19:06:2015, Brussels: As the World Hockey League in Valencia moved out of the pools stages and into the knock-out phases with the 4 quarter finals and at least 3 Olympic slots on offer. All 4 European teams had made it to the quarter finals, but at the end of the day it was GB and Germany who made it through the semis. Ireland and Spain both losing in heartbreaking fashion on shootouts.
Quarter-Final 1: Ireland v China: Final Score 1-1 3-4 (shoot out)
“I had dreamed of how I would score this goal,” said Liang Meiyu, as she proved the shoot-out hero for China in their hard-fought game against Ireland.
China became the first side through to the semi-finals of the Hockey World League Semi-Final in Valencia as they withstood 15 penalty corners to eventually beat Ireland in a shoot-out. Liang Meiyu was the one to hold her nerve and slot the winner in the seventh round of the shoot-out to seal the deal after a scrappy match packed with drama.
China got off to a flying start when Zhang Xiaoxue latched on to a long overhead pass and found a narrow gap at the left post to flick in the first goal after five minutes. From there, the Asian side sat deep and soaked up pressure before counter-attacking at speed.
Ireland did win plenty of corners – eight in the first half – while Katie Mullan was also denied by Li Dongxiao. The second half followed a similar pattern with Ireland running up seven more corners but they scarcely threatened from the set plays.
Chloe Watkins, however, did equalise with a slap from close range after Kate Dillon’s pass. Megan Frazer then shot home a corner chance but the second goal was disallowed on an umpire’s referral.
It meant the tie went to a shoot-out and the first series of five ended 3-3. The next three were all saved before Liang raced left and slid in the winning shoot-out for a 4-3 success.
Speaking after the game, Liang said: “I was very confident and knew exactly where I would score, we were very well prepared and had been practising since before we travelled to the Netherlands in preparation for this tournament.”
Cui Qiuxia explained just what this meant to her team: “This was out last shot at a place at the 2016 Olympics. We knew what we had to do, there was no-where to go.”
Darren Smith, coach of Ireland, said: “It’s devastating to lose in a shoot-out. All you want is that ticket to Rio and we will do all we can to try and get that. We put our heart and soul into that match. We could have been more clinical from our penalty corners. They defended them pretty well but it was a tight and tough match.”
Quarter-Final 2: Great Britain v South Africa 2-0
Early goals from Alex Danson and Kate Richardson-Walsh saw Great Britain through to the final four in Valencia, qualifying for the Hockey World League final and moving a considerable step closer to the Olympic Games in the process. By contrast, South Africa will be contesting fifth to eighth place against either Spain or Germany.
“I know we are not there yet, and we still have a job to do, but everything was on this game, we knew we had to win,” said Great Britain captain Kate Richardson-Walsh.
Danson spoke of the “professionalism” displayed by Great Britain throughout this competition so far, and she and Hannah MacLeod certainly served notice of GB’s intent in the opening minutes, drawing a fine double-save from Sanani Mangisa.
And Danson was the one to break the deadlock 12 minutes in as she picked up Emily Maguire’s booming pass. The striker had her back to goal but spun out of heavy traffic and slapped in a great goal for 1-0.
A couple of minutes later, Richardson-Walsh’s swept corner shot took a big deflection off Bernadette Coston – running out number one – to spectacularly bounce off the underside of the bar and in to make it 2-0.
South Africa fought back, winning a couple of penalty corners before half-time with Liné Malan going the closest. The second half saw Great Britain under some pressure but they always had a strong buffer in their favour. Susannah Townsend’s shot looped on to the roof of the net while Danson continued to cause problems.
At the far end, Dirkie Chamberlain’s snap-shot went close while Illse Davids’ driving runs were dangerous but no further goals accrued.
“We came out here for a three week camp before the competition and it was the hardest training I have ever done. I’m not sure at 35, I should be putting myself through that,” smiled Richardson-Walsh.
“We also had a lot of work to do psychologically after the disappointment of England’s performance at the World Cup, and this was our first big test, and we came through it.”
South Africa coach Sheldon Rostron said: “It was always going to be a tough game. We had to put a lot in to get a result out of it and qualify but, at the end of the day, we still have a process to finish as high as possible. We now have to set our sights on the next two games.
“It’s important for us to bounce back and we know what objectives we have to achieve. “The first quarter was the disappointing part. I thought we did really further on in the game. If we had taken more care early in the game, it could have worked out.”
Quarter Final 4: Germany v Spain 4-3 (1-1) (3-2 shoot-out)
Germany are never out of a competition until they are on the bus home. So said Janne Muller-Wieland, and her words were proven prescient as Germany won their encounter with Spain in dramatic fashion.
Franziska Hauke was the German heroine as she scored two nerveless shoot-out goals to see her side through to the Hockey World League Semi-Final last four, beating Spain in sudden death after normal time had ended 1-1.
On a couple of occasions, Germany looked to be on their way out of the running, trailing 1-0 with nine minutes left of normal time and also 2-0 in the shoot-out before they came back to win it 3-2.
Germany had the best of the opening exchanges but Maria Lopez de Eguilaz was equal to everything thrown at her. When she was beaten, Rocio Gutierrez did the mopping up work, one time clearing off the line, the other in slightly fortuitous fashion as she half-stopped the ball onto her body. A video referral deemed it another corner and not a stroke.
Spain, though, were having their moments as Roccio Ybarra first-timed one shot just wide while a couple of corners in the last minute of the half were also spurned.
And they carried that momentum into the second half, creating a string of chances which Kristina Reynolds needed to be on top form to keep out. Twice, she was drawn into double saves in quick succession. She was eventually beaten when Carlota Petchamé lined up a shot only for a German defender to impede her. Lola Riera kept her calm to make it 1-0 from the penalty spot with 18 minutes to go.
Germany got level with just under nine minutes to go when Charlotte Stapenhorst embarked on a stunning, 3D run down the right flank before pushing across the face of goal via Franziska Hauke to where Eileen Hoffmann was on hand to finish off.
Spain had a couple more chances to win it but Germany stayed on terms, forcing the game to the shoot-out.
The hosts built a 2-0 lead straightaway but Germany clawed back the deficit with Reynolds again heroic while Hauke equalised in the fifth round before scoring again in the first round of sudden death.
Moments earlier, Reynolds made an incredible stick-save to deny and Gigi Oliva, setting up the victory.
Germany next face Great Britain in the semi-final while Spain will meet South Africa in the classification matches.
Germany’s Janne Muller-Wieland said: “We are delighted. It was a big drama and so German of us! Especially after being down 1-0 and then coming back in the shoot-out. It was just amazing and I am so proud of the girls and I want to say we deserved it.
“There are rumours about us that we are never beaten until we are on the bus on the way home. I am quite happy today that this was the case. We fight until the last minute and the last second.”
“GB will definitely be a tough challenge but we definitely want to beat them and not be hanging on and calculating whether we have the Olympic spot or not. We didn’t think about it before now. Tomorrow we will think about it properly but, for now, we are just happy.”
Match Schedule for June 20, 2015
5th – 8th 11:30 USA – IRL
5th – 8th 14:00 RSA – ESP
SF 2 16:30 ARG – CHN
SF 1 19:00 GBR – GER
Follow the games live on www.starsports.com
Photograph: Germany celebrate their semi-final win! ( Stanislas Brochier (c))