17:06:2015, Brussels: Ireland upset the hockey world order with a 2-0 win over the world number five side USA to take top spot in Pool B, Germany finished one slot behind on 8points.
The results mean that Ireland will face China in the quarter finals, while Great Britain will take on South Africa. It also turns the other two quarter-finals into continental encounters – Germany face Spain, while Argentina will play USA.
On a day that Nicola Evans celebrated 100 caps for Ireland, her team put in a smash and grab performance. The Green Army built on a huge defensive effort as the US won eight corners and drew a series of last ditch tackles from a gutsy Irish defence. Ireland’s goals were scored by Megan Frazer and Anna O’Flanagan
With the few attacks Ireland had, they showed real menace. Frazer served notice of her intent with one backhand that was tipped around the post by Jackie Briggs before she opened the scoring. Gillian Pinder set it up with a neat turn before laying it into her captain’s path and she pinged home a low finish.
USA dominated the play thereafter. They had already seen a couple of chances well saved – including one from Melissa Gonzalez spectacularly batted away by Cliodhna Sargent.
The second half was one-way traffic with the USA corner count mounting but Rachel Dawson and Lauren Crandall were stumped either by the helmet of Emma Gray or the diving blocks of Yvonne O’Byrne and Anna O’Flanagan. Ireland secured the game when O’Flanagan swept home the second goal to secure Ireland’s third win of the tournament.
Rachel Dawson, central midfielder for USA remained upbeat: “Although that wasn’t the result we were looking for, we will go back to the drawing board. Scoring was a problem today, we had all the pressure in the attacking third for most of the last quarter but we didn’t get the outcome.”
Cliodhna Sargent of Ireland, said: “We knew we needed a huge performance to get a result against really tough opponents. They are really fit, really fast. We knew we had to play equally as hard to get a result.
“When it comes towards the end of the day, you are willing to do everything you can to keep the ball out of the goal. Putting your body on the line is the least you can do.”
Germany and South Africa played out the first goal-less draw of the competition to see the sides finish second and fourth, respectively, with South Africa doing what they needed to nail down a knock-out place. It was a tight-knit affair, with precious little between the teams as South Africa upped their performance.
South Africa’s Dirkie Chamberlain, speaking after the game said: “I don’t know why, but it takes us getting to the end of the line before people really get stuck in. We knew we had to win today, so we played really well and stuck to our plan for the whole game. Now, we have another must-win game (against Great Britain)”.
Sanani Mangisa was one of the heroes of the match. The South African goalkeeper made a fine pair of early saves from a corner barrage, and then made an excellent low stop from Hannah Kruger’s ripped flick from the top inside the last four minutes.
Shelley Russell drew the best from Kristina Reynolds, while Lilian du Plessis had a low drag-flick kicked away and another blocked by the towering German keeper. The result means South Africa advance to the last eight at the expense of Uruguay, unbeaten Germany finish second in the group behind Ireland with USA in third place.
Sanani Mangisa (RSA) said: “It was an improved performance from us, doing enough to get into the quarter-finals. The tournament starts now and all focus switches to GB. It should be a good game. I am really proud of the girls; we stuck to our defensive principles and kept Germany out.
“My form has been up and down; the first game I was a bit off but I have made some improvements and I knew I had to keep the team in it today. Thankfully, I kept them out and made the simple saves.
Looking to the quarter finals, Mangisa added: “Great Britain have been good defensively. I have been impressed with the clean sheets they have kept but we will work out something to have up our sleeve when we face them.”
Source material: FIH.CH
Photograph: Ireland celebrate their historic win over USA (Stanislas Brochier (c))