It all comes down to the last day of round robin play at OQT
Japan 3, South Africa 3
The battle between #1 South Africa and #2 Japan more than lived up to expectations with a dramatic, last-second short corner goal from Justin Reid Ross saving a 3-3 tie against the host nation. The goal sealed what was the most entertaining and hard fought match of this Olympic Qualification Tournament.
South Africa never held the lead in the game, and after the Japanese scored the go-ahead 3-2 goal with 17 minutes left in regulation, it looked like all three points would go to Japan. But with one second left, a penalty corner was awarded to South Africa and specialist Reid Ross fired in his second marker of the game to give each team a point out of the meeting.
The draw puts both teams in a must-win situation on the last day of round robin action on Friday, but Japan is in a tougher position as they now must win against third-seeded China to secure a spot in the final while South Africa faces fourth-ranked Austria.
There was no shortage of chances but it took 25 minutes for either team to get on the board when Japan’s Kai Kawakami scored on a short corner chance to make it 1-0. But four minutes later, Lloyd Norris Jones took advantage of a Japanese green card and quickly tied the game.
The see-saw battle continued into the second half. Japan opened the scoring with another penalty corner goal when Katsuyoki Nagasawa restored his team’s one-goal advantage. But again, South Africa quickly had the answer when Reid Ross fired in his first short corner goal, a rocket to the upper corner.
Japan’s 3-2 go-ahead goal came in the 53rd minute, this time when Kenta Tanaka scored Japan’s first field goal of the game. It looked like the lead would stand through regulation with South Africa getting more and more desperate to generate any kind of offense. In the last 30 seconds, the South Africans were buzzing around Japan zone and were dramatically rewarded the penalty corner chance, setting up Reid-Ross’ heroics.
China is the other contender to make the final. They currently have nine points, just one behind the 10 points of Japan and South Africa.
Czech Republic 0, China 1
Third-seeded China was lucky to come out of today’s meeting against fifth-seeded Czech Republic with a slim 1-0 win. The game was scoreless after 47 minutes and it wasn’t until Na Yubo put in the 1-0 goal that China looked like it would take away three points from the win.
China had multiple penalty corner chances, but the Czechs defended the opportunities well and ultimately were able to thwart the Chinese offense with an emphasis on its physical defensive style. It wasn’t until Yubo came down the field on a breakaway and put in a low shot out of reach of Czech goalie Filip Neusser that China could relax.
The win kept China’s hopes alive to make Sunday’s final. If the Chinese beat host Japan in Friday’s round robin finale, they will qualify for the final and the right to play for a berth in London.
The Czechs, who still played valiantly despite being out of contention entering today’s game, will look to pick up their first win of the tournament on Friday against Brazil. The two teams are also locked to meet in Sunday’s fifth-place game.
Austria 3, Brazil 1
Austria may have earned the win and three points against Brazil today, but the Brazilians earned a moral victory with their best outing at this Olympic Qualification Tournament, holding the Austrian offense in check and scoring their second goal of the tournament. Michael Korper was the lone Austrian player to score in the win, netting the hat trick.
Early on, it looked like Austria would hand Brazil another lopsided loss when Korper easily converted a penalty corner just two minutes into action. But after the goal, Brazil buckled down and held Austria scoreless for more than 20 minutes until Korper struck with a spiraling, backhanded field goal to extend the lead.
Brazil made the most of its only penalty corner chance of the half when Matheus Borges got his team dancing on the sidelines with the 2-1 marker. It was Brazil’s second goal of the event and Borges has scored them both.
Brazil continued its strong play in the second half as Austria was clearly not running at full steam. Luckily for the Austrians, Korper was on his game as he put in the 3-1 goal to give the Austrians some much-needed breathing room midway through the second half and power them through to the win.
Austria now has six points in its two games and is out of contention to vie for a berth to London, despite today’s win. Meanwhile, Brazil is still winless at the event, but today’s lip smacking performance must give the #42-ranked team a glimmer of hope for the future.