Australia’s women’s hockey team, the Hockeyroos, secured qualification to the 2014 World Cup with a commanding 4-1 victory over China in the semi-final of the Investec World League in London. The win also earns the Hockeyroos a spot in Monday’s final against either England or Argentina. The final takes place at 3:00am AEST, Monday.
It was an utterly dominant and highly skilled performance by the form team of the tournament, overcoming a Chinese side ranked just one place below Australia in the World rankings in seventh.
Four strikes from Ashleigh Nelson (WA), Claire Messent (VIC), Georgie Parker (SA) and Emily Hurtz (NSW) cancelled out China’s opener by Li Hongxia with the Australians’ potency in front of goal only stifled by good goalkeeping.
A delighted Adam Commens, the Hockeyroos’ Head Coach, said afterwards, “It’s fantastic to come here and achieve that. To qualify for the World Cup, to qualify for the World League round four and now we’re in the final.
“It was a good performance. We knew we could run over the top of the Chinese in the second half. We’ve been finishing matches strongly and we stuck to our plan. We created lots of chances late on. I’m really pleased with the opportunities we created; it was a real pleasure to watch. The quality of our skills was high and we’ll be ready to repeat that against Argentina or England.”
Commenting on the four goals, all of which came from open play, Commens added, “We’ve been doing well with our penalty corners but the Chinese goalkeeper made some good saves today so it was great to see us put away some field goals.
“It would be really good to see us back to winning tournaments. We’re going into the final as the form team of the tournament.”
A quiet opening period failed to hint at the excitement to come as both sides defended their circles well. Three Australian penalty corners in quick succession failed to produce an opener before Li Hongxia struck at the other end, firing a low tomahawk shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the circle. But the Hockeyroos were behind for barely 60 seconds when Ashleigh Nelson tapped in at the back post to level the score at 1-1. Emily Hurtz’s initial shot was off target but Georgia Nanscawen did well to collect the ball before threading it through to Nelson, eliminating the goalkeeper and leaving the former Miss WA contender with a simple finish.
The second half began with heavy Australian pressure, which never truly subsided as first Casey Eastham saw a shot blocked before Anna Flanagan had her penalty corner flick well saved by the outstretched left foot of the goalkeeper, Li Ji. Jodie Schulz then saw her penalty corner effort saved by Li before Claire Messent put the Hockeyroos in front.
Nelson was again involved in the goal, this time providing the pass to Messent who did well to recover from a collision with the goalkeeper as she rushed off the line to meet her. Maintaining excellent close control Messent swivelled to unleash a shot inside the near post for 2-1.
Captain Madonna Blyth saw a shot saved before two became three as Georgie Parker applied a deft touch as she met a drilled pass to lift the ball over the goalkeeper and into the goal, despite the late attempts by the Chinese defence to clear it.
Two goals clear and in control the Hockeyroos refused to back off and continued to bombard the Chinese defence as the match entered its final ten minutes. When Madonna Blyth’s ‘never give up’ attitude found her diving to force a pass to Emily Hurtz inside the circle, the 23-year-old made no mistake with a low sweeping shot for 4-1.
The result guarantees Australia’s women qualification for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague, where they will join their male counterparts, the Kookaburras, who qualified for the men’s tournament at last week’s World League in Rotterdam.
The Hockeyroos will face the winner of the second semi-final between England and Argentina in the final, which is scheduled for 3:00am AEST on Monday morning. The match will be shown live online at www.youtube.com/fihockey. England v Argentina takes place at 2:30am AEST on Sunday morning.