It was tense and dramatic to the very end in both of today’s matches in the 9-16th place matches. First Japan waited until the final second of the game to break Korea’s hearts and then India hauled Canada back, first in the dying minutes of the match and then in the shoot-out to win their first match of the World Cup.
Japan vs Korea (9-16 place)
It was an entertaining first half of hockey between these two Asian rivals. Japan had the lion’s share of possession for the earlier part of the quarter but Korea began to get the measure of the fast passing and nimble movement of Japan and started to create their own pressure.
Korea have their goal keeper Lee Jinmin to thank for not going a goal down early in the game. The keeper has gained plaudits throughout the tournament and her triple save was a masterclass is agility.
Japan took the lead in the 18th minute when Kobayakawa Shiho wriggled through the Korea defence and created enough space to fire home a lovely reverse stick shot that even Lee Jinmin couldn’t save.
Korea replied swiftly. A penalty corner led to a straight strike from Jung CheYoung, the ball flew with force into the Japan goal, past Nakamura Eika.
Kim Seon should have given Korea the lead in the second half but, faced with only the goalkeeper to beat, after some fantastic stick work from Kim Jeong In to get the ball to her, Kim Seon mis-hit and the ball flew wide.
This handed Japan the momentum and they capitalised through a penalty corner. Emi Nishikori was in the right place to collect the rebound from the initial strike.
In the first minute of the final quarter Cheon Eunbi had a golden opportunity to score for Korea but the captain was just unable to turn the ball enough to steer it into the goal, after it had been crossed across the face of the goal towards her.
That missed opportunity galvanised Cheon Eunbi and a few minutes later she danced her way through the Japan defence to earn her team a penalty corner. Once again Jung CheYoung stepped up and fired the ball straight at Nakamura, who will be disappointed with her failure to stop the shot.
With the scores at 2-2, Japan really began to exert some pressure. Kaho Tanaka had a shot stopped at point blank rnage by Kim Eunji, who had replaced Lee Jinmin in the Korea goal. Seconds later and Mai Toriyama was tormenting the Korea defence with her skills.
Japan won a series of penalty corners but the injection was slow and so the Korea defence dealt with the threat with ease. The match looked destined to go to shoot-out.
However, hockey is a sport where goals can come at any moment and this was no exception. With less than a second on the clock, Japan scored from their third consecutive penalty corner and snatched victory just before the whistle blew. The scorer was Hazaki Nagai, although the ball took a cruel deflection from the first runner.
Player of the Match Yu Asai (JPN) said: ‘Finally we could win. We couldn’t win a pool match so now we have focused on these games. We won the first one of these and now we are looking to win again. Now we will recover well and look to win against either Canada or India.’
Canada vs India (9-16th place)
Both teams came to this match looking for their first win of the competition. For India, the disappointment of losing to Spain just the previous evening looked to be hanging heavy on the minds of the athletes as they prepared for the first quarter.
After soaking up heaps of pressure from the fast-passing India forward line, Canada raced to the other end of the pitch and actually ended up with the ball in the back of the India net. Unfortunately the whistle had just gone for a penalty corner and Natalie Sourisseau was forced to adapt her attempt as the injection was just off target.
Canada went one better a few minutes later as they won another penalty corner. This time the variation created confusion among the India defence and after the ball pinged to Kathleen Leahy, she slipped it to Madeline Secco who got the final touch.
At the start of the second quarter, it was again India who came out stronger. Monika, in particular, was using her array of 3D skills to get past the Canada defence. Rowan Harris in the Canada goal was urging her team to maintain focus.
As the game moved towards half-time, India really began to pour energy into their attacks. Navneet, Neha and Vandana were now all moving with freedom and Canada were very much on the back foot.
After the break, India continued to pile on the pressure, with Lalremsiami making some speedy forays into the Canada circle. The north American side held firm, with Sara McManus and Hannah Haughn putting in some serious shifts breaking down the India attacks. This was particularly impressive from Haughn, who is only recently returned from an ACL injury.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, Canada were content to soak up the pressure and wait for the chance to break. For India, there was more frustration creeping into their game as they just failed to make the connections that would turn their much superior possession into an all-important goal. A penalty corner with two minutes left in the third saw a shot from Grace which was well saved by Harris and another India chance came and went.
From a Candian perspective, the fourth quarter was exhausting and tense as the team withstood wave after wave of Indian pressure. As Navneet and Tete Salima started to really run at the Canadian defence, Karli Johansen, McManus and just about every member of the Candian team dug deep to protect their 1-0 lead.
For Gurjit Kaur there was added frustration when she was unable to convert a series of penalty corners. The shots had all the usual power but they flew either wide or were chased down Sourisseau as the Canadian number one runner.
The Eve’s persistance finally paid off when Kaur’s penalty corner produced a rebound and Tete Salima was on hand to punch it home.
Karli Johansen had one more chance to re-take the lead but her penalty corner shot went wide and the game went to shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, Canada shot into a 2-0 lead and goalkeeper Harris made some crucial saves but India hauled them back to 2-2. After 14 attempts by the two teams, it was a classy finish from Neha that finally gave India the win and a place in the 9-12th place play-offs, where they will meet Japan. Canada will now face Korea in the 13-16 place matches.
Player of the Match Kaur Navneet (IND) said: ‘It was a very hard match. Savita was brilliant, she saved a lot of shoot-outs, as well as some good saves in the match.’
New Zealand vs Germany (12 July)
Netherlands vs Belgium (12 July)
Argentina vs England (13 July)
Australia vs Spain (13 July)