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USA and Belgium meet in Qualifier final
26 Apr 2008 15:31

© FIH / Ira Irokhina

In the last round of pool play in Kazan, the USA maintained a flawless record, defeating the Netherlands Antilles for their fifth win from as many matches, India crushed France, and Russia wrestled a draw from Belgium who nonetheless join the USA in tomorrow's final.

Netherlands Antilles 1 v USA 3

The second-but-last day in Kazan started off with the match between the two American teams in this event, the Netherlands Antilles and the USA. The Antilleans were under pressure to win points from this match to keep alive their hopes of the final, but soon found themselves chasing the USA who went ahead when team captain Kate Barber converted a penalty stroke awarded after a shot on goal had been warded off by a defender's foot.

The Netherlands Antilles immediately replied with a goal by Paulien Eigenhuis, levelling the scores again, but the USA were as quick to restore the lead through Dana Sensenig. The Antilles tried everything to get back at their opponents again, but to no avail.

Tiff Snow added a third goal for the USA, effectively putting them out of reach in the 47th minute, and as time wore on, the USA took control more and more, sailing to full time on their two goal lead. The USA thus recorded their fifth consecutive win, while the Antilleans left the field with their heads hanging, their hopes for Beijing crushed early, and their shoulders weighed down with the disappointment of finding themwelves in the bronze medal match after having been dubbed the main threat to the favorites USA's Olympic bid.

India 7 v France 0

Next up were India and France, and the match once more demonstrated clearly that the very young French team is not ready for a tournament on this level just yet.

India took off blazing, and scored two goals before the French had gotten their feet on the ground, as Rani Devi outplayed the French goalkeeper for her first goal of a hattrick today, and Surinder Kaur sank a penalty corner.

The French grew with the challenge and accustomed themselves to the Indian game better, holding the Asians at bay first for ten minutes, when Rajwinder Kaur converted a penalty corner, and then into the second half, when Steve Colledge's girls started cracking under the constant pressure and exhaustion started to set in.

Surinder Kaur scored her second in the 45th minute, and Rani Devi put away the pair of goals to complete her hattrick framing a Jasjeet Kaur Handa goal from open play. Overall, it was a clear and undisputedly deserved win for the Indian Eves, who dominated the match from start to finish, even though the persistent efforts and admireable resilience of the French today would have merited more than this crushing defeat.

Russia 0 v Belgium 0

The last match of the day brought forward a rather unexpected draw between the Russians hosts and Belgium, for whom the result was still enough to go through to the all-important battle for one ticket to Beijing against the USA tomorrow.

The home team played arguably their best match of the tournament today, and was closer to scoring throughout the match than its Belgian opponents, who even wasted a first half penalty stroke when Sofie Gierts' flick sailed past the goal. However, the Russian ladies lacked effectiveness in the circle, and went through a considerable number of must-score chances without taking advantage of one.

The Belgians clearly did not go all out, safe in the knowledge that anything but a defeat by more than four goals would see them through to the final but they did go up against more resistance than expected by the Russian hosts who seem to suddenly have uncovered the determination and spark in their game that they have lacked in this competition so far.

With pool play conclude, USA tops the pool table with a perfect record and 15 points from 5 matches. In second place, Belgium have banked 10 points, followed by Netherlands Antilles on nine and India on six. Russia occupies fifth place with 4 points, while France still have not won any.

In the list of goalscorers, there is a triple lead after today as Rani Devi from India joined USA players Angie Loy and Tiff Snow with a hattrick, all players on five goals each now. Irina Kuzmina has scored four goals so far, followed by four players on three goals each.

Angie Loy tops the list of goalscorers on five goals, followed by teammate Tiffany Snow and Russian Irina Kuzmina on four, and Belgians Carole Dembour and Sofie Gierts, as well as Carrie Lingo from the USA team, all on three.

Tomorrow, the WorldHockey Olympic Qualifier tournament in Kazan concludes with a round of classification matches, in which Belgium take on USA in the all-important final, with one place in the Olympic tournament up for grabs, the Netherlands Antilles clash with India in the bronze medal match, and Russia and France battle it out for fifth place.

Sunday, 27 April 2008 - Schedule

11:05 Match for 5th place: Russia v France
13:35 Match for 3rd place: Netherlands Antilles v India
16:05 Final: USA v Belgium

For more information, please visit the FIH tournament microsite.

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