Tanaka is given a star rat­ing but Scots clinch the key slot

The Hockey Paper - - WORLD NEWS - By Wil­liam Gray

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.

PIC­TURES: Yan Huck­endubler

Hot stuff: Chile, right, sur­prised Canada at World League 2

MVP: Kenta Kanaka was Player of the Tour­na­ment

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