Olympic cham­pi­ons Argentina crush NZ

‘When you have a goal­keeper who makes a save from a penalty stroke you can only con­grat­u­late him. We are pleased with the draw in the end but we want to keep get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter’

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

Day Six of the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 fea­tured the sec­ond round of matches in Pool A, with Argentina claim­ing their sec­ond suc­ces­sive Pool A vic­tory to put them­selves within touch­ing dis­tance of the quar­ter-fi­nals yes­ter­day.

Argentina’s 3-0 vic­tory over New Zealand sees them move onto six points at the top of the pool, three points ahead of sec­ond placed New Zealand with one round of matches to play. Spain and France – who drew in the day’s ear­lier match – ended the day in third and fourth po­si­tion re­spec­tively.

Spain and France started the day need­ing to re­cover from open­ing day de­feats – Spain lost to Argentina while France fell to New Zealand – and get some cru­cially im­por­tant points on the board.

France struck early in the con­test when Vic­tor Charlet’s per­fect back­hand pass was guided home from close range by Ti­mothee Cle­ment, who changed the tra­jec­tory of the ball to give Spain shot-stop­per Quico Cortes lit­tle hope of sav­ing.

The Red Sticks dom­i­nated the sec­ond quar­ter, set­ting up camp in the op­po­si­tion half but un­able to get the goal that their en­deav­our de­served thanks to some ex­cel­lent saves from France goal­keeper Arthur Thi­ef­fry.

While a penalty cor­ner dragflick from France cap­tain Vic­tor Charlet forced a fine save from Cortes in the third quar­ter, it was the Spa­niards who re­mained on top and fi­nally got their equaliser early in the fourth pe­riod. Al­varo Igle­sias was the scorer, com­plet­ing a slick pass­ing move that cut through the France de­fence and al­lowed Spain’s num­ber nine the eas­i­est of fin­ishes.

Although it proved to be the fi­nal goal of game, France missed a gilt-edged op­por­tu­nity to claim all three points when a penalty stroke from Hugo Ge­ne­set was bril­liantly saved by a diving Cortes, ce­ment­ing his po­si­tion as the Odisha Player of the Match in the process. “Quico was the best player of the game”, said Spain’s Marc Salles – who made his 200thse­nior in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance in the match – af­ter the game.

“When you have a goal­keeper who makes a save from a penalty stroke you can only con­grat­u­late him. We are pleased with the draw in the end but we want to keep get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter in this tour­na­ment.”

In cel­e­bra­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Day of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (IDPD), be­fore the start of the match the play­ers of Spain and France were in­tro­duced to Guest of Hon­our Md Ja­far Iqbal, a mem­ber of the In­dia’s World Cup win­ning blind cricket team.

Two teams that claimed vic­to­ries in their first matches went head to head in the sec­ond game of the day, with New Zealand de­ter­mined to up­set the FIH Hero World Rank­ings by at­tempt­ing to get the bet­ter of reign­ing Olympic cham­pi­ons Argentina.

De­spite a dif­fer­ence of seven places in the rank­ings, New Zealand held their own for much of the open­ing quar­ter, lim­it­ing Los Leones to half chances.

Argentina even­tu­ally made the break­through mid­way through the sec­ond quar­ter thanks to a ter­rific back­hand strike from Agustin Mazz­illi, who picked out the top left cor­ner of the Black Sticks net for his third goal of the com­pe­ti­tion. Argentina made it 2-0 in the third when New Zealand cap­tain Blair Tar­rant was robbed of pos­ses­sion in his on cir­cle by Lu­cas Vila, who made no mis­take with a blis­ter­ing fin­ish past the left hand of Black Sticks goal­keeper Richard Joyce. The match scor­ing was com­pleted by Lu­cas Martinez five min­utes from the end, who dived in to make it 3-0 from close range af­ter Argentina’s ini­tial penalty cor­ner at­tempt had been blocked.

“It was a great game for us”, said Argentina’s Lu­cas Vila, who was named Odisha Player of the Match, at the end of the game.

“I think our de­fence was re­ally strong and in at­tack we took our chances and scores some good goals. Its only two games so there is a long way to go, but I think we are in a good way and now we have a few days to make some lit­tle changes.”

The ac­tion con­tin­ues to­day with two cru­cial matches in Pool B. Aus­tralia will be look­ing to con­sol­i­date their po­si­tion at the top of the ta­ble when face Eng­land at 1700 be­fore Ire­land take on China at 1900.

The Kook­abur­ras were vic­to­ri­ous over Ire­land in their first Pool B match, with China hold­ing Eng­land to a draw. The day’s re­sults are cer­tain to be sig­nif­i­cant in the po­ten­tial fin­ish­ing po­si­tions in this group.

Aus­tralia coach Colin Batch felt that his team would be given a stern test by Eng­land, stat­ing: “We will have to over­come a mo­ti­vated Eng­land team who con­ceded a late goal to draw their match against China.

While they will be dis­ap­pointed with the out­come, sta­tis­ti­cally they did very well in the match so I don’t see them mak­ing many changes to their style of play.

“We were pleased to win our first match; how­ever, we need to im­prove from our per­for­mance against Ire­land”, con­tin­ued Batch, who was a mem­ber of the Aus­tralia squad that won the 1986 FIH Men’s World Cup in Lon­don, Eng­land.

“The Ir­ish team was able to deny our scor­ing and we need to get more out­comes from our at­tack­ing cir­cle en­tries. We missed two in­jec­tions on our penalty cor­ners and while that is rare, we need to make sure we are bet­ter in that area.”

(AFP)

Argentina’s Agustin Mazz­illi (cen­tre) and New Zealand play­ers vy­ing for the ball dur­ing their group stage match at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in Bhubaneswar yes­ter­day.

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