19th September 2016: Russia women upset the FIH Hero World Rankings by claiming a superb event triumph at the Hockey World League Round 1 event in Douai, France.
Ranked at number 28 in the world, the team coached by former New Zealand international Anthony Thornton came into the event as the third highest ranked team, behind hosts France (WR: 24) and Austria (WR: 27).
However, the Russians recorded convincing victories over Switzerland (4-0), Wales (2-0), France (4-1) and Austria (8-0) at Douai’s Stade Demeny, finishing top of the table with maximum points and a hugely impressive goal difference of +17.
Bogdana Sadovaia was the star of the show for Russia, scoring eight times in her four games including a four goal haul against Austria. Remarkably, all of Sadovaia’s goals came from open play, with the 26-year-old scoring at least once in each of her side’s four matches at the event.
Speaking to the FIH in March, ex-Black Sticks star Thornton – who represented New Zealand at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games – said that he had set his team the clear target of achieving qualification for the 2018 Hockey World Cup. Their victory in Douai takes them one step closer to achieving that ambition, and the dominant nature of their performances suggests that they are a team to be feared in Hockey World League Round 2.
Russia were not the only team to exceed expectations in Douai, with 30th ranked Wales claiming a remarkable second place finish thanks to three wins from four matches to seal their place in Round 2.
Wales claimed victories against two higher ranked opponents, with goals from Tina Evans and Joanne Westwood earning a 2-0 triumph over Austria and Lisa Daly, Phoebe Richards, Leah Wilkinson and Sarah Jones all on target in their superb 4-1 win over home favourites France.
A third place finish for France was good enough for them to book their ticket to Hockey World League Round 2, finishing ahead of Austria in fourth and fifth placed Switzerland.
Fast-paced and action-packed, the Hockey World League is the tournament that gives hockey fans the chance to see their team go all the way to the World Cup and Olympics. Composed of four rounds and played over two years, the Hockey World League shines a spotlight on the sport around the world. Even the smallest hockey-playing nations have the opportunity to write their own chapter in hockey’s history books. More information about the Hockey World League and the upcoming events can be found by clicking here.
Photograph: FFH (c)