14th January 2017: The semi-final line up was confirmed here in Lisbon this morning as the Pool and Pool B games were concluded. Austria, Belarus, Russia and Poland once again (same line up as Torun in 2015) will compete in the semi-finals this afternoon.
Pool A: Austria v Croatia 4-1 (1-0):
A fiercely contested start to the day as current Champions Austria knew that they needed nothing less than a win to progress here in Lisbon.Pool A Austria v Croatia 4-1 (1-0):
Speaking to Assistant Coach Florian Sedy after the game he told us that following their team meeting yesterday their focus was on not making mistakes. They knew that they had the firepower on offence but defensively they knew they had to improve on the performance yesterday. “Great that we made it to the semis, the boys were more relaxed today. He added that it was a tough game “We knew that it was going to be tough, but the guys stayed focused. Today it was quite good. We are now ready for the semi-final. We hope that we stay top of the pool, but we wait to see now who we play.”
They started well with a goal from captain Florian STEYRER in the 6th minute, but based on the excellent performance of Croatia on Day 1 they knew that one goal was never going to be enough. A second goal from Hannes PODPERA just after half time allowed the Austrians to look to their defence. But a goal from Mario MUCIĆ in the 32nd minute meant it was ‘game on’. The Croatians pressed hard and had some chances which went off target as they looked for the equaliser. A power play in the final 2 minutes proved decisive as a hard tackle was deemed illegal from the ‘kicking back’ for Croatia and a penalty stroke was awarded to Austria. The converted stroke with less than 2 minutes on the board pushed the target further from Croatia. A final goal again from Podpera into an empty net ensured the win for Austria and they await now their opposition in the semi-final.
Pool A: Switzerland v Belarus 3 – 2 (0 – 2)
Switzerland earned their first points of the tournament in a close encounter with Belarus, coming back from a rocky start of 2-0 down at half time. A fiesty second half ensured with some frantic defending leading to some cards on both sides and a very narrow win for the Swiss side. With the tiniest of goal scoring advantage over Croatia, Belarus join Austria in the semi-final from Pool A. Croatia and Switzerland will now play in the relegation pool this afternoon.
Pool B: Poland v Czech Republic 3 – 2 (2 – 0)
Poland dominated the play in the first half of their final Pool B game as they went ahead via goals from Robert GRUSZCZYNSKI and Krystian SUDOL . However Czech pressed incredibly hard in the second half and brought the score back to 3-2, the second a very cheeky lob over the keeper from an impossible angle from Jan ŽELEZNÝ and beating Sebastian Sellner on the line “I should have got to that, but I wasn’t expecting it” he said at the end of the game. Poland ended top of the Pool which was their ambition as Sellner confirmed when we spoke to him at the end of the game.
Pool B: Portugal v Russia 1-14 (1-8)
In the final game of the morning session, Russia needed to win by 6 clear goals to ensure their position in the semi-finals. The Russian players, highly aware of this position came out of the traps on a mission and firing on all cylinders they seemed to score at will as Portugal really had no answer to the pace and skill of the Russians. Sergy LEPESHKIN and Ruslan ARSTANBEKOV each scoring 4 a piece!
COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK
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Main Photograph: Russia’s Sergy Lepeshkin on the attack (Frank Uijlenbroek (c))