The surprises just keep coming. This time it was Spain who claimed a scalp at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup, London 2018.
“If you don’t score, you don’t win,” was the simple summing-up statement of a clearly hugely disappointed Head Coach Xavier Reckinger.
For Spain the 1-0 win means a first appearance in a World Cup semi-final since Madrid 2006. Then they faced Australia, losing 1-0 after extra time. This time they will face either the world number one side and reigning champions the Netherlands or the world number two and host nation, England.
In the first quarter final of the evening, Germany (FIH Hero World Ranking: 6) played their European rivals Spain, who are ranked five places lower. It was a game where the big names in each team really needed to step up and lead from the front.
Marie Mävers was first to almost get on the score-sheet as she struck the ball across the face of Maria Ruiz’s goal. The German pressure was rewarded by a penalty corner in the third minute but Ruiz was equal to the challenge.
It was not one way traffic however. While Germany were swinging the ball around and seeking opportunities to release their speedy forwards, Spain were always looking for their own opportunity to break. Berta Bonastre showed her tremendous ability as she reached to interrupt a German pass. Her subsequent pass was just out of reach of its intended target, Alicia Magaz, who was playing her hundredth match for Spain.
This was a to-and-fro game with occasional bursts of exhilarating skill from individuals. One of the most exciting players at this World Cup has been Charlotte Stapenhorst and, again, she didn’t disappoint. Her run up the pitch, from deep inside her own defending area left a trail of defenders behind. Her shot, hit mid-height with venom, was well saved by Ruiz.
Another player who has impressed throughout the tournament is Selin Oruz. Like Stapenhorst, she burst deep out of defence and was goal bound until a timely tackle from Rocio Gutierrez stopped her in her tracks.
Janne Muller-Wieland used all her vast experience to prevent Miailen Garcia from entering the circle when a break down in the German attack left the world number six side exposed in defence. Where many people would have committed a foul in that position, Muller-Wieland’s tackle was as clinical as it was timely. In the final quarter, there was still no separating the teams.
Spain were playing the more aggressive hockey and this prevented Germany playing their usual fast-moving game. Spain won their first penalty corner and Perez was very close to giving her team the lead.
“All too often it is ‘we are making progress’, but tonight all our hard work paid off.” Berta Bonastre, Spain
The decisive strike came in the 54th minute. Carmen Cano was the hero who put Spain through to the semi-finals of the World Cup after she cleverly batted a midair ball past Julia Ciupka.
Spain then had to withstand six minutes of German pressure, something that was intensified when Carlota Petchame was sent from the field with a yellow card. The Spanish defence held firm, although the entire stand of Red Sticks fans held their breath as Janne Muller-Wieland slammed a penalty corner just wide of the post with just seconds left on the clock.
Charlotte Stapenhorst echoed her coach’s words when she spoke of the need to convert chances to goals. “Spain gave us no space to play our game, so we needed to take chances when we could. That didn’t happen tonight and then one moment of switching off and they scored. That is quarter-final hockey.”
A relieved but ecstatic Berta Bonastre said: “There were no stars out there today, we all played for each other. We have worked so long for this and all too often it is ‘we are making progress’, but tonight all our hard work paid off.” And in perhaps the most unlikely analogy encountered at the World Cup so far, Bonastre added: “We see ourselves as pineapples, we are all one piece in a whole.”
Spain will now play either India or Ireland in the semi-finals on Saturday 4 August at 16:30 (UTC).
Photograph: Vitality Women’s World Cup, FIH Frank Uijlenbroek (c)