Russia are surprise package in pool B as they defeat Chile and India to secured their ticket for the semi-finals

The last day of pool matches took place under a warm sunny sky in Hiroshima. In Pool A, a draw for Poland against Uruguay (0-0) was enough for them to finish second in their pool, India had a comfortable win over Fiji, thereby moving directly to the semi-finals. In Pool B, Japan beat goals Mexico 6-0, and Russia were the surprise winners over Chile, finishing top of their pool.

Uruguay – Poland

Uruguay and Poland are ranked 23 and 24 respectively in the FIH World Rankings so a closely-fought encounter was always on the cards when the two teams played each other, with second place in the pool at stake. 

From the opening encounters, Uruguay were better at keeping possession and they pressed Poland deep into the European team’s defensive half. In the eighth  minute, Uruguay had a chance to take the lead from a penalty corner but the drag flick flew wide. Poland began to make their presence felt with some good counter attacks and subsequent challenging crosses into the Uruguay circle. Poland also won a couple of penalty corners, but these also came to nothing.

The second half was much more of the same: two teams working hard to break the deadlock, but two defensive units refusing to give way.

Poland will rue their missed chance early in the second half. A deflection went over Victoria Bate in the Uruguay goal from a penalty corner. It was saved brilliantly by the last defender on the line.

Despite constant pressure from Uruguay as the match counted down, Poland managed to hang on for the draw and second place in pool A.

Uruguay head coach Nicolas Tixe: “It was a really tough game, we knew that and we have seen it in the videos. With really good players and experienced players. I think we started the game well; we had some opportunities. At this level, we need to score, if not it is really difficult, we can do better. But we are where we want to be, in the crossovers, we’ll have to face the second team of the other Pool. The three teams from the other pool are really strong so let’s see who it’s going to be and let’s prepare for this match.” 

Poland team captain Marlena Rybacha: “Obviously we came to this game to win it, that was our goal, unfortunately we didn’t play really well; we couldn’t score, but we’ve fought and defended really well and we didn’t give them any chances to score. So I think team spirit and fight were the key of this game and a draw is enough for us”

FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result: Uruguay 0, Poland 0 (Pool A)
Umpires: Hong Chen (CHN), Yoon Seon Kim (KOR)


India – Fiji

After a draw between Poland and Uruguay, India found themselves secure in first place in Pool A. But, they wanted to finish the pool sarges on a high and that meant beating Fiji, ranked 44 in the FIH World Rankings.

From the start, India put pressure on Varanisese Komaisavai’s goal. Four minutes into the match, Lalremsiami opened the score with a sharp reverse stick shot. Fiji brought everyone back into defence but that was not enough to stop a rampant India attack. First Rani fired through Fiji’s goalkeeper legs in the tenth minutes. A few seconds later India increased their lead after Monika and Vandana Katariya both scored from deflections. Gurjit Kaur scored the fifth goal from a penalty corner just before the quarter break. 

Just after the quarter break Gurjit Kaur scored three successive drag flick penalty corner goals but Rani sent a penalty stroke wide.

One goal from Monika in the third quarter took the score to 9-0 and in the final 15 minutes Lilima Minz scored India’s tenth goal from a reverse stick shot and Navneed Kaur found herself in front of goal to coolly shoot home to make it 11-0.

India team captain Rani: “It is amazing that we are in the semi-final and our team has really played consistently. Now we are looking forward to the semi-final. Whoever we are playing we will stay focussed on ourselves and we need to give the best to be in the final. And especially today we have so much respect for Fiji who fought as much as they could.

Fiji assistant coach Emi Nawaqakuta: “ We came here with our own goals and we have achieved them. A lot of people may think that we have lost badly, but we’ve made a huge improvement; last time we have attended a FIH Series, we were getting beaten 16 -0, 14 -0. Everyone is so proud of us, even our supporters at home. “

FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result: India 11, Fiji 0 (Pool A)
Umpires: Katrina Woolf (NZL), Mary Driscoll (USA)


Japan – Mexico

Host nation, Japan, had suffered a tight loss against Chile (1-3) on Sunday and so needed to win against Mexico to secure their way into the crossovers. Facing the lowest ranked team in Pool B, Japan were expected to defeat their opponent.

Japan quickly went on the offence and obtained a penalty stroke in the second minute. Hazuki Nagai’s shot was saved by the Mexican goalkeeper who blocked the flick. Japan didn’t lose their determination and kept attacking the circle. Yuri Nagai took revenge for her sister’s saved penalty stroke attempt by firing a reverse stick shot into Mexican’s net. Kanon Mori increased the score after she deflected a hard cross unerringly into the goal.

In the second quarter Japan kept attacking but Mexico were also working hard to even things up. However, Japan strengthened their hold on the game  when Akiko Yamashita scored with a deflection. Just before half time Akiko Yamashita sneaked in front of the goal to to score with another deflection from a penalty corner.

Japan didn’t let up on the pressure in the second half time and Izuki Tanaka converted a penalty corner with a bullet of a shot to give her side a 5-0 lead.
In the last quarter, Japan had the majority of possession but couldn’t find their way to the goal until Kana Urata popped up with five minutes to go, and put the ball straight past the keeper from a penalty corner strike.

Japan player Akiko Yamashita: “We didn’t want to make it easy for Mexico’s defence, the objective was to release the ball as quickly as possible, good quality balls, quick ball, movement and short passing. We were trying to make chances in front of the goal”
Mexico team captain Michel Navarro: “Japan is a really good team, it’s a pleasure to play against them and congratulations to them. It was a hard game but we we will learn”.

FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result: Japan 6, Mexico 0 (Pool B)
Umpires: Veronica Villafane (ARG), Cookie Tan (SGP)

Russia – Chile

The match between the first and second placed teams in Pool B was the most highly anticipated match of the day, Russia after their tight loss against Japan on Day One  [played under heavy rain conditions], were going to play their most important game of the pool. So far, in the competition, Russia had showed offensive efficiency with their direct style of play, and Chile had demonstrated that they could be tough and determined.

In the first quarter, Chile played safely and focused on counter attacks. In the second quarter, they changed tactics and turned up the heat on Russia’s circle. Chile won four penalty corners in a row but couldn’t convert any of them. It didn’t take long for Russia to react. First a shot was turned into her own goal by the Chile goalkeeper and just before the half break Russia’s Kseniia Svezhentseva opened the scoring with a neat deflection from a penalty corner.

In the second half both teams were pushing hard; Chile to get the equaliser and Russia were pushing to top the pool B by scoring at least three goals and hence improving their goal difference.

It was Chile who were successful, coming back into the game after Sofia Walbaum scored from a penalty corner.

Just after the start of the fourth quarter, Chile converted a penalty stroke after a strong challenge inside Russian circle and brought the score difference to 2-2.
Russia played a quick counter attack and restored their advantage after Anna Golubeva’s strong shot flew past the Chile goalkeeper. That lead was extended seven minutes before the whistle as Dayana Yushkova pushed a rebounding ball into Chile’s goal.

Russia scored their fifth goal with Mariia Bordolimova deflecting the drag flick into Chile’s goal. The result gave Russia a direct ticket for the semi-finals.

Russia Head Coach Svetlana Ivanova: “It was a great match, we have worked for it. Thank you for the players because they gave their very best and we have played our best hockey.”
Chile coach Sergio Vigil: “ First thing, congratulations to Russia, because they have played really well. Congratulations to going to the semi-finals. After equalising, we didn’t play well. We’ve made a lot of mistakes and gave opportunities to Russia to score. This is sport, it’s part of the game, but I’m really confident for the team, las Diablas. They’ll have two days to recover mentally and physically”

FIH Women’s Series Finals Hiroshima, 2019
Result Russia 5, Chile 2(Pool B)
Umpires: Suzi Sutton (USA), Rhiannon Murrie (AUS)

The action continues in Hiroshima (Thursday 20 June)

15:45 (JST time) Poland – Japan

18:00 (JST time) Chile – Uruguay

Please view the match schedule here.

To find out more about the competition, follow the FIH Series Finals on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or visit the FIH website.

Images: Irfon Bennett

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