Tanaka is given a star rating but Scots clinch the key slot
JAPAN’S men will be mighty pleased with their World League 2 performance as they aim to become a global force in the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Striker Kenta Tanaka was the star of the show as his side beat Canada 2-1 in the final in Tacarigua, Trinidad & Tobago, to clinch their place in the next round and bring closer their dream of making the 2018 World Cup.
They were a long way from Trinidad, but the results there meant Scotland also edged closer to a long-held ambition.
With the United States (ranked 26 in the world) finishing third in the Caribbean, Scotland’s third-place finish in the equivalent tournament in Belfast, plus their superior world ranking of 23, has qualified them for the World League Semi-Finals this summer.
It will be Scotland’s first appearance at that level.
The semi-finals are scheduled for London and Johannesburg, with the Scots, as the last team in, heading to London from June 15-25 to meet the likes of old foes England, Olympic champions Argentina and Holland.
Meanwhile, back in Tacarigua, Tanaka nailed his ninth goal in six games to level their match against pre-tournament favourites Canada, who had gone ahead through Scott Tupper’s penalty stroke four minutes earlier.
The winner came from the stick of Takuro Sasaki, who converted a penalty corner in the 40th minute leaving the Canadians disappointed – but also in possession of a coveted World League Semi-Finals spot.
Tanaka was named Player of the Tournament after scoring in six consec- utive matches – all nine of his goals coming from open play. The goalkeepers’ award went to Brandon Karess, of the United States.
Trinidad’s rising star Tariq Marcano was named the best young player and he will hope to get the chance to shine on a bigger stage should his side qualify for the Commonwealth Games next year.
The United States beat Russia 2-1 to finish third but the victory was a hollow one as it was not enough for them to progress in the World
League competition. Had Russia won they would have gone through at the expense of Scotland.
Trinidad and Tobago were fifth after beating Switzerland 4-3 while Chile beat Barbados in a shootout to clinch seventh spot.
With the coming of the FIH’s Home and Away League, this is the last time the World League will be played with this complicated format.
The competition has provided the qualifiers for the World Cup and Olympics but is being revamped for lower-tier nations only, while the big guns play in the Home and Away series from 2019.
The men’s World Cup takes place in India next year with the qualifiers coming from the sides lining up in the World League Semi-Final tournaments this summer.
The world’s top teams, including England, now enter the competition. They have been joined by the finalists from the three World League 2 events – Japan, Canada, Malaysia, China, Ireland and France – plus Egypt, ranked 19th in the world, and Scotland.
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