New Zealand and Australia stay in the semi-final hunt following wins over USA and South Africa
Germany v. Argentina 1-3 (half-time 0-2)
Argentina all but eliminated Germany while propelling themselves to the top of Pool B on goal difference with a display of elegance and power. First half goals from Sofia Maccari and Luciana Aymar put them on track before Nina Hasselman’s scrambled effort could have made for a nervy close three minutes from time. But Rocio Sanchez Moccia killed off any such thoughts within 30 seconds as she danced around Yvonne Frank and nailed the sealing goal.
From the start, Germany had shown a nervous edge early on, making a series of uncharacteristic mistakes when passing around the back four. From one such loose pass, Argentina prospered, firing a cross that looked innocuous enough initially until Katharina Otte miscontrolled, under pressure from Sanchez Moccia. The ball slipped through Yvonne Frank’s legs where Sofia Maccari gleefully smacked into an open goal for 1-0.
The South Americans duly earned four penalty corners, the last of which was beautifully finished by Luciana Aymar, using the same trick that worked against South Africa on the opening day of the tournament, flipping the ball over the number two runner’s stick and short-hand hitting home.
Germany’s openings were fleeting, creating panic in the opposition but never true shooting moments bar Julia Muller’s flashing drive from a corner which went too high. As the second half wore on and their situation became more desperate, they eventually found some rhythm as Jennifer Plass, Kristina Hillman and Lisa Hahn went close in the final quarter.
Their lifeline came from a corner four minutes from time as the ball bounced around Florencia Mutio’s pads before Hasselman eventually poked home. But it was a lifeline of brief hope due to Sanchez Moccia’s delightful clincher.
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USA v. New Zealand 2-3 (half-time 2-2)
A Clarissa Eshuis drag-flick five minutes from time fired New Zealand to a crucial win over USA that keeps them very much alive in the semi-final hunt. That it took so long for the critical goal to finally come was a surprise as the kiwis pace and guile up front should have had them clear earlier but for the goalkeeping exploits of Amy Swensen.
She saved a glut of chances to keep the US in the hunt, grabbing two equalisers in the first half to cancel out strikes from Kayla Sharland and Gemma Flynn. But Eshuis got the only goal of the second half to claim a third New Zealand win of the campaign. They wasted no time in establishing a lead, Kayla Sharland sweeping home – via a defender’s stick – from a penalty corner just 70 seconds in.
Their direct running, especially down the right flank, was causing all manner of problems with Alicia Punt to the fore. But they were stunned by the concession of a 17th minute equaliser as Katie O’Donnell impudently snuck a stick in to flip the ball over Bianca Russell. The chance appeared to have petered out after Paige Selenski’s great run but Melody Cooper dallied allowing the striker to nip in. New Zealand’s lead was restored soon after as another Sharland shot created havoc, pinballing off a defender to Stacey Michelsen to volley across goal to Gemma Flynn to tap in. The US argued danger but the video review denied that avenue.
Amy Swensen kept the US in the tie with saves from Punt and Katie Glynn while Samantha Harrison swept over a gilt-edge chance. But, once again, the Americans sucker-punched. First, Michelle Kasold’s strike just got away from Shannon Taylor a yard out before Claire Laubach levelled in the 33rd minute. She did not seem to get full power behind her corner push but it ricocheted off Russell and her post-woman to dribble over the line.
The second half was equally open with the black sticks making most of the play after an early flurry from Paige Selenski and Michelle Kasold. Glynn again drew a fine reactions save from Swensen while Charlotte Harrison smashed the post from a corner rebound. A third goal was disallowed on umpire’s referral when Stacey Michelson – twice sin-binned in the game, too – fired a high reverse which Glynn redirected into the goal. That touch was deemed dangerous by the video umpire to keep New Zealand nervy for the closing phases.
But Eshuis came to the rescue from the sixth corner, a key goal to push her side up to nine points and ahead of Australia on goal difference.
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Australia v. South Africa 1-0 (half-time 1-0)
Australia continued its ascent in the standings and kept its hopes alive for a semi-final berth after earning a 1-0 win against South Africa in today’s first game in the highly competitive Pool B. After dropping their first game, the Hockeyroos have won three in a row and are part of a four-team traffic jam along with New Zealand, Argentina and Germany that are fighting for two semi-finals places.
Australia dominated the first 10 minutes of action with two penalty corner chances and many more scoring opportunities. They took the 1-0 lead eight minutes in when Casey Eastham, making her 150th appearance for Australia, and Jade close out-ran the South Africa defense give Eastham the chance to thread a perfectly-timed pass to Close, who easily finished the play.
But after the goal, South Africa perked up and Australia got a bit complacent. The South Africans had ample opportunity to tie things up, but ultimately had to settle for the one-goal deficit at the break.
South Africa played some of its best hockey of the tournament in the second half and had the Australians scrambling to hold onto the lead. Despite some great chances, including camping out in front of the Aussie net the last 10 minutes, the South Africans could not solve the outstanding efforts of goalkeeper Toni Cronk, who led her team to the eventual 1-0 win.
With four losses in four outings, South Africa’s goal is to play for a respectable final placement.Back