Star striker Michael Körper fired Austria to a first place finish in the Hockey World League Round 1 event in Lousada, bagging three goals to ensure that his team finished ahead of tournament rivals Italy and host nation Portugal.
The tournament victory sealed Austria’s place in Round 2, maintaining their own hopes of achieving qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Austria started the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Portugal on Friday (12 September) but claimed an extra point from the game by comfortably winning the shoot-out 3-0 thanks to a goalkeeping masterclass from Michael Mäntler, who kept a clean sheet.
Austria really hit form in their second game, cruising to a 6-1 triumph over Italy on Saturday (13 September). All of the goals came from open play, with Körper netting three times alongside strikes from Benjamin Stanzl, Xaver Hasun and Pit Rudofsky, with Ignacio Manes on target for the Italians. The result was enough to seal Austria’s safe passage through to Round 2 even before Sunday’s final Round Robin match, which saw Italy power to a 5-2 win against Portugal.
It is not the first time that Körper and Stanzl have netted crucial goals this year. Both players were on target in the final of this year’s Euro Hockey League, helping Germany’s Harvestehuder THC to victory over Oranje Zwart of the Netherlands.
The winning teams at all of the Hockey World League Round 1 events are guaranteed a place in Round 2 of the Hockey World League, where they will be joined by a number of the highest-placed finishers from the Round 1 tournaments. Round 2 will also see the introduction of the teams placed from 12 to 19 in the FIH World Rankings with the sides ranked 1 to 11 starting their journey in Round 3, where tickets for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well as qualification for the Finals tournament are up for grabs.
Photograph: The winning team, Austria – (Douglas Rogerson/ Portuguese Hockey (c))