Komazawa strike sees Britain through to semis despite loss to The Netherlands; fighting Belgium lose to Korea
Japan vs China 1-0 (half-time: 0-0)
Rika Komazawa’s scrambled effort 16 minutes from time ultimately handed Great Britain the second semi-final berth from Pool A, ending China’s hopes of reaching the final four. It was the only goal of a tight-knit, arm-wrestle in which defence was on top as the thronged Riverbank Arena became Japan fans for a day, hoping they could do GB a favour.
In the first period, Kaori Fujio was Japan’s creative spark, twice firing in testers for Zhang Yimeng to deal with while Fu Baorong led the Chinese charge. She won the only corner of the half, one that Ma Yibo saw blocked by Sakiyo Asano. Similarly, she denied Jiaojiao De with just two seconds to go in the half to keep the game in the balance at the break.
The early impressions from the second half were that the tie would open up as Fujio won her side’s first corner inside 20 seconds of the restart while Zhao Yudiao drew another stop from Asano. But Japan slowly ground the Chinese down, camping in the 25 for long periods. And they finally got their reward from their third corner of the game. The initial shot took two ricochets before deceiving Zhang and Komazawa was waiting on the back post to score. The crowd erupted and they managed to play out the closing phases without too many scares.
The win lifts them temporarily to fourth in the table but they await the results from Belgium and Korea’s game to determine which playoff game they will play in. For China, they end the group third and play again on Friday for either fifth or sixth.
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Great Britain vs. The Netherlands: 1-2 (half-time: 1-0)
After Japan's win over China earlier in the day, both teams were already qualified for the semi-finals and playing for 1st and 2nd place in Pool A.
The match started in a fiery atmosphere in a Riverbank Arena full to capacity, with the Dutch fans valiantly trying to compete with the mainly British crowd. The Netherlands had most of the early ball possession and Kim Lammers inherited a ball in the circle on a free hit quickly taken, but she was promptly overwhelmed by the defenders.
Play became more balanced and very intense, neither team holding back their punches. On a decisive play from Naomi van As entering the circle on the right, The Netherlands earned a penalty-corner but their complicated option uncharacteristically fizzled. Van As was running the show in midfield, however the British defense was holding tight, anchored by Kate Walsh, playing despite the broken jaw suffered earlier in the competition.
Great Britain progressed mainly with counter-attacks but were rarely threatening the Dutch circle. They however earned a penalty-corner on one of their rare circle incursions and Crista Cullen slammed it in goal, triggering a massive roar from the crowd. The Netherlands had a penalty-corner of their own in the next breath. They did not go for the fancy option this time, but Beth Storry in the British goal made a superb stick save on Maartje Paumen’s low flick. Great Britain had the momentum going into the break, with a tenuous, but precious one-goal lead.
The Netherlands were immediately dangerous in second period, Kitty van Male setting up Kim Lammers arriving at full speed at the top of the circle but she was covered by Beth Storry rushing very fast out of her goal. Faced with a flurry of Dutch attacks, Great Britain maintained their defensive structure but had to concede another penalty-corner in the 43rd minute. Maartje Paumen aimed for the post where Naomi van As was on hand to slam the ball in goal for the equalizer.
The Netherlands maintained their pressure and increased their lead half way through the period by Kitty van Male, deflecting in goal a superb pass from Maartje Goderie who had work hard in the circle to elude three defenders. The Dutch were back in a more familiar territory, ahead on the scoreboard and controlling play. They showed all their experience in the final ten minutes, smothering all the more and more desperate British attempts while the Dutch fans in the crowd boldly outsang their British counterparts. The Netherlands nearly scored in the final minute, on a counter-attack that started innocuously then swept the whole pitch with 6 or 7 players touching the ball.
With the win, The Netherlands finish unbeaten in five matches in Pool A, while Great Britain take second place of the group and will play the winner of Pool B in semi-final.
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Korea vs. Belgium: 3-1 (half-time: 2-0)
Belgium fought hard and to the bitter end, but could not avoid a defeat to Korea that condemned them to the bottom place in Pool A.
Both Korea and Belgium were already out of semi-final contention and playing for the far less motivating objective of avoiding the wooden spoon in Pool A. The match started on a slow pace and it took a while for the crowd to get something to be excited about. Korea had two penalty-corners in the first ten minutes, but Cheon Seul Ki misfired the first and their option on the second fizzled.
In the 10th minute, Park Mi Hyun progressed on the right of the circle, attracting the Belgian defense. Kim Jong Eun was left unmarked and she had no problem beating from close range Aisling D'Hoogue in the Belgian goal to open the scoring. The Belgian players seemed unhappy about the play and Stephanie de Groof picked up a green card for her arguing.
Korea had most of the ball possession and a few chances on open plays and penalty-corners, but it is only in the 25th minute that Lee Seon Ok increased their lead on another penalty-corner earned after a desperate clearance by the Belgian defenders. Belgium had a few quick counter-attacks, including one by Charlotte de Vos running 50 meters with the ball amid defenders, but they could never really threaten the Korean defensive block.
Belgium were quick off the block when returning from the half-time break and it took them less than two minutes to reduce the gap by Erica Coppey. They earned a penalty-corner soon after but could not make use of it. The crowd however had now something to cheer for and started to loudly encourage the Belgian players in their quest for the equalizer.
Jill Boon had a good chance after beating Korean goal-keeper Jang Soo Ji one-on-one, but could not turn quick enough to adjust her shot on goal, and Charlotte de Vos also created havoc a few times in the Korean defense. Korea reacted to protect their lead and Belgian goalkeeper Aisling D'Hoogue was called into action a few times, including on a spectacular intervention at the top of the circle against a forward arriving alone with no defender in sight.
Belgium were determined to get the equalizer and kept pushing. They however soon ran out of time and tried replacing their goal-keeper with an additional field player with 3 minutes left in the match. Charlotte de Vos earned a penalty-corner with one minute to go but they could not convert it and, on the counter-attack, Kim Jong Eun scored in the empty Belgian net to put the contest out of doubt.
The win pushed Korea to the 4th place in Pool B. They will play for 7th-8th on Wednesday, while Belgium ended in 6th place in the group and will play for 11th-12th position on Friday.
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