zealand got stronger towards the end of the third quarter but again, they failed to score.
The Kiwis eventually doubled their lead after the start of the last quarter when Shea McAleese (46’) scored from a penalty stroke. The world’s number 7 remained in good control of the match as Hayward (49’) fired a penalty corner low into the bottom to increase the lead to 3-0.
Japan pulled one back with two minutes remaining when Genki Mitani slotting home after a great effort from Kazuma Murata. However, the Black Sticks sealed their 4-1 victory with a goal from Steve Edwards with 28 seconds left on the clock.
Thoughts on the match:
Stephen Jenness (NZL)
“We want to finish fifth tomorrow. We had to regroup after the huge disappointment in the quarter-final and make sure put out a good performance today. Spain are an interesting team to play, they have a good style of attacking. We have to put out our best performance to beat them but I think we will be up for it.”
Devon Manchester (NZL)
“Regardless how we finish here we still have the Oceania Cup where we could qualify for the Olympics but of course our goal is to reach the 5th place here. We had a lot of the game but tomorrow against Spain we need to be a bit more clinical to be able to put the game away.”