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Azerbaijan women and Belgium men produce surprise upsets
21 Aug 2007 00:52

Photo: Wolfgang Sternberger

Day 3 in Manchester saw the women's teams of the Netherlands, England, and Germany book their berths in the semifinals while in the men's competition, Belgium wrestled a point away from heavy favorites Germany and England had a goal feast against the Czech Republic.

The day started off with Spain facing Azerbaijan to produce the upset result of the day as Azerbaijan held the favored Spaniards to a 2-2 draw. After a grave mistake in the Spanish defense that allowed Dilfuza Mirzaliyeva to slot in the match's first goal, Pablo Usoz' side soon found themselves trailing by two as Zeynab Nuriyeva made good use of a penalty corner, doubling the advantage on the rebound.

Spain had to work hard to get back into the game but was rewarded with a penalty corner in the 25th minute. Rocio Ybarra made no mistake and reduced the lag to one goal to let the teams go into the break at 1-2. Shortly after the game restarted, it was Ybarra again who scored for Spain, deflecting another short corner into the net. Having been in the lead for most of the match, Azerbaijan however found it impossible to regain the lost advantage, and Spain pushed continually harder for the winning goal. The Spanish girls failed to get another one in though, and the teams eventually split the points, a result that opens the possibility for Azerbaijan to push Spain out of the semifinals tomorrow if Azerbaijan win scoring enough goals and Spain lose to Germany.

In the second match of the day, Germany had little difficulty with Ukraine, inspite of the fact that the very clear result belies the actual course of the game. The Ukraine may well have been inferior to the Olympic Champion, but not by seven goals - the Eastern European side played well but struggled to capitalize on their opportunities in the face of a clinically efficient German side.

Maike Stöckel, who was one of the anchor points of Germany's success, contributed a hattrick to her team's seven goals, while veteran Fanny Rinne put away two, and team captain Marion Rodewald and Eileen Hoffmann a goal apiece. Germany had thus secured their berth in the semifinals, the first team in the event to do so.

Next up were the ladies from England and Italy. In a fiercely disputed encounter, England joined Germany in the semis with a shutout win thanks to two goals from Helen Richardson, one from Mel Clewlow and one from Rachel Walker. Italy had an advantage in numbers twice in the match as Rebecca Herbert and Helen Richardson picked up yellow cards but also got through a period of being one woman down as Augustina di Bernardo was sent to the sin bin for a rough tackle. England were obviously delighted with their victory, clean sheet, and advance to the top four, while Italy has now scored only one but conceded 13 goals in just two matches.

In the last women's match of the day, the Netherlands confirmed their favorite status and grabbed their ticket to the semifinals with a comprehensive 6-0 win over Ireland. Kim Lammers was women of the match, putting four of the Dutch goals to her name while Naomi van As sunk the other two. The Dutch started of firing from all cylinders but took the tempo out of the game in the second half to go easy on the resources before their match against England tomorrow which will determine who they face in the semifinals.

The men's event here in Manchester continued with two matches today. First up were Germany against Belgium, and the Belgians put forward the second surprise result of the day, holding the World Champions to a draw. Germany went up two goals ibn the first half as Matthias Witthaus and Christopher Zeller made good use of two penalty corners, and it looked like they were going to run away with the match, but Belgium suddenly rebounded for a first goal just before halftime as Loic Vandeweghe scored a lovely goal after a quickly executed fre hit that caught the Germans off-guard.

In the second half, Germany had a number of chances but could not capitalize on any of them, whereas the Belgians fought with all they had and were eventually rewarded with the equalizer at the hands of John-John Dohmen, throwing the group wide open with England, Germany, and Belgium now all with the chance of reaching the semifinals.

The day finished with the England men taking on the Czech Republic in the hope of winning and scoring as many goals as possible to get themselves in a good position for the battle for the semifinal berths on Wednesday. And the hosts did just that, putting seven goals past a hapless Czech side who are clearly out of their depth in this tournament. Filip Neusser, the Czech's usually outstanding goalkeeper, worked oevrtime to avoid further damage but could not foil all of the English incessant attacks.

Richard Mantell laid the foundation for today's avalanche win with three penalty corner goals, while Barry Middleton added two, and Martin Jones and Matt Daly put one each to their name. England are now in a good position to reach the semis, needing only a draw from their match against the Germans while the latter need to win to advance - all assuming Belgium defeat the Czech Republicm which will see them through to the elusive top four.

Play continues tomorrow with another six games, as the women conclude pool play with the third round of matches, and the men's competition finishes the second round of pool matches with Spain taking on France and the Netherlands meeting Ireland.

All results:

Spain - Azerbaijan 2-2 (1-2)
Germany - Ukraine 7-0 (3-0)
England - Italy 4-0 (2-0)
Netherlands - Ireland 6-0 (5-0)

Germany - Belgium 2-2 (2-1)
England - Czech Republic 7-0 (3-0)

Pool Standings:

Pool A Men

England 4 p. 9-2
Germany 4 p. 7-2
Belgium 2 p. 4-4
Czech Republic 0 p. 0-12

Pool B Men

Netherlands 3 p. 8-3
Spain 1 p. 1-1
Ireland 1 p. 1-1
France 0 p. 3-8

Pool A Women

Netherlands 6 p. 15-1
England 6 p. 7-0
Ireland 0 p. 0-9
Italy 0 p. 1-13

Pool B Women

Germany 6 p. 14-1
Spain 4 p. 6-3
Azerbaijan 1 p. 3-9
Ukraine 0 p. 1-11

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