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HOCKEY - Int News 10 Jun, 2024

FIH Hockey Nations Cup 2024: New Zealand and Spain lift titles
FIH Hockey Nations Cup 2024: New Zealand and Spain lift titles

ISLAMABAD (Sports Desk): New Zealand and Spain will have the opportunity to play in the FIH Hockey Pro League in the 2024-25 season after beating France and Ireland, respectively, to win the FIH Hockey Nations Cup. The final of the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup Poland 2023/24 saw the Black Sticks win in a shootout. Spain won the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2023/24 in regulation time, having already defeated Ireland in the pool phase. 

(Men’s) Malaysia beat Austria (5-4): Malaysia concluded their FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup journey in Poland with a win, beating Austria 4-5 to finish seventh. The Speedy Tigers didn’t spare any time for the Austrians to settle down as Faizal Saari squared it for Abu Kamal Azrai to slot in after only two minutes. Saari got one for himself in the second quarter from a penalty corner in the 18th minute. The first effort saw a superb save from Austrian captain Fabian Unterkircher on the line but the retake was fired into the roof of the net.

Austria pegged one back three minutes later as they found some rhythm. A penalty corner was upgraded to a penalty stroke and Fülöp Losonci made no mistake from the spot. However, they could not build on it as Malaysia got a penalty stroke that was fired in by Fitri Saari.

A devastating start to the second half saw Faizal Saari grabbing a hat-trick with a thunderous strike in the 32nd minute, followed by a delicate one in the 33rd. Maximilian Scholz scored for Austria in the 34th minute from a penalty corner to blow the game wide open. The Malaysians were stunned and a lack of discipline saw Arthur Kucera finish a lovely team move with 11 minutes to go. Scholz got another one via a penalty corner in the 51st but that was it.

(Men’s) Canada beat Korea (2-1): Canada’s top defensive performance helped them beat Korea 2-1 and finish fifth. The Red Caribou can arguably be considered the most improved team of the tournament in Gniezno. After leaking goals in the pool phase, the revival at the back has been admirable. With fifth place at stake, the Canadians had a strong start.

In five minutes, Sean Davis served the first goal on a plate for Jude Nicholson. Two minutes later, defender Thomas Harris benefitted from a clearance to score Canada’s second. They had three more chances in the first quarter via penalty corners but couldn’t make it count.

The Koreans began to play their usual game in the second quarter, but the defenders were not making it easy for them. The Canadian resistance was finally broken by Cheoleon Park in the 52nd minute. More chances came Korea’s way and Sean Davis chipped in at the back, with an on-the-line save from a penalty corner in the dying moments. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be as Korea finished sixth.

(Men’s) South Africa beat Pakistan (4-3): South Africa won the bronze medal at the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup in Poland after an entertaining 3-4 win over Pakistan. Conceding soft goals has been a problem for Pakistan throughout the tournament. The match to decide the third-best team in Gniezno also had one such incident. After a goalless first quarter that saw both teams creating chances, South Africa broke the deadlock in the 20th minute. It was a scruffy goal to let in after a failed clearance was slotted in by Samkelo Mvimbi.

The lead did not last long as Abu Mahmood sent a penalty corner straight down the middle with two minutes remaining in the first half. The third quarter saw South Africa score a spectacular goal in the 34th minute. Matthew Guise-Brown’s penalty corner bounced off Abdullah Ishtiaq Khan’s gloves and Mustaphaa Cassiem jumped and smashed the ball in like a shuttlecock.  

Abdul Rehman levelled the scores again within a minute. The final 15 minutes saw South Africa attacking with purpose. They were rewarded when captain Keenan Horner beautifully placed the ball to give them the lead in the 51st minute. That didn’t slow them down and Mustaphaa Cassiem added one more with two minutes to go. The sensational Hannan Shahid, who had a goal ruled out earlier, struck with a minute remaining but it was too little too late to make any difference.

(Men’s) New Zealand 1-1 France (SO: 4-3): New Zealand beat France 4-3 in a shootout after the final finished 1-1 in normal time to win the FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup Poland 2023/24. A tight match was predicted as two sides heading to the Olympics in Paris were pitted against each other in the final. Winning the Nations Cup was not only about increasing confidence and morale but also about earning that prestigious ticket to the FIH Hockey Pro League next season.

New Zealand and France respected each other and shared three quarters without a goal. That doesn’t mean there were no chances but both teams preferred the cautious approach. The Black Sticks had two penalty corners early in the game but it didn’t end in the back of the net. However, they went ahead after 53 minutes from Hugo Inglis’ brilliance on the right before finding Jonty Elmes, who volleyed it in. France hit back with three minutes remaining through the inevitable Victor Charlet, who fired in a penalty corner to send the game into a shootout.   

(Women’s) Italy beat Korea (2-1): Italy scored at the death to break Korean hearts and bag a seventh-place finish at the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup in Terrassa. Federica Carta and Co were asking plenty of questions in the first quarter, but it was the Koreans that found the back of the net. In the 12th minute, Sujin An and Eunji Kim combined for an excellent opener. The Italian attackers were kept at bay thanks to some brilliant saves from the Korean goalkeeper, also named Eunji Kim.

The Italians deservedly got their equaliser, 39 seconds into the second quarter. Antonella Bruni scored from the rebound after an initial shot from Ivanna Pessina. In the second half, Italian goalkeeper Lucia Ines Caruso stood out. The Koreans had three penalty corners on top of other chances but Caruso made crucial saves to keep it 1-1. 

(Women’s) Japan beat Canada (1-0): Japan held on to win 0-1 and finish fifth in a game they dominated. It was one-way traffic from start to finish as Japan went for it with all guns blazing. The conversion rate, however, is a cause for concern as they head to the French capital for the Olympic Games.

In total, the Cherry Blossoms had 13 penalty corners in the game and scored from one of them. It came in the 19th minute. Yu Asai’s shot couldn’t find a way in and as Rowan Harris tried to clear the ball, Kanon Mori lobbed it past her. Rowan Harris was easily the best player on the pitch for the Canadians, bringing out her A-game and preventing a hammering.

(Women’s) Chile bear New Zealand (2-1): Chile won the bronze medal at the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup in Spain with a 2-1 win over New Zealand, improving on their seventh-place finish at the previous edition. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to captain and long-time international Camila Caram, who had announced her retirement. All three goals from the game were of supreme quality.

The first goal came in the 41st minute when Josefa Salas received a pass from a long way out. With the keeper charging towards the striker, Salas controlled the ball brilliantly, before turning to her left and scoring into the bottom corner.

Las Diablas had the momentum and scored one more from a well-executed penalty corner routine in the 53rd minute. Fernanda Flores started and finished the move, from an almost impossible angle. New Zealand did have their moment when Rose Tynan displayed sublime control in dribbling past a few players before lobbing it in. Sadly for the Black Sticks, it didn’t amount to anything.

(Women’s) Spain beat Ireland (2-0): Spain defeated Ireland 2-0 to lift the FIH Hockey Women’s Nations Cup Spain 2023/24 in what was a straightforward final. Having already dominated against Ireland in the tournament opener, the Spaniards must have been high on confidence going into the final.

Despite the loss, Ireland can be proud of how well they have recovered from losing 5-1 on the first day. The final saw both goals come in the second quarter. Laia Vidosa and Patricia Alvarez combined well to open the scoring in the 25th minute. The first half finished with a penalty corner from Lola Riera, which ensured she finished as the top scorer of the tournament.

Ireland created chances from open play and also won two penalty corners in the third and fourth quarter but none of them made it past Clara Perez, who kept the clean sheet. Patricia Alvarez, who won player of the match, kept it short and sweet. She expressed her excitement to be playing in the Olympic Games and the opportunity to join the FIH Hockey Pro League next season. She said: “I am very happy and proud of this team.”

Awards (Men’s Event):

1. Poligras Magic Skill Award: Seyong Oh (KOR)

2. Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Arthur Thieffry (FRA)

3. Best Junior Player of the Tournament: Hannan Shahid (PAK)

4. Top Scorers: Victor Charlet (FRA) and Faizal Saari (MAS)

5. Best Player: Nic Woods (NZL)

(Men’s) Standings: 1. New Zealand, 2. France, 3. South Africa, 4. Pakistan, 5. Canada, 6. Korea, 7. Malaysia, 8. Austria, 9. Poland.

Awards (Women’s Event in Terrassa): 

1.Poligras Magic Skill Award: Kim Eunji (KOR)

2. Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament: Brooke Roberts (NZL)

3. Best Junior Player of the Tournament: Blanca Perez (ESP)

4. Top Scorer: Lola Riera (ESP)

5. Best Player: Lola Riera (ESP)

(Women’s) Standings: 1. Spain, 2. Ireland, 3. Chile, 4. New Zealand, 5. Japan, 6. Canada, 7. Italy, 8. Korea.